Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A walking contradiction

This nine-year-old business is rather funny. Has anyone else noticed their nine-year-olds being suddenly plagued with contradicting emotions?

Sunburst, who is a Very Lovely Child-- and I say this from the deepest place in my heart without any facetiousness whatsoever-- is driving me completely bonkers. I keep reminding myself that this "Thing" she's going through is probably just as maddening to her as it is to me. Her new influx of hormones have her up and down like a yo-yo, pulled every which way with a good amount of tension on the line. Were I in her position, I'd probably handle it much, much worse than she is currently doing.

It's the contradiction of her wants and needs that gets me. It's at once both confounding and amusing. See? Another contradiction. It's contagious! And oddly, it's not that much different than that dance of independence exhibited by a two-year-old: I want to run away from you, but I need to make sure you're still there.

She wants her own room, her own space, and privacy.
And then she asks to sleep in bed with her siblings.

She speaks like she knows everything and anything.
The next minute she deflates and announces her own stupidity.

She's proud of herself and her accomplishments.
And then you blink and she's calling herself a failure.

She pulls away because she wants independence.
An hour later she wants to cuddle in my arms and have me sing her lullabies.

I'm pretty sure this particular "dance" doesn't end any time soon.... if ever, really. I know it will become less pronounced in time, maybe the tension will change or the speed of the reversals, but this push and pull routine is probably here to stay. It's something I still recognize in my relationship with my own mother. Hold me close, but not too close, but then hold me close again. Let me go off and live my life, but still be there. Don't hold me back, but don't turn away. Let me fall, but be there to pick me up and nurture my wounds. Don't tell me what to do, but still encourage me. No wonder the parents of teenagers go slowly mad.

Could it really be as simple as all that? If I just continually remember to "still be here," is that enough? Will she continue to pull farther and farther away because I'm here and constant? And is that a good thing? Do I want her to go farther? Do I really have a choice? She'll go anyway. But will she go with confidence and self-assurance? Will she make good choices? And will she come back? It's such a gamble, this parenthood thing.

And what of the kids who don't bounce back? You know the ones I'm talking about--- the ones that go really far away, like to the streets. To drink. To drugs. To destructive relationships. To the places we never envisioned for our kids. I want to know, were the parents still there, solid and constant, waiting with welcoming arms? Or, as I suspect, was there no one to bounce back to?

Obviously these are all rhetorical questions. I know I'm projecting a little bit, after all, Sunburst is only nine. I just don't want to screw it up. It's too important. So sometimes I feel like I have to look inside and ask myself these kinds of questions. Where are we? Where are we going? What does this child need for the rough road ahead, and how can I best give it to her? What can I do right now?

It's time to get off the computer, hold her close, and sing another lullaby while she's still interested.


  1. Anonymous7:42 PM

    My Dd is 10 and I still sing her lullabies, and I always will, as long as she'll let me...

    Hold close what you can, and enjoy watching the rest fly :)

    I feel your pain -- and your joy!

  2. Anonymous4:25 AM

    Yes, my 10 year old is still in the throes of these mood swings, and then the teen years will hit. I'll be happy to read what answers you come up up because I have none (and I'm a lot less patient than you are). :)

  3. so much of what you said seems like what my hubby and i are going through with our 4 year-old (middle child)! i keep reminding myself that these phases are rough on her, too, and once she grows thru it, she'll emerge on the other side a fuller and more complex and more precious individual. but, boy, in the meantime it can be such a challenge!

  4. You've heard of the nine year change, of course? According to Steiner and others, this upturning of emotions is typical for the nine year old and should pass in a few weeks or months as they settle in to their new emotional state. There is a book devoted to it, but sadly I haven't found much indepth information at all online to advise a person. Just warning signs - "look out for the nine year change!!"

    My nine year old hasn't been contradictory, but she did go through a difficult few months before and after her birthday. Coming out the other side, I can see a definite change in her.

    Knowing its normal, and that a couple of calm peaceful years are supposed to follow, is very helpful!

  5. Patience, I am very familiar with the Steiner concept. Encountering the Self, is a good lead-in to the nine-year-change, but I found that it doesn't really begin to touch on all the nitty gritty aspects-- perhaps because it's written from a teacher's perspective rather than a parent's.

    How lucky you are that your child has already passed through this phase. Unfortunately, Sunburst has been a changling nine for awhile now. I'm sure sibling dynamics and our move overseas both play a huge role in what's going on over here Maybe it should be renamed the 'situational nine-year-change' since it seems to vary from child to child.

  6. I agree. We are still having some changes going on but I feel I perhaps shouldnt count them because they are most likely brought on by us moving house too?

    I was surprised that the phase didnt last as long as I expected, but I'm waiting nervously for the next phase, lol!

    Encountering the Self is the book I was thinking of - I haven't read it, but have wanted to!

  7. Well, you know of ElmTree's struggle and subsequent emerging into her true self. But we had some really, really hard months before I was able to tune in and figure out what she needed/wanted - a haircut and all boys' clothes!

    I'm thinking of all Sunburst is having to process right now - and I'm probably doing my own bit of projecting, too - but if this time of life is about discovering the identity, and she is a "foreigner", then that could be making things really difficult...in addition to just the reality of the hormonal roller-coaster ride. I don't know how Sunburst sees herself but it would be interesting to ask her...to see if she can put it into words...or a story/song.

    I wish you both peace and happiness and acceptance and joy!

  8. Anonymous10:35 AM

    My daughter is 13 now and very much into the changing teen years; but I do remember there was a very definite shift in her around the age of nine. She came out of it with a much stronger sense of self.

  9. My daughter is 13 now and very much into the changing teen years; but I do remember there was a very definite shift in her around the age of nine. She came out of it with a much stronger sense of self.


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