“Mommy,” he says. I hear hesitation in my son’s voice, and so I hesitate. “Be mindful. Think before answering,” the angel on my shoulder whispers.
“Good Gawd, WHAT NOW?” the devil on my other huffs.
We haven’t had much school this week, so I patted each on the head and shushed them. We’re each a bit too-housebound from this week’s snow days and delays.
“Yeah, Buddy? What’s up?”
And then, nothing.
“What’s up, Baby?”
“You might not like this question.”
The angel bounced, remembering that once, we were asked zero questions, and held up a memory of me dancing to the music of my little boy’s voice.
I like that memory. I smiled. Remembered that once, I’d have traded my own words to hear my son speak.
The devil sighed, and told me to get to it already because if the kid thinks we “won’t like it?” He’s right. We rarely do, when questions are foreshadowed that way.
“So, um, how old do I need to be to ask if I can play a game with guns on the iPad?” he looks down, already knowing.
The angel and the devil wait, knowing that the answer is complicated.
“Crap,” I think, but don’t say because that will become an entirely different conversation about when he can say “crap” out loud and about how so-and-so at school said something worse (which in this house, may be the word “ugly,” which we’ve deemed a much more taboo word than “crap”).
He looks up, and says, “I already know. I have to be 11 years old, and then we’ll talk about it. Does that mean you’ll still say no when I’m 11?”
“I don’t know, Buddy,” I say, and hug him.
He doesn’t hug me back the same way he usually does. I wonder why he wants to play these games, but already know.
YouTubers tell him these games are cool, and fun. I think about what I knew when I was 11 years old.
It was 1979 (OMG) the year I was 11. Gas cost less than $1.00 per gallon, and feathered hair was cool.
Disco may have been on the way out, but I’d only recently discovered the Bee Gees. I played the song Tragedy on repeat in my bedroom because that was the year I asked my mom for my first bra after kids at soccer practice pretended to love my Harriet Fringe Shirt but were really laughing at my little bra-less nubs.
I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to be interested in boys, but I don’t think I was actually interested in them for anything more than friendship. I don’t think I needed anything more from them than a “you’re okay to hang with,” which was what I needed from all peers back then.
Being 11 is so different now than it was when I was a kid. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones or iPads. We had radio stations dialed into on gigantic stereos. We had tapes to record our favorite songs.
We had bicycles to ride to Walgreens or wherever to buy a new album, and we had to buy the entire album, or a 45 that we had little plastic things to make them play ok on a regular record player.
We had innocence and being outside until dark, and we had riding in the way back of Grandma’s station wagon.
We didn’t really have inclusion though. I don’t remember having any kids in class who needed support. I don’t remember seeing kids in wheelchairs leaving for the bus a few minutes early.
I guess we trade awareness for not being aware, sometimes.
Back then, we weren’t as aware of our peers with special needs, and yet, we knew each weak spot in our backyard fences.
We knew the neighborhood, and what most of their houses smelled like. We knew who had Twinkies, and who didn’t allow soda at home (my mom didn’t ever have Twinkies or soda, so maybe that’s a me-thing).
We knew which kid has his bike stolen, and kept an eye out for it.
I don’t know what the 11 year olds in my neighborhood today do, really. My son is seven, and I know that limiting screen time is a real thing, and that on snow days, each parent faces angels and devils on their shoulders. They whisper and shout about dinner plans, fast food, YouTubers, and not being outside enough.
I know that the 11 year olds that I know are more socially aware than I was. They recycle, have friends with two moms or two dads, know a kid with autism, know a kid who was adopted, and have bi-racial friends. The seven and 11 year olds I know today have the gift of inclusion at school, and have the world-knowledge that we didn’t just not have, but never thought about, at least where I grew up.
They also have social media, and they have feeling fat or wanting a man-bun (my son) because a YouTuber that they admire has a man bun, so it “must be” cool.
Maybe not all that much has changed. It’s peers, but it’s a bigger world. Maybe, in this whole back-to-the-crappy president being a racist thing, having a bigger world is better.
Still though, I’m not sure about allowing my son iPad games with guns will EVER happen, even when he’s 11 years old.
What was the world like when you were 11 years old?
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, and this week’s sentence is “When I was 11 years old…”