The boys turn eight this month and I keep having these moments where I see them and they look old. They look like proper big kids suddenly. They say things that make sense on a regular basis – and not just make sense to me, but make sense to the world at large. They can count their own money. They read proper books. They write clever stories. They come in my room in the morning and instead of whispering that they need to me to come fix something, they whisper that they’re going to the playground before school starts. And that school is technically third grade. Third grade!
I know they’re really still little. But this time of the year just before the birthday, I always have a stretch where I feel like their growth has sneaked up on me.
You really wouldn’t think this was a birthday song, but it was here this week. We want cake! Where’s our cake?
That’s right, I now have two seven-year-olds. Two mostly sweet, sometimes brilliant, always imaginative seven-year-olds. We celebrated with seven gifts (most of them small), seven banners, seven balloons, seven people at dinner, and seven topping tacos.
Not long ago, I read the book Your Seven-Year-Old by Louise Bates Ames. I’m not always enamored of parenting books. I feel like their primary purpose is often to guilt you, scare you or tell you things you already know. However, I had heard about this older series for a long time, and finally decided to try one of them. I actually enjoyed it. It’s nothing more than a short, sweet description of the “typical” seven year-old behaviors and attitudes, with lots of caveats to say that no child is really typical.
From this, I got a little sad that apparently seven is an age of worry and introspection. Oh, poor Mushroom! But then I was cheered by the amusing thought that Mushroom is apparently quite mature. He hit seven year-old behavior very early indeed! There was nice, brief stuff in there about how seven year-olds learn as well as typical skills and attitudes. Overall, rather than feeling scared, guilty or annoyed, the book made me feel comforted.
It’s more than 20 years old, so there was some outmoded advice (was private school ever as inexpensive as this book made out?!). I didn’t find most of the disciplinary advice very useful, but nor did it annoy me (a small miracle, that). The only place where the book really lost me was when the author delved into body typology that, as I understand it, is complete bunk. It undermined the book for me a little, but as most of it is the result of interviews and observations of actual children and the plethora of anecdotes rang so true, I decided to pretend that chapter just didn’t exist.