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My son is ten, going on twenty! (Guest Post)

I'm happy to share the second post in Adventures in Parenting, a guest series about the unique perspective and experience each of us gain in our parenting journeys.

Today's guest writer is Lizzy of Muddle Headed Mama, who has a wonderful blog about parenting, and life in general. I love this post she's shared, about her son's growing maturity and sweet innocence which happen to live in him simultaneously! 

I have a son who is ten. Ten going on twenty.

A year ago, I was chatting with his class teacher and she told me she had recently read that many children are beginning to display adolescent qualities earlier these days due to being exposed to mature-aged themes at a much younger age than in previous generations. I remember thinking that I was lucky this hadn't happened in our household yet and that it wasn't likely to happen either for quite some time but then, within a few short weeks of that conversation, I started to observe what looked and sounded very much like an adolescent attitude emerging from my son.

My son is ten, going on twenty!



I often used the behaviour management strategy of sending him to his room for one minute for every year of his age, after he had misbehaved significantly. Then on one occasion, I told him to go to his room for nine minutes for answering me back.

"You answered me back too!" he fumed. "Why don't you go to your room for thirty minutes!"

Really? I desperately wanted to say. Thirty whole minutes? An entire half hour of being completely alone in my bedroom with nobody allowed to come in and disturb me? I think the only thing that would make that possibility even more perfect would be having the magical ability to double my age.

Over the months, I have become better though at dealing with the moments when this attitude flares up and have noticed that it usually coincides with when he is hungry or tired and is worst when he happens to be both at the same time. #runforcover

I've learnt now not to take it personally when he calls me a 'great big meany' when I tell him he's not allowed to play on his phone on weeknights, or have Instagram until he's thirteen, or watch M-rated films. It's an insult that makes me smile secretly to myself because he wants the things he is asking for so badly so that he can feel grown up (and because he believes he is already grown up enough to have them), and yet his reaction to not being able to have them is so endearingly childlike. It's a beautiful contrast.

I've come to realise that this period of his life is actually defined by contrasts in innocence and experience. There are times when he surprises me with his knowledge of topics and concepts I hadn't known he knew anything about, and other times when he surprises me all over again with his naivety and I am reminded that he is still, in so many ways, just a little boy.

This contrast often surfaces through the observations he makes when watching films. Earlier this year, he was still struggling to grasp the concept of the difference between a character and an actor. When he first saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he said "I've seen that man (the children's father) before".

"Yes you have", I replied. "He was Burt in Mary Poppins."

He tilted his head to one side and looked at me quizzically.

"But Burt didn't have any children!" he answered.

A similar thing happened when he watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks for the first time.

"Do you know who Professor Emelius Brown is?" I asked him.

He shook his head.

"He's the father in Mary Poppins".

To this came the reply: "Is he a magician as well as a banker?"

But over the course of this year, I've watched that delightful innocence fade and gradually replace itself with knowledge and rationality. A few months ago, he asked me if he could watch a film that I had borrowed from the library.

"No", I said, "It's rated M".

He picked up the DVD box and closely examined the small print next to the film's rating: mild sex scenes

Then he looked up at me with a decidedly unimpressed look on his face.

"Does this mean that there's lots of naked kissing in this movie?" he asked.

"Well not lots," I said, slightly taken aback, "but a bit here and there".

I've noticed that gradual shift from young boy to young man in his attitude and interactions with his baby sister too.

He was with her father and me at the ultrasound when he discovered her gender. The sonographer told us that they would be able to tell us with one hundred percent certainty if it were a boy and with 95 percent certainty it it were a girl.

When she went on to say "It's a girl", my son said despondently: "I wanted a brother".

He was with us again on our next visit to the sonographer and his first question to her, when the picture of the foetus popped up on the screen, was: "Is it still a girl?" Oh how he had hung on with hope to that five percent possibility that it may not have been.

Not that you'd know it now. Now he helps me bathe her and get her ready for bed. Now he feeds her dinner, aeroplane-style. Now he delights whenever she says a new word or learns a new skill. "Did you hear that, Mum? Did you see that, Mum?" I hear almost every day. He takes his responsibility as an older brother quite seriously, most of the time, and is very protective of her.

He's also the man of our house now; another role that he takes with an increasing sense of responsibility. He takes the bins out on bin night even though he's scared of the dark. He often helps me with the grocery shopping. He can't cook yet, but he can make me a first class cup of tea. Sometimes he comes out with statements about current affairs that make me say "How do you know that?" and that remind me that I'd better keep up with these things myself so I don't turn into an ostrich whose only knowledge of the world comes through her ten-going-on-twenty-year-old son.

But speaking of ostriches, I want to end with a little story about a very big one.

Recently, my son overheard a conversation I was having with his Gaffer (grandfather) about an extinct flightless bird from New Zealand called a moa. I'd never heard of it before and asked him what it was.

"It was like a huge ostrich," he said, "a fourteen foot ostrich".

I didn't think much about this again until I opened my son's drawing pad one day and found this:

Drawing of a moa


I asked him what it was.

"It's a moa", he said, as if I should clearly have known that without having to ask.

"Why does it have so many legs though?" I asked.

"Because Gaffer said it was an ostrich with fourteen feet!"

Oh how I loved that moment, when all the trimmings of teenage angst fell away and all I could see was my little boy: impressionable, trusting and full of wonder.

I went over and hugged him to me in a tight bear hug and ruffled his hair and kissed the top of his head full of all those fascinating thoughts, still trying to make sense of the world.

Will he still let me do that when he's twenty? There's no way of knowing, I suppose.

I'll just have to do it as often as possible now, just in case.

Lizzy Allan
Lizzy Allan is a single mum from Western Australia, a high school teacher by trade and a wannabe polyglot. You can find her writing about her travel memories, relationships and frequent collisions with chaos over at her blog, The Muddle-Headed Mamma, and when she's not there, you're sure to find her sharing snippets of daily joy over on Instagram. You can also find her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.





Read about the Adventures in Parenting guest series, and how you can contribute to it.


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