Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On being a little freaked that your kid's getting older


"Max, you look so much older with your haircut!" I told Max last night.

"No!" he told me. "I'm new!"

We both cracked up.

Unlike Sabrina, who has been gazing into the mirror wondrously at her hair for years now, Max has never cared how his hair has looked. Me, I like it on the moppy/floppy side with long bangs, aka the too-cute cut. I've let his hair get so long that on occasion his teacher has sent not-so-subtle notes like "Max is due for a haircut!"

But this year, Max started caring about his hair—he likes his bangs tucked into his firefighter hat. First, we found him in the bathroom one afternoon, slicking back his hair with water. That was the first time I've ever seen him doing anything with his hair, and it was cool. Then, he started asking Dave to gel his hair for him. Then he asked for a haircut, just when his hair was at its moppiest/floppiest/cutest, and of course I obliged even though I didn't want to.

For him, it's all about the hair but for me, it's more than that. At heart, I'm not ready for him to look like a tween.

I'm sure many mothers struggle with the reality of their rapidly growing kids. What happened to that baby I used to rock to sleep? How did life pass so fast? Will he still give me those uninhibited hugs and kisses? Does this mean I'm getting old, too? (Yep.)

I have an added concern. Max has always looked younger than his age, and that's worked well for him—it's gone hand in hand with his development, since he acts younger than his age. But I wonder about this evolving child in his Fire Chief plastic hat who is going to be 12. It's not that I am concerned about whether he will catch up with his peers, because I long ago stopped caring about that. Max is on his own timeline; I'm here to guide the ride, but I can't make it go any faster.

It's just this: He already gets stares from other kids. As he starts looking more like his age, I think there will be even more stares. And kids may be even more likely to keep their distance. And the older ones who talk with him now because they think he's cute, where will they be?

I fear the day when he notices the looks or the peers who ignore him. I hope he will not care, although that's a double-edged sword. Because if he doesn't care, it means he lacks that awareness. And if he does care, he has that cognition—but he may also feel the pain.

If and when Max does sense that kids are looking at him or shunning him, well, then, I hope I can empower him to engage with them and break the stares. Or say stuff like, "Hi, I notice you're staring, what's up?" Or, "Hey, babe, want to try on my fire hat?"

Most of all, I hope he will continue to feel nothing but joy in being who he is, like he does now. And that maybe he will be game to let his hair grow out just a little moppy-floppy.

15 comments:

  1. In my third year of playing, I'm in two bands! Those sixteenth notes aren't as much of a challenge anymore and I'm rising through the flute ranks. Playing with more advanced musicians motivates me to further improve. I'm growing musically!!!

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    1. GO ANNA!!!! So proud of all your accomplishments.

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  2. Max has fabulous hair...thanks for the thoughtful post. I have a bunch of shows and books that are guilty pleasures, but I think the public / private division is at play with our kids.

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    1. Yes, he does have rather awesome hair. And totally agree, re, public/private.

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  3. Seriously, I hope that the day doesn't come when Max realizes people are staring at him, or treating him differently. Having worked with kids and adults with disabilities for many years, it seems to me that the ones who have it the toughest are the ones who ARE self-aware, and know they are different because of the way they're treated. They act differently enough that typical kids/adults don't want to befriend them, even though that's what they want more than anything.

    I hope Max continues to live a life filled with joy, love, the support of his family and friends, and a barber who knows how lucky he or she is to work with such an amazing head of hair!

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    1. Thank you, Paula. I hope that no matter what he does or doesn't discern as he gets older, his life is filled with all of the above!

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  4. I know my mom struggles with my sister and I growing up-we will be 17 in February, I have my learner's permit, my sister has her license, we are juniors in high and in the very early stages of college hunting. Yeah we sure aren't itty bitty babies anymore.

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    1. But to your mom, you will always be her baby.

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  5. No matter how he likes to wear his hair, one thing Max has going for him is that he's a handsome kid with a smile to die for, and the personality of a total rock star. I hope that never changes. As for seeming younger than he really is, that isn't always terrible! My friends joke that I'm 33 going on 13, cause I still love my cartoons and toys; it's just who I am, and nobody has a problem with it. For Max's sake, I hope he finds a place to fit in that accepts him for the awesome person he is, even if he isn't shy about his fireman aspirations, or his love of Disney (I love Cars as well!), or cause he likes purple or whatever he's into. Real friends are the ones who take you as you are, and they're out there. Max is such a winning personality that I'm sure he'll find his people, in time. :)

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    1. Wise words, Anon. I do believe he will find his peeps, he really is a kid who loves to make friends. But I also hope that the world will become more accepting of people with special needs in the years to come, so that when he steps outside his circle he is still respected and made to feel comfortable with who he is. I dream big.

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    2. I hope that too, for Max's sake, and my own, and for all of us with special powers. :)

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  6. First you will never be old only mature LOL and second Max will notice the stares it's your job to make sure that he knows that people staring at him has nothing to do with him and everything to do with their ignorance or curiosity.

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    1. Oh, thank you, Nisha! I will gladly never age. I do my best to bolster his confidence. If and when we start having to have those conversations about why people stare, you can bet it will be about what's wrong with the starers!

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  7. Oh my... It starts. He's getting older. Hope you're ready for this!! :)

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Thanks for sharing!



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