Noah is growing up.
I see it in so many ways...in his desire to become more independent, in his ability to take on bigger tasks around the house, in his efforts to try to think before he acts (at least sometimes).
Unfortunately, getting older brings on many challenges that kids don't have to deal with at younger ages.
In two words...SOCIAL STRUCTURE.
This is definitely taking a toll on him this year. He is struggling to find his place within the social structure in this school. Being a small school, his class size (17 total fourth graders) can bring some challenges in finding the right place to fit in. And GIRLS this age seem to be going through lots of changes that are confusing him. We have had MANY discussions this year as he tries so hard to figure out why the girls whom have always been such good friends are suddenly acting so different.
He has one particular female who has stayed his constant throughout, whom he locked onto in kindergarten, and throughout all of the social changes, the two of them have stayed friends. It is a friendship that we downplay for the sake of not making a mountain out of a molehill, but also one that we fully support, as does the young lady's mom. Yes, it comes in waves, where he'll come home and ask "Mom why isn't K being nice to me today?" and I always have to tell him, "That's just the way girls are at this age and and she will come back to you" which she always does eventually. She will even defend him if other girls are starting their little petty crud against him.
Here is Noah with his gal at the 4th of July fireworks on his birthday last year
In short, he is confused as to why everybody is changing and why things can't just stay as they are. I hurt for him when we are having some of these discussions because he really is so confused. In addition to this confusion with K, there are many other social triangles causing him stress and heartache and I just wish I could put him in box and protect him from it all. But alas, I cannot.
So Friday night, a difficult situation arose. His girl, K, invited him to her little birthday party. He was to be the ONLY BOY. It was a very difficult situation. They really do have a special friendship and he really wanted to go to be part of her day. But he was also concerned about being the only boy at the party and feeling like the oddball (his word, not mine). On top of that, there was a huge overnight celebration party at church and he had been looking forward to that for weeks now.
So Friday afternoon after school, the poor kid was in tears after school about how to make the decision. He REALLY wanted me to make it for him and I just couldn't do it. He was so worried that K would be sad if he didn't come and was so excited to have been asked to her party, but he didn't want to feel out of place and he also wanted to go to the church party.
So I broke down and called K's mom, whom I absolutely adore. She is just the neatest woman and I would really love to get to know her better (especially if someday we are MILs together :) ). We talked not just about the situation at hand, but also about the social stuff that's been going on over the last few months in this class. It was a great talk and I felt much better after talking to her. I also felt honored when she was the second mother this month who reminded me again how lucky I am that my almost ten year old boy still openly talks to his mommy about his feelings. I know the day will come when this won't be the case, but I am EXTREMELY lucky that at this point it is still true.
Mommy and her special firstborn
So the decision was made together that he wouldn't go to K's party but would still bring her a small gift on Monday. Also, that it would still be okay to invite her to his party in July, which is really what he wanted all along. And K's mom assured me that K had already been worried about Noah not feeling comfortable, even though she wanted him there.
Hubby and I struggled over letting the boys go to the church sleepover as well, not sure if they were ready for it. But actually what made our decision was this same social structure of which I've been talking. With the boys going to such a small school with limited people to choose from as friends, this is another opportunity for them to start finding other healthy social groups from which to choose friends. And the best part was that both boys came home talking of new friends they made. And Sunday morning as we were walking both into and out of church, Noah and new friends were socializing, which we hadn't seen yet in the two years we have been at this church.
These two goofy pictures are from the professional photographer proofs that the church hired for the fiesta.
So yes, growing up is hard to do. Physical changes are a part of growing up. But it sure seems to me that as we face the tween years, the social pressures that our boys face may be the more challenging issues that we will have to be careful to guide these developing minds through. It is so hard to fight the desire to protect them from mean people or fix their problems. But I have to say, I am getting better at sitting back and watching things play out.
Growing up is hard to do...for the kid AND the mom. But we WILL make it through!