It's Hard to be Ten

Oh my goodness. It’s Victoria’s day to make my brain explode. She is not a happy camper today.

I suppose she had it coming. She’s spent her life being a very responsible, level-headed, easy child. It’s not like it could go on forever and it probably wouldn’t even be healthy if it did. Everybody needs to have at least occasional episodes where they’re allowed to weep, wail and gnash teeth. Without it they become robotic, numb or liable to end up on the evening news years later.

I’ve been informed that it’s miserable being ten. Nine is apparently all roses and sunshine. Nine is the golden year. Friends, fun and no responsibility. Ten is apparently a horrible time. Maybe it’s the double digits, though it’s more likely baby brother who’s increasingly mobile and demanding.

The thing that differentiates parenting from any other job, hobby or activity on earth is that you can never really get it down.

You have your first child and it’s like juggling– figuring out what this cry means versus this cry and how to make her happy and deal with this issue and that. You read books, you listen to older parents, you listen to her cues and you eventually (if you work really hard) get it down — for the most part anyway.

Then, just as you’re starting to feel smug, she enters a new phase and it’s ALL NEW STUFF. The old tricks don’t work. It’s new challenges, obstacles, issues. Now it’s like juggling except the balls have all become different weights and they’re not coming down the way they did last week.

And then, just to make it even more impossible, you have another child. And every single thing that worked with the first child will be different with this one. He has an all new temperment with all new wants, likes and magic buttons.

Suddenly those balls are randomly flinging themselves horizontally and whacking you in the forehead.

(If you’ve ever been one of those know-it-all mothers whose kids were all fabulously behaved because you were so good at it, this is where all your long-suffering friends laugh a lot. Let them — you have it coming.)

Then you have another child and perhaps another. The balls are all different sizes, weights and speeds and they go in all directions, frequently beaning you in your once-confident head.

And it never stops. You have to pretty much plan on not dropping the balls for… ever. But especially not for the first 18 years. Each.

The way I deal with it when my kids enter new stages and new challenges is pretty consistent — I read everything I can about the age and what’s typical, I talk to parents who have kids a little older to see what wisdom they can share, I try to increase my one-on-one time with the child (I have yet to encounter a behavior issue with one of my kids that didn’t get much better just from increased mama time) and I wait. I try to be patient, keep a sense of humor and remember this too shall pass. (Sometimes I drink wine coolers and tell my children they’re making my head explode, but mostly the other stuff.)

The problem at the moment is that I have 4 kids all going through developmental bumpy roads.

  • Alex is one. That in itself makes him exhausting and requires the patience of a whole mess of saints. He also is teething AND he’s got a cold that won’t go away.
  • Jack, at 5, is dealing with this massive scary changes. He’s now officially kindergarten age and is wavering right on the line of the whole big kid/little kid universe. He’s also too young to do all the fun things his sisters can do but too big to get to use Alex’s cool baby things. AND he has a baby brother who gets, well, babied — by his mama.
  • Anna, at 8, is really getting tired of being a middle child. She gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to attention but she gets lumped in the big kid group when it comes to responsibility and expectations. She had to move aside and let Jack be babied for years and now she’s watching another little interloper get babied. AND while she’s exceptionally intelligent, artistic, sweet and talented, she’s got the overachievement poster child Victoria for a big sister.
  • Which leads to Victoria, who has decided at 10 that she’s tired of waiting around being perfect while I try to meet everybody’s needs. I try not to ask too much of her. I try to switch things up and equal things out. I also try to dole out lots of extra perks for being my helper. She gets more allowance, more late night talks, more chocolate slipped to her from the secret stash. The fact remains, though, that she’s my go-to girl. If I need something done, I know she’ll not only do it but do it cheerfully 9 times out of 10. And better. So I lean on her. AND since she acts like a grown up half the time, I forget and treat her like a grown up half the time too. I really have to remember that even at 10 she needs to be babied sometimes too — or at least get to occasionally weep and wail and gnash teeth.

So today is Victoria’s day to make my head explode. She’s unleashed all that pent up emotion and has been prone to throwing herself on the floor and sobbing. Really. It’s a bit unnerving.

She cried a lot, vented a lot, told me her troubles. I brushed her hair and mostly listened, and tried not to be too practical about the whole thing. There’s nothing worse when you’re having an emotional breakdown than someone throwing logic and reason at you.

(Though I did point out that perhaps she could rethink the bit about tossing herself on the floor, if nothing else so she doesn’t trip people. I told her I get depressed sometimes too and I never throw myself on the floor, though it might have to do with being old and easily bruised.  At that point Daryl compared me to a tomato. But anyway…)

I don’t know how to sort this out, but I know by now that it’ll get better.  It’ll just take some work and some time.  I’ll order another book, work on giving her more of the neat childhood stuff, start doing one-on-one time with all 3 of the “big” kids again…

It’s hard to be 39 too. 🙂

1 thought on “It's Hard to be Ten

  1. I love your juggling balls metaphor of parenting – I’ve thought that many a time myself. We’re going through many of these same things here right now. The same 1 year old stuff, the same 5/6 year old stuff, the same “middle child” stuff (except that she has much of the stuff that your oldest has due to being my “helper” much of the time), and then my oldest who has always been especially intense and emotional and always has meltdowns and such so with him it’s just even more so with puberty setting in – yikes. So I can definitely relate. With the age 39 thing too – coming up next month. I know you’ll find the right things to help make it better for Victoria though. You’ve already got a good handle on what she’s going through and that seems to be the biggest part of it sometimes. Your one-on-one time seems to be a magic pill – need to try to do more of that myself. Thanks for sharing all of this… good to know we’re not alone!


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