The Struggles of Raising a Know-It-All Nine-Year-Old
“Um, thanks?” I responded. “No, I mean, it’s like, seriously big. I can see right up your nostrils, you have boogers in there.”
As I thought about this little girl standing in front of me telling me exactly what she thought of my nose in a completely innocent yet terribly tactless manner, I started to remember all my other interactions with pre-teen girls, and surprise! Addie is a great kid, I am constantly amazed at how empathetic and tenderhearted she is. I realized last year that if I could keep and cultivate every marvelous trait she possesses at nine and teach her that her big emotions are more of a strength than they are a weakness, she would grow into a confident woman people would want to know and work with. She’s keenly aware of the world around her; she’s started to develop a heightened interest in celebrity culture and is paying more attention to how I act and carry myself. Just last week she watched me as I got out of the shower and said, “Your butt jiggles at lot when you walk, it’s really funny looking.”
Now, I remember thinking the exact same thing about my mom’s butt — and who knows if I ever said it out loud (sorry if I did, Mom!) but I saw a valuable opportunity to teach Addie about how some things just don’t need to be said. If I had toilet paper hanging out of my shorts or a booger coming out of my nose, go ahead and let me know (privately and politely, thank you) because that will be doing me a favor. We’ve had several conversations since then where I have redirected her to choose different adjectives or find better ways to phrase what she’s thinking. Yesterday she told me my hair looked terrible (I had just woken up) and I asked her to think about how that helped me. (It didn’t.) I could have let it go unnoticed or replied with a sarcastic, “Thank you?” but I don’t want my child to be the one thinking it’s okay to just blurt out whatever they’re thinking, especially when it’s in regards to someone’s appearance. I believe the ability to give a genuine compliment to be just as important as giving constructive criticism, and I’d rather she learn how to say, “Your other pants are more flattering” through me than to say, “Your butt looks HUGE in those pants!” to a friend. The truth is, I know I’m doing okay, and that this is just a developmental thing and almost all kids (both boys and girls) go through a phase where they lack the foresight to really think through what they’re saying. Once she stopped watching TV shows geared towards teens, her attitude improved dramatically — that old standard of leading by example couldn’t be more important when it comes to this topic. I know I was a little strange at 9 in regards to how I did my hair and what I chose to wear, but I hung out with a bunch of other strange 9-year-olds who made their own bad fashion decisions, so I was in good company. Even at 32, I have to consistently (albeit not constantly) remind myself not to say certain things out loud — which makes staying patient with Addie as she learns to filter and craft what she chooses to say much easier.