Nine

She’s nine.My nine year old sporting her snazzy new glasses.
Almost ten she reminds me frequently.  Soon to be double digits. Dear God, how did that happen?  A decade?  Really?
There is the constant physical growth.  She’s long and lean and it seems 2 minutes after I buy her new pants or shirts, she’s sporting floods and complaining because her belly button is hanging out.
She’s most definitely a ‘Tween.  I usually hate pop-culture descriptors, but this one is dead on.  She’s not a little girl anymore and she most definitely (and thankfully) is not a teenager.  Yet.
In recent weeks, she has informed me that she no longers wishes to eat from a kids plate, the character dishes kept in the lowest drawer for easy access.  No, she’s ready for the glass plates, that the grown ups use, and no more plastic cups or utensils either.  I am corrected, if forget. She is gentle, but she corrects, none-the-less.
Her room, she informed me, is just a little babyish for her, but she’s personalizing it to meet her needs, so it will be ok for now,  She says this as if to warn me that a redecoration will be necessary in the not too distant future.  I’m not ready to part with the light lavender walls or the border of large pastel flowers.
Last week was perhaps the the coup-de-grais of recent growth and development. An angst ridden conversation about why she can’t stay home alone. She IS nine after all.  Don’t we trust her? Sweet Jesus, her Dad and I are in for a long ride through the teenage years.
The thing is, at nine, she is responsible and the factors that prevent me from even considering the idea of letting her stay by herself for any length of time are external, and completely beyond her control.
First, SHE’S NINE!!!! Responsible or not, she is nine years old and dammit, that is just too young to stay home alone.  I mean there’s DSS to consider.  I don’t know anyone in Social Services, and frankly, I’d like to keep it that way.
Next on my list of reasons why Fish can’t stay home alone is location.  I grew up in suburban Philadelphia the houses were maybe 50 feet apart.  Many in the neighborhood worked, but by the time I was staying home alone, I knew lots of our neighbors (from my days peddling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door) and could have gone to many of them for help if I needed it.
If she’s at home alone and something goes awry, she could run to her grandparents, but there have been and will continue to be large chunks of time when they will be enjoying their retirement in locations nowhere near our home. If they aren’t home, we’re talking a quarter of a mile walk to a neighbors house that we know.  (Why yes, our zip code is EIEIO, thank you very much).
Aside from the foolishly practical reasons, there is the is the sentimental and emotional reason.  I’M not ready for her to stay home alone.  She’s my first and will always be my baby.  I know that I have to let her go.  I know she has to grow up and that she will do so MUCH faster than I am ready for her to do so, but still, SHE’S NINE!!!!
Despite warning me earlier in the evening, that she wanted to be talk to me about staying home alone, I was still unprepared when the conversation occurred.  I tried to reassure her that this wasn’t about trust, that her Dad and I did trust her and that she had been demonstrating tremendous amounts of responsibility, but my statements sounded weak even to me.  I tried to explain that is just wasn’t GAH “appropriate“ for a nine year old to be staying by herself.  I explained that her Dad and I could get in trouble for leaving her home alone. I could see in her eyes, that her innocence and age appropriate naivete didn’t believe me.  I’m secretly glad that she hasn’t had the life experience that will teach her that the world can be cruel, but still I don’t like being at odds with her.  Yes, I know on a logical level that if I’m doing my job right, I’ll be at odds with her frequently during her teens years.
I suggested we talk with her Dad about this.  He’s just better at explaining things that I am.  I’m much more the ”because I said so“ type and I know that doesn’t fly anymore.
At some level I’ve known this was coming.  I’m trying to prepare myself.  I’m reading Queen Bees and Wanna Bees to familiarize myself with Girl World as it exists now, but it is slow going because I just am not ready to go there yet.
The Red Cross offers a class that teaches teens and tweens about staying home safely.  The Recreation Committee has sponsored this class in the past.  I’m optimistic they’ll do it again. She also has the AmerIcan Girl Book about staying home alone.  I think I need to read it so that I can continue this discussion on her terms.
I don’t think I’ll ever really be ready, so I guess it is time to suck it up and plunge in, but, did I mention, SHE’S NINE!!!!
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2 thoughts on “Nine

  1. You know, I just want to say it sounds like you are doing all the right things. You are affirming and validating that you do trust her, and giving her positive feedback about the fact that she does show a lot of responsibility, and giving her your reasons for why she can’t stay home alone. Even if she still wants to argue and doesn’t fully understand, I think that these things that you are doing will make a difference and I’m sure the fact that you do trust her and feel she is responsible will mean something to her! And I think it’s great that you are reading the books about her age group and what she will soon be going through!

    And I can say, as a kid who wanted every form of independence as early as possible, nine does seem pretty young to stay home alone. I don’t think I did until fourteen! And we did have close by neighbors.

    Maybe when it is time to approach the idea of her staying home alone, it could be a gradual thing, like first she has to take the class, and at some point when you are ready for her to try it out, she can stay home alone only for short periods of time, and when her grandparents are home nearby. And then maybe that can gradually shift as she gets older and older.

    And in the meantime, until you guys are ready to go down this path and until she’s a little older, maybe there are other things you can do or let her do that will make her feel responsible and grown up that don’t involve staying home alone, something a bit more age appropriate. I don’t know what that might be, I was just thinking that if there are other responsibilities it might satisfy her drive to be independent and grown up, without going to the home alone subject just yet.

    I don’t know b/c I don’t have kids but I imagine watching a kid grow up can be really, really hard. I think this is a really special age, especially for girls, b/c aside from the queen bee stuff that starts to happen socially, this is the age where they really start to know who they are and really start to form who they are going to be. I wish you the best of luck with all of it!

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  2. NINE – OMG How can that be. It is such a struggle – you know she’s responsible and capable and you want her to know that. On the other hand it is such a remote area that you really can’t trust the “others”. You also don’t want to frighten her by saying that.

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