During the first few years of my daughter’s life, I made a point of reading up on age milestones and tips for certain ages but in the past few years I have let that slide. Maybe I thought “hey I’ve got the hang of this parenting lark!” Or life just got busier and I forgot.
Since her ninth birthday in May, I have been reading more and more about 9-year-olds. What to expect, their physical and cognitive development changes in their social behaviours and milestones they should be reaching at this age. This was mainly because I feel that on the eve of turning 9 a light switch went off and all of a sudden we have a teenager living under our roof.
I have lost track of the number of times the door has slammed or I have been told to leave her alone. Or the number of times when all seems good and happy but then it turns on a dime and she leaves me standing in the dust of her pre-teen angst.
Daily I will be asking her to do something or stop doing something and she will reply in a hiss “Well I’m sorry if I’m NOT PERFECT!” Or “Well I’m sorry if I am ANNOYING YOU!”
My coping skills have definitely had to adapt and pretty quickly. I have had to move from issuing very clear cut orders and requests like 'don’t touch that it’s hot', to much more delicate and detailed ways of interacting with her.
My approach has had to change. Before if I said please get ready for bed it was just that. But now if I ask I am told that I don’t have to remind her all the time! I have had to learn to give her leeway to get ready for bed in the order she wants to do it now, as long as it gets done. To not interfere with her independence.
The same goes for the morning and thankfully there is very little routine at the moment so it's fine to let her take her time getting dressed, let her make her own breakfast and the day is even better if she chooses in part what we do.
Our discussions have matured considerably as well. We are going into much greater detail about loads of different issues. I am not guarding her as much or myself and am letting her in on truths that before we didn’t.
We have always talked a lot about being responsible for our own behaviour and have impressed upon her from day one to be empathetic. But in recent weeks we are expanding one what this means. We are talking more about if someone passes away or is sick what this means for their family and friends and how to be supportive in those instances.
As mentioned in a previous column one of the main things we have discussed is how to be anti-racist and an ally. I find we are being much more honest with about what is in the news but still putting a filter on many things.
Something else that has come up a lot in recent weeks is being aware of ourselves physically. She jumped on me the other day and it really hurt because she is no longer 25 pounds! My instinct was to get mad but then I really didn’t want it to lead to her feeling big or too heavy. So we talked a lot about how as we grow we become stronger and that means when we are play fighting or playing a sport we might hurt someone without meaning to.
It is a rapidly changing and challenging period in our lives as mother and daughter. There is a lot of learning and adapting for both of us. And despite the door slamming and occasional shouting matches I have no doubt we still make a great team.