Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My child is not his age, and that is OK



"Can you help? I need a purple book, my son's obsessed with purple." That's me talking to the nice lady at Barnes & Noble over the weekend. I'd gone there to return some SpongeBob SquarePants books Dave had bought Sabrina, because I think SpongeBob is taking over her brain. Instead, I got her a book in the Charlie and Lola series, I Will Not Ever Eat A Tomato (these books are adorable!), and then I wanted a good, purple book for Max, as I am his purple enabler.

"How about Harold and The Purple Crayon?" she says.

"Got it!"

"Well, I know this is for girls, but what about Purplelicious?"

"Got it!"

"Lily and The Plastic Purple Purse?"

"Got it!"

I didn't even bother to mention that we had a copy of I Love You The Purplest, signed by the author herself.

I spot a book with a purple cover in a display case, Jungle In My Bedroom. You push a button to make a light pop up on every page. It's adorable, and it's got lots of PURPLE, but it says "For ages 3 and up." Suddenly, I'm a little stuck. Max is 7. Chronologically, he's too old for this book. Developmentally, he is not.

ARGH. I sometimes feel stumped when I'm confronted with age-appropriate numbers such as this. Actually, they used to freak me out. I spent most of Max's early years obsessed with whether or not he was doing things that were "right" for his age, and it brought me nothing but anxiety and heartache. I long ago tossed the child-rearing books and quit subscribing to the "Your Child Now" updates, yet the "For ages ___ and up" lines on books and games still give me pause. I wish there were a more inclusive way to describe a book's relevancy to a child, but these are the standards. And I can choose to pay attention, or I can ignore them.

It doesn't take me long to decide: Reading anything to Max that will engage him is age-appropriate.

I get the book. Max liked it. He laughed. He listened to every word.

All right, that's it: To hell with the numbers.

43 comments:

  1. Well, it DID say "Ages 3... AND UP"! (I think those guidelines are less than helpful in many cases. Whatever a child will love and be engaged with.... that's IT!)

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  2. As my 40th birthday rapidly approaches, I am all for ignoring so-called age appropriateness!

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  3. I have "normal" stepsons that are not high achieers/ The fourteen year old spends some time every weekend playing with my almost two year old delayed child's toys. It bugs me, but i'd rather have him do anything that isn't TV or videogames so I keep my trap shut and hope for the best.

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  4. do you have the book 'clarence goes out west and meets a purple horse'?. my kids love that one. :)

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  5. Barbara from BostonMay 11, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    Both kids might like the series that includes"What Happens When You Give a Mouse a Cookie?" Can't remember the author. When my nephew was a little boy his nickname was mouse. Its not a purple book though...

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  6. Glad Max enjoyed his book! For the record, I think purple's the best colour ever! He has taste, your kid.

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  7. I think those age suggestions are so silly, with the possible exception of the ones that are there to indicate that certain toys are potential choking hazards. Kids like what they like, different kids, with and without developmental challenges, like different stuff at different ages . . . why do we feel so compelled to slap numbers and guidelines on everything? Good for you for ignoring them! If I hear of/see any good new purple books, I'll definitely comment and let you know. :)

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  8. Yeah, there is that "and up" part, but it's the "3" that gets to me! Sheryl, you're never getting old. Never. Ginger, that's reassuring to here. Kelly, I'd never heard of that book, thanks for the purple alert! Barbara, I know that series well, Max likes If You Give A Pig A Pancake. Beatrice, well said! And Erin, I agree, Max does have good taste! Up super-early this morning, my knee (the one with partially-torn ACL) is killing me. Uh-oh.

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  9. Focus on the AND UP part. Who cares about the bottom number? I know what you mean, though. I love it when people ask how old Addison is, as if they can then figure out what's WRONG with her by knowing she's 3 and not walking. That's usually the first question I get. And I've come to just not care. She's not developmentally 3. So what? She's still a rock star!

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  10. That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child has a purple cover... not much else is purple... but it is one of my FAVOURITE kids books.

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  11. Yeah, definately to Heck with the numbers! We still have lots of toys that are baby toys. Faith's favorite is the push toy with the handle for babies learning to walk...we call it the multi colored cart of death because she drives into us all the time with it. Lots of bruised toes and shins! LOL!

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  12. I volunteer at lunchtime to help a second grader learn how to read better and half the class are reading board books and Mr Brown Can Moo. So don't get worried about the age definitions.

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  13. As long as we're saying "to hell with numbers", let's apply that to those pesky numbers on the scale :)

    When Little Bird was a year old and just learning to turn over, we called it a "delay" and felt assured that she'd 'catch up' with enough therapy and time. Then, she was 2 and not talking. Again, we worked hard for her to talk and to 'catch up'. At 5 years old, this trend continues. We comfort ourselves by saying things like, "so she's a few years behind. By the time they're 16 it's all the same. What's the difference between 14 and 16 anyway?" Sigh.

    The numbers game sucks. I stopped reading "what to expect..." books almost immediately after recognizing that something was 'wrong' at 6 months, canceled the weekly/monthly emails and resented each one. We're on our own path. Not following the trend. But, Little Bird IS her age, and this is what 5 years old looks like for HER.

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  14. I recall my days as a first grade teacher and I assure you that any first grader (around 6 yrs old) would pick up and LOVE this book. But, you're right...to hell-o with the numbers!

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  15. Focus on the "AND UP" part. And don't give something that's "3 and up" to a two year old, because they might eat it. That's how I take these suggestions, but beyond that, I don't worry about those guidelines. Age IS just a number, I keep telling myself!

    Whatever gets us through the day!

    Hey Ellen--do you have this book? It's not just about purple, but the title character's focus is all about purple! This one's in the "four to eight" range....see, the people who make these decisions about what kids might like can't nail this stuff down, either!

    http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/Octavia.php

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  16. And this one...
    The Purple Coat
    http://www.amazon.com/Purple-Coat-Reading-Rainbow-Book/dp/0689716346
    Don't worry about the ages and numbers. If I think a kid will get antsy about the number it says I cover it with a cool sticker then they will never know.

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  17. To hell with the numbers, ditto that!

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  18. What about Mr. Pine's Purple House by Leonard Kessler?

    Ride a Purple Pelican by Jack Prelutsky?

    The Purple Kangaroo by Michael Ian Black?

    The Purple Balloon by Christopher Raschka?

    Sally and the Purple Socks by Lisze Bechtold?

    Purple: Seeing Purple All Around Us by Sarah L. Schuette?

    Michael and the Purple Cows by Mitchel A. Foy and Kimberly McKay-Fleming?

    Lunchtime for a Purple Snake by Harriet Ziefert?

    Purple Pride by Christianne C. Jones?

    Wrinkled Crinkled Grapes: A Purple Monster by PhD, Carol A Hook?

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  19. I don't know if you are looking for books with the word Purple in the title, but as soon as you said "purple book" I remembered Miss Rumphius from my childhood. It's the story of a woman who goes around the country planting lupins, a lot of which are purple (in fact, I just checked, "purple" is in the first sentence of the book)! I think Sabrina would like it too. It's gorgeous, and a great read-aloud, plus, it has a wide age range attached to it. (I'm tempted to go order it for myself now).

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  20. The link for Miss Rumphis, where you can see some of the pictures, is here: http://www.amazon.com/Miss-Rumphius-Barbara-Cooney/dp/0140505393/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273594910&sr=8-1

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  21. Amen! If it makes him happy, it's Max appropriate, and therefore, age appropriate! I'm still buying my 3-year old toys for 18-month olds...and he's learning a lot from them, so I don't care:-)

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  22. Kids (and adults), whether "typical" or not, find different things appealing. The "guidelines" are often based on what publishers think "the most typical" kids like at certain ages. MANY people won't fit into this category! As an adult, I still enjoy kid's books (and toys)! I remember in 6th grade, hesitating before checking out a book geared toward younger children, and deciding "what the heck - I'll read what I like"! I was also reading many books written for adults at the time, and decided not to let others decided what I "should" like or read.

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  23. I am floored by this outpouring of purple-ness!!!! Thank you so much, everyone, for being my purple scouts!!! I am going to sit down at the computer with Max and let him pick his fave books. I have a feeling he is going to choose ALL of them!

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  24. I think that age recommendations on toys, books, etc. are pretty un-useful as a whole. I can certainly see not getting a baby a toy with tiny pieces, but I think that "acting one's age" is really society putting expectations on children that is more about society's comfort than the needs of the child.

    I also find these recommendations on toys about as useful as the sizes on children's clothing.

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  25. my son..age 9 and great reader and autisticish and hearing impaired...LOVES LOVES LOVES Ladybug girl books. So much so that he tried to mail himself in a box to New York to 'meet them' because...well...his mom told him that it is impolite to stalk people and apparently mailing yourself is more polite. anyway.. i wish, especially in the area of reading, people wouldn't get so ahead of themselves.

    and purple is a fabulous color.

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  26. I totally get it. My son Baily is 8 chronologically but he loves toys with music and lights. The ones that are typically for ages 6 months to 3 years. It is hard trying to feel like you aren't patronizing them or treating them too much like a baby while still doing what makes them happy. In the end though I think their happiness just has to outweigh our own complexes.

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  27. "corduroy" has a purple cover :D

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  28. Not to belittle the stress and heartache of dealing with differences in your child but I have to echo what Dani G said in that I think Max absolutely IS his age, he just doesn't match the societal objectively-determined age expectations we are "told" to have about his age- but who the heck ever does?

    I know that's not all of what your post was about and that no matter how many times you or I or anyone else says Max is who he is and that's okay, it's still going to hurt when you have those moments where it hits you in the face - I hope I'm not coming across as being dismissive about that because I really do understand it's a deeper and emotional reaction - I just am a firm believer that how we talk about things shapes both how we think and feel about them and that sometimes these little language things can make a difference in terms of the meanings we make and share in the world.

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  29. I write this blog to inspire, and I write this blog to get inspiration. And wow, do I get inspiration. I agree, Prudence—what Dani said is so wise and true. Sometimes, I get a wee bit defensive about Max's abilities; I want to shout out that he is OK (actually, more than OK) being who he is. But being Max also means he is not to be held up to societal standards.

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  30. I stopped looking at age appropriate, gender appropriate and anything appropriate long ago since my boy never, ever reached any of the milestones at the appropriate time, I realized that he had his own time and since I waited so long for the milestone I LOVED it so much more. I cheered so much louder, I rejoiced so much more and smiled so much harder. You are right my child is not his age and that is A OK!

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  31. Great post! I totally understand... I'll never forget the day I through out all the books that tell you where your child should be developmentally. None of that applies in our world anymore:)

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  32. I'm thinking about enrolling my two in the same dance class. If they let him, he'll be the wonky Deaf 7 year old amongst the 3 year olds. But that would be about his speed. Whatever. It will be hilarious.

    Lets see if I can sell his Dad on the idea.

    (hey Ellen, it's me Cristin. I've moved to a new blog and have an assumed identity)

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  33. I totaly agree I am imature myself and remeber haveing fun has no age limit

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  34. Every single person in our family is mesmorized by Signing Time and I'm pretty sure it's just for kids. I know the feeling of buying stuff that doesn't match, but I try to look at the number as a skill set--Skill level one--not age one. Skill level two--not age two. That's how I do it.

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  35. Purple is the color of royalty. I would say it's the perfect color for your little prince!

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  36. I work for a pediatric rehab hospital system and we often recommend the Toys R Us's Differently Abled Toy Guide. http://www.toysrus.com/category/index.jsp?categoryId=2257808

    It's online and in print. Helps parents find toys based on the skill they'd like to developed AND toys aren't rated by the "ages ??? and up"

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  37. I have a framed poem that hung on my wall until I moved out of my parent's house last summer called "You are a Purple Person if..." and describes the personality of a Purple Person. Since my favorite color morphed into blue, Max needs to have it. Can I mail it to you?

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  38. wow. my family deals with this problem all the time. constantly. my brother still plays with army men and legos and he's almost 19. He takes special math classes as a senior in high school that i took in 7th grade. to hell with numbers! to hell with normal! he is who he is and no one should be able to tell me or him or anyone that a book or toy is or anything is too "young". i admire my brother for surviving through all of his elementary, middle and high school days a little,so-called, "behind" because id so much rather hear him laughing while putting together lego pieces with innocence, than laughing at a vulgar joke with arrogance. he does not act his age, no. but it keeps us all happy- to see that innocence in our daily lives, and to be reminded that conformity isnt the only means of survival. It's not always easy, it can be embarrassing, but in the end, we gain so much from it. my brother is a bittersweet blessing who has helped me develop character and maturity- and more than anyone will ever know.

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  39. Good for you!
    I am still mentally battling with this myself LOL. My issue stems from Thomas the Tank Engine and the Wiggles. Both lovely shows BUT!!! he is 9. But he enjoys them and he interacts as a result so we watch, read and sing those shows.

    By the by came a visiting from the autisable site :)

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  40. 3 and up works for us in this house.

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  41. I like this post.. it brings into focus the reality that having a child with special needs or having special needs yourself (I'm on the autism spectrum and have adhd), things have different rules. I find myself enjoying books that are meant for school-age children. Why not? it brings back memories of when i was a kid, when life wasnt so stressful, and its an easy hour read. Im not saying i do it all the time, but sometimes i do. You hit the nail on the head when you said anything that engages him is age appropriate. How true that is. I for one refuse to be defined by age appropriate standards, since I probably broke a few of em.. I'm 28 years old, single and still live at home. Ill eventually move out, when I can afford to but for now I'm content to live where i am. Sometimes you cant let yourself be defined by set standards. If your circumstances differ, well they differ.. that's just the way it is.. Keep on keeping on with your beautiful son and daughter!

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Thanks for sharing!



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