How I Saw My Son Differently the Day He Turned 10

baby handsMy baby turned 10 today. Ten years ago today I was holding this tiny creature in my arms. In the months before he was born I couldn’t stop wondering who he (or she) was, who this little person would become. Once your baby arrives you keep wondering -- children take years to reveal themselves. And as far as my son is concerned, they just get more fascinating. It’s like what Bill Murray’s character says in the movie Lost in Translation, your kids are the most interesting people you know.

I feel like we’ve crossed over into new territory lately. My son is in his “tween” years, and I’m seeing the changes already. Sometimes I see him with fresh eyes -- and I'm amazed.

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1. He’s a deep thinker. This is what his teachers keep telling us. In class discussions he’s often the one to steer the conversation into a more thoughtful, intellectual direction.

2. He’s more tech savy than I am. He regularly pranks my iPhone, doing things like changing everything to Spanish or negative reversing the colors. I’m sure there’s a technical term for that, by the way, and I’m sure he knows what it is. He got a Wii U for Christmas, and guess who spent 20 minutes talking to technical support to set it all up? Not me.

3. He’s so reasonable. Is this the calm before the storm of puberty? A year ago he was having emotional meltdowns. Hell, 10 years ago he was screaming his head off. But now he’s so chill. He respects rules, does his homework without being nagged, and goes to bed more or less on time. I guess I’d better enjoy it before he hits his teens.

4. He has a complex inner life I’m not privy to. He keeps notebooks. He records his dreams. He’s writing a book of some sort. I’m trying hard to respect his privacy while still paying enough attention to make sure he’s safe. I’ll glance at his email to make sure he’s not being contacted by strangers -- all I see are lots of conversations with his school friends.

5. Hugs no longer fix everything for him. Gone are the days when, if my boy was hurt or upset, all I had to do was gather him up in my arms. My son’s problems are more complicated now. He still needs his hugs, but we also have to talk things out sometimes. A lot of the time we can’t solve something in one day.

6. He’s still got a soft side. I don’t know if this is true of all 10-year-olds, but my guy still collects stuffed animals and loves bunnies.

7. He’s funny. He loves puns. He cracks me up. We keep a running list of inside jokes. One of my favorite sounds in the world is his laughter -- I hear it a lot.

8. He’s got a distinct sense of style. It’s not that he’s super fashionable. But he has strong opinions about how his hair looks. He dresses with more care now -- often in a flannel shirt over a t-shirt, but still, it’s a deliberate sartorial choice. He’s really into Japanese anime right now (all those Hayao Miyazake movies, maybe?) and that informs his aesthetic as well. He has an aesthetic! My child has an aesthetic. That’s bananas.

9. He won't let me hold his hand when we cross the street. I know he's perfectly safe, but I miss holding his hand.

10. The kid is all right. I knew he would be -- but it's still a relief to realize this. In spite of all my mistakes, he's turning out to be a thoughtful, well-adjusted, capable, independent, wonderful young man. I guess he had it in him all along.

How has your child surprised you over the years?

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