Our best friends have two boys who are a few years older than our kids - 11 and 9. Well, technically I guess they are 11 1/2 and 9 1/2, since both have birthdays in April.
They stopped by this afternoon to bid farewell and wish us a Merry Christmas as they headed out to their week-long family Christmas a few hours away. Their oldest wandered in decked out in headphones, listening to something on his ipod. When it was time for them to go, their dad had to get his attention because, with his music playing, he didn't hear what was being said. The father made a comment along the lines of, "Yep, he's a teen."
No. No, he's not. Not quite. But his parents often refer to him that way, and I have to say, it drives me crazy.
He is on the threshold of that transition into the teenage years, standing on the brink of puberty. He's getting really tall, his shoes are almost as big as his dad's and he has his moments of "teen-ish" behavior.
But he still comes over and has nerf battles with my boys. He still builds things out of Legos and plays elaborate games of pretend. He still plays. I love that about him, and at 11 years old, he should.
I know that he's going to change. That there will come a time when he stops coming over to play with my boys, in favor of other things. There will come a time when girls aren't icky (they are firmly in the gross category, as are any movies or TV shows with kissing... ewwww!). There will come a time, all too soon, when he's moved beyond young childhood and entered the realm of his teenage years. I don't begrudge him that, nor am I in denial that he's getting older.
What bothers me is how often his parents, and I see other parents doing this too, how often they skip ahead in their language. They speak of him as if he's already 13 years old and sulking in a corner with his headphones, unreachable in his teenage angst. He's not. He's happy and fun and sociable and still so, so young. He's such a child and I fear that they are missing out on that; they're missing the last months of this phase of childhood in their eagerness for him to grow up.
Granted, as parents it is all too easy to succumb to that sentiment. We want to see our babies roll over, we encourage them to crawl, and we celebrate when they walk and say their first words. We delight in their growth, in their accomplishments and new skills. This doesn't end as they leave the baby and toddler years behind. We love to watch them learn and grow and try new things. All of that is wonderful, but there's a line that is crossed when the parents seem all too eager to jump ahead and place their child in the next phase before they are truly there.
A passing comment about him being a "teen" isn't the only thing that has prompted my musings on this topic. They, and other friends of mine, have said things that make me think they are watching their kids' childhoods go by with a sort of checklist, checking off the time and almost looking forward to its end. I doubt they would see it that way if confronted with the idea, but things they say still leave me with such an impression.
I guess I just don't know why people want to round up when it comes to their kids ages and stages. It gives the impression of being in a hurry to get this child-rearing business done, and that makes me a little sad. Enjoy each stage of their life for what it is and let it pass in its own time; they will be grown and gone all too soon.