As we all know, there are many stages of childhood. With each comes some wonderful things and some…well…not so wonderful things. The pros and cons let’s say. As the mother of a 12 ½ year old son, Bobby, who is *this* close to teenhood (teendom? teenagery?), I feel qualified to spread the word about this stage for boys.
The downsides of having a preteen aged son are well documented—the smells, the messiness, the sheer volume of Axe Body Spray that must be purchased—yes, but those are things I’ll save for another day. Today I’d like to tell you about the good things, the GREAT things actually, about having a preteen son. These don’t get quite as much airtime as they should, and I’m not sure why. It’s a really well kept secret that this stage is LOADS of fun.
1. THEY WILL CARRY THINGS FOR YOU
The preteen male absolutely revels in the fact that he is getting stronger, starting to fill out, and becoming manly (yes, I can ALMOST see that wisp of hair you are calling a mustache, honey). What fun are manly muscles if they are not showing off? None at all it turns out! Everywhere we go, Bobby immediately starts gathering bags or boxes to carry like he is part oxen. I don’t even have to ask. I swear I have not carried a bag out of Target for over a year. He is very proud to heft those bags right out to the car without even putting them in the cart, thank you very much. It is awesome!
2. THEY CAN REACH THE HIGH SHELF FOR YOU
Now, if you are very tall some of you might have to wait a bit for this one, but if you are short like me (I measure in at a shrimpy 5’3” on a good day), this rocks. Bobby has been taller than me for about a year now with a better reach to match. If my husband is not around or is otherwise occupied, guess who is more than happy to reach up to the high shelf for me? You got it. You can practically see him beat his chest like a cave man every time he performs this task. It’s a win-win for us both.
3. THEY ARE FUNNY
You know when a younger child tells you a joke and you laugh and laugh, not because it’s actually hysterical but because they made it up themselves and it’s your parental duty to chuckle? Or maybe you laugh despite the fact that it’s that’s been around so long even your parents are tired of it? Well, those days are over, my friend! Right about now, they start knowing real jokes that are actually funny. Now, these are jokes aren’t always “appropriate” for all types of company, mind you, but they know real honest to goodness ways to make you laugh *on purpose*. Aside from jokes, they totally grasp sarcasm, irony, puns, and can also deliver a deadpan line without cracking a smile. It all begins here!
4. THEY READ GOOD BOOKS
I’ve always been a big reader (find me on GoodReads!), and it turns out that Bobby is as well. When I was little, once you finished children’s books like Little House on the Prairie or Nancy Drew, you were out of luck if you were a reader. You had Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, then…zilch. There was no Young Adult category like today. I started reading grown up books around 6th grade which was sometimes fine, but more often was not. (Let’s just say I read more Sidney Sheldon than was probably wise.) Now, however, there are fabulous books for young adults—books you will *love*. It was Bobby who told me I should read The Hunger Games trilogy long before any other grown up I knew had heard of it. He also turned me on to The Graveyard Book which introduced me to Neil Gaiman, who is now one of my favorite authors. I, then, told him about the Chaos Walking trilogy, and he returned the favor by having me read the Fablehaven books and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I know this will only get better and better, and I love it!
5. THEY LIKE GOOD MUSIC
I truly love all kinds of music. You’ll find classical, pop, rock, country, folk, and everything in between on my iPod. I have nothing against Justin Bieber or One Direction. They are absolute staples to my 9 year old daughter, Lucy. But music is important to the preteen boy, and the stuff they listen to is actual music that doesn’t feature a single artist who would be caught dead in Tiger Beat. Bonus points for you if your child plays an instrument (Bobby plays the guitar) because you can get them to learn songs you like. They can finally play well enough that you can even recognize the song. Because of Bobby, my iPod now also has rap and dubstep—yes, I do play them even when I’m alone without a child in sight. This might be counted as a negative for some people, but not for me. If you love music, your preteen will make sure you are up to date on what is good and current right now. Look who’s the coolest mom in carpool!
6. THEY ARE GOOD AT GAMES
I stop the “always letting the kids win” thing with games when kids turn 8 or 9. Now, I’m not saying that I purposefully go all out to stomp them in the ground, but I do quit letting them take multiple turns or changing the rules to suit them. Still, it’s not very competitive, and you can always win if you wish. You are playing games to spend time with them and that’s wonderful, but you can’t play up to your *actual* ability. Right about this stage, though, the preteen boy starts getting good at games and has the ability to go with his burgeoning male confidence. Whether you are talking about board games like Blokus, digital games like Hanging With Friends, or outside fun like shooting hoops, preteens will know what they’re doing. You may still win most of the time, but more and more it takes some actual *doing* and it’s not always a foregone conclusion. If you are somewhat competitive like me, this is fantastic!!
7. THEY CAN GO TO GOOD MOVIES
If you have a child, you will spend more than a few hours of your life in the movie theater watching children’s movies. Some are fantastic and destined to become classics, but some are so awful you deserve a reward (and a cocktail) just for making it to the end. Either way, you will be spending some of your time and money in this way. When boys hit the preteen years, the things they want to see are suddenly things that sound actually enjoyable to you as well. Now, the movies they select will have a definite male bent to them, but they are movies you might actually select for yourself, and there will not be an animated animal in any of them. You’ll happily attend the newest Batman movie, Mission Impossible, or Sherlock Holmes and—get this—you will actually be parenting at the same time. It doesn’t get any better than this!
8. THEY DO ALL THEIR OWN HOMEWORK
When your children are younger there is a fair amount of home work that you, as a parent, are required to spend hours doing. You are expected to turn lowly shoe boxes into adorable Valentine’s Day mailboxes, you have to help create posters and dioramas at the drop of a hat, and you probably have to make sure that all homework tasks are done by the time bed rolls around. You are mostly in charge of the whole deal really. Guess what, that is NOT TRUE of the preteen. A wonderful thing takes place right around middle school. You don’t have to do a damn thing. They start organizing themselves, they know what has been assigned, they are old enough to do any project thrown at them completely independently, and they frankly don’t want your help because they are just beginning to think they know everything. (Score!) Sure they might ask you to quiz them to make sure they know their stuff for the Social Studies test they’ve studied for, but sometimes you can’t even do that. (Hello Spanish! My husband took French, and I took Latin. We are no help at all!) Yes, you will still want to spot check to make sure that they are being neat with assignments (they are still boys, of course), and you will still make sure they are keeping up with all of their subjects. But overall, you don’t have assignments nor are you the one who has to keep track of what needs to be done and when. You will not believe the hours of your life this will allow you to reclaim, and the joy this will afford you. They are truly becoming very capable and self sufficient!
9. THEY CAN SIT IN THE FRONT SEAT
Sure, they still spend a decent amount of time in the back seat. (When it’s your turn for carpool duty they want to sit next to their friends so they can talk, of course). But, when it’s just the two of you, he can sit right next to you. It’s much easier and more fun to talk this way. Now, you might have to lay down a few laws about who is allowed to touch the radio and air conditioning buttons, but other that that, it’s more fun to travel with another passenger this way. (And you feel less like a chauffeur when you are not the only person up front, let me tell you.)
10. YOU WILL LOVE THEM MORE THAN EVER BEFORE
I know if your son is small now, you can’t imagine what it’s like when his feet will be bigger than yours, and he needs deodorant. Just thinking about it might make you sad because he won’t be the same sweet little guy who wants to cuddle with you anymore. Even if this list hasn’t convinced you that the best is yet to come, do not fear. When you look in his eyes or see him smile, believe me, he is still every bit your little guy. You will still see the same boy who loved Thomas the Tank Engine and didn’t get the hang of potty training until you used M&Ms for rewards. The great thing is, now in his profile, in the way he carries himself, and in the way he treats others, you can start to get little glimpses of the man he is becoming, too. It’s amazing.
So, let’s celebrate the preteen boy! All the benefits of a real teenager… minus the attitude and ability to drive!