Monday, May 07, 2007

On entering the double digits

Despite his parents' desperate attempts to arrest his development (and perhaps thereby forestall their own obsolescence), Kid #1 turned ten years old over the weekend. He celebrated with a sleepover party that featured a trip to a Mongolian barbecue, an intense game of dodge ball, a showing of Shrek 2, and a night of staying awake in the basement telling jokes about farts and butts.

Ten is a tough age: still kid-like enough to want to feel close to mom and dad, to want to have big and obvious signs of parental affection ... but proto-adolescent enough to become sullen when offered a children's menu or kid's cup at a restaurant, and to attempt through the strategic shutting of doors and wearing of headphones to create private space and independence. And the moodswings: I don't envy the boy for the little hurricanes of havoc his small surges of hormones are causing, and I'm sure that it is an odd experience to see that your body is elongating so quickly that almost every day you are reminded of how distant you now are from the small child you once were ... but damn, if this is a taste of what true adolescence is like, then Sergeant Stern's School for Young Men is looking like a pretty good option (you mail them your child just as he enters his difficult phase; they send him back in a few years as a well disciplined and obedient soldier) (downside: he will also be a killing machine).

All joking aside, I realize how fortunate I am to have had a decade with this amazing child proto-adolescent. I even look forward to the next decade, with all it will bring. He tells me he is going to live well into the triple digits, so I'm expecting we'll have a long time together.


Anonymous said...

Ah-hem. If it makes him feel any better, you may let him know that they were still offering me the freakin kids' menu when I was 19. Well, some of them were anyway.

I realize I look young for my age, but seriously?!

josh said...

Any day you can read a Billy Collins poem is a better day. Here's one I've always liked that is apropos. (And I know a couple fart jokes too, in case he hates poetry.)

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Now he has to wait twelve more years before A. E. Houseman's "When I was one-and-twenty" becomes relevant...but only two before Gary Soto's "Oranges"!

Anonymous said...

No matter how elongated he gets, he'll always be a sweet young man and a great brother, who truly WILL be a medievalist (focusing on science, nature and beasts)someday! Sigh.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Josh, thanks for that, I'm wiping a tear from my eye. That sentimental stuff always gets to me ... it's tempting to mail the poem to Lee Edelman.

"Anonymous": the words of a mother. Glad you liked this post on our little guy.

JKW said...

The Mongolian BBQ, eh? As I recall, that's the standard destination for couples from the local high school who are going to the'll happen to your little guy before you know it.