Early July means lots of important birthdays. First there's mine, then there's Linus's and then mum's all in a 9 day period. My amazing, sensitive and funny youngest son turned 8 (the ages of mum and I aren't relevant here, or maybe they are...it's all about me getting crotchety...again).
It's incredible how quickly the years go, isn't it?
Linus fools us a little with his way. His brain gears are always ticking over and sometimes we have to stop and remind ourselves that he's just a little kid.
But, you know, we do remember he is a little kid and it's important to us that he and Astrid are "allowed" to be little kids. 'Cause, wow, the world really seems to want them to grow up really quickly and become dutiful little consumers (I guess). Why are we in such a hurry to rush them through the wonderful years of childhood? Drinking their baby chinos in cafes, wearing their little high heels and bras, watching Southpark (I mean, have these parents ever watched Southpark, or do they think it's animated, so it must be for kids?)...
We're constantly telling our children, "Oh, we don't do that in our family". Perhaps we're really weird for wanting to preserve their childhood for what seems to us a reasonable amount of time. Fortunately for us the majority of parenting that they come into contact with is in line with our own. But the wider community is a different thing. Things might be easier if we wore aluminium foil hats and mapped star charts from the freckles on our forearms. Then it would be obvious that we're, you know, different.
Just before his birthday Linus was invited to a school-friend's birthday that was held at one of those in the dark laser shooting thingos. Well, I was conflicted. I mean, I think he's too young at 8 to get into faux bloodsport games. I'm not sure if there is an appropriate age for it but I didn't want him to miss out and become a social pariah at school. I told myself that it was just "chasey" in the semi-dark.
We got there and the music and lights and things designed to get your adrenlin pumping made me want to scoop him up and run away...he was shaking, actually shaking...we had already gone in and since I'd left my aluminium foil hat at home and so looked like a "normal" mum, I hugged him and left him.
I spent 2 hours (well 1.25 hours, I got back early) in a knot worrying about him because my mothering alarm bells were ting-a-linging.
He was fine, albeit a little testosterone charged for the rest of the day. But my position still stands, too young.
Then I got into a bit of a "to-do" with my brother at my birthday dinner about, "Kids today". It's the argument that goes like this:
Him: "Kids today aren't like they were when we were young, they are far more grown up."
Him: "Oh you don't know, you can't contribute. You don't have a 14 year old daughter...yet. When you do, you'll know."
Kids aren't different, they're exactly as they have always been. Society is different. It's like that frog in the slow boiling saucepan story. He doesn't jump out and save himself because the water is just getting warmer and warmer, till it's too late.
You see, we do protect our children, we do set boundaries and milestones for them to wait for when they're older. We don't let them watch commercial TV and get assailed with screaming ads telling they must buy, eat, watch. We don't over-schedule them with all sorts of activities, we let them play and make up their own games. We will surround them with an environment that lets them be silly and crazy and free and innocent for as long as childhood should be. Anyone who wants to join us, I can send you a pattern for a really spiffy alfoil hat.