Seven — And Counting

It became clear to me when I looked over the past few days’ posts that I can’t count properly or use consistent spelling (numerals or words? PICK ONE) and should be shut out of the Internet entirely. Post 4 was titled with a 3. Post 6 was titled with a 7. This post, which is number 7, is titled Seven. Onward!


From age six to seven, Arlo has seemed mentally scatterbrained, like a squirrel chasing many different sorts of nut. He’s been pulled in many simultaneous directions; to anger, hysteria, meanness, sweetness. Sometimes all in an hour. In this way, six has not been very different from four or five, as ages go.

In the last month, though, I’ve noticed a change. He is focused now, but not on anything I can see. He seems perpetually like he’s coming down with a cold; unsmiling, staring off into space. I have been asking him if he’s OK, if everything is all right, apparently too much because he’s got a new habit of prefacing his statements with “everything is fine…”

Don’t panic. MOM.

There is a series of books about child development, year by year, by Drs. Ames and Ilg of the Gesell Institute. Each book has its own compelling title, like “Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy,” and contains plenty of comforting statements like “three year olds are the devil…they just are…don’t sweat it” (not an actual quotation) or “the average four year old wants to karate chop the universe six times per hour” (ditto).

I love these books so. I recommend them to people all the time. I read Your Two Year Old, Three Year Old, Four Year old and Five Year Old but recently realized that I skipped Six and now am approaching Seven, the title of which is “Your Seven-Year-Old: Life in a Minor Key.”

All I needed to see was the title and this:

“Your Seven-Year-Old is devoted to the delightful but often anxious and withdrawn child of Seven. Although any seven-year-old will have moments of exuberance, security, and happiness, in general this is an age of introspection. As it begins, parents and teachers may welcome the quiet after the tussles and tangles of Six. But once the child of Seven starts to withdraw it’s almost as though he doesn’t know where or when to stop.”

and I got it, bing, like a small, sharp rock to the forehead. It’s not that Arlo feels physically out of sorts, it’s that his emotional sands are shifting.

We went for a walk through the neighbourhood today, just the two of us, hand in hand, not talking about much. I developed a habit of talking a lot to my children when they were babies because it’s good for them (and they were my only company for a while) — and now I have to learn to shut up. I have no problem doing this with adults, letting there be silences and spaces in the conversation, but it’s hard to do with my kids. I want to know so much about them. I used to be their only theatre. The original TV.

I need to work on it, to let those spaces in the conversation go, let them expand like lungs full of breath. I’m trying. Be cool. Everything is fine.

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