Got a child who’s seven going on 17? I hear ya. My daughter turns seven this week and sometimes I wonder who’s the adult. Me or her? My friends are all saying the same. That our babies are, erm, not babies anymore. But growing increasingly independent in their thoughts and actions. (Let’s not even mention the eye rolling.) And it’s becoming widely acknowledged that turning six/seven marks something called, The First Puberty, as they go through some significant changes. Here’s 11 signs you’re raising a ‘seven-teen.’
They question you. Not in the banal (and very irritating) way that a two year old repeatedly does. That way that makes you want to smash your head against the wall just to drown out the sound of, ‘What ya doing? What ya doing? What ya doing?‘ But as in, they TOTALLY question you. They ask you stuff you often don’t know anything about and if you try to fob them off with an answer that doesn’t satisfy them or quite make sense, they’ll persist until you give them one that does. Wikipedia is your friend, these days. Trust me.
They think they’re WAY older than their younger siblings. Suddenly, the gap between your seven year old and any younger siblings seems really big. You feel it and they definitely do. I often hear Beaver speak to her brother and sister in that overly patient (patronising) way I do. I also once made the mistake of referring to her brother and sister as ‘the kids’ in front of her. And now she often asks me if I need any help with ‘the kids.’ As if she isn’t one herself. ARGGGHHHH!
Eye-rolling. The first time it happens you wonder if they have something in their eye. The second time it happens, you start dialling the opticians. Because, clearly, your seven year old can’t be rolling her eyes at you, can she? Alas. One visit to the opticians later, you’re slightly disappointed that they have 20/20 vision with not so much as a sign of nystagmus. As now you just have to face the fact that your child IS rolling their eyes at you. Sigh.
They make you explain yourself. Seven year olds are smart. I’d go as far as to say, dangerous. They have a real knack of engaging you in debates that you should NOT be having with someone who isn’t even in double digits yet. ‘Why are you allowed to wear mascara, if I can’t then?’ The obvious answer to this is COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE WITH A STONY GLARE, yet I have lost track of the amount of minutes I have wasted discussing this. It’s almost made me give up wearing the blooming stuff, just so I don’t have to go through it again.
They start to do things for themselves. This is possibly a girl thing (mums of seven year old boys, tell me what you think), but there isn’t really anything Beaver can’t do for herself now. I’m not sure if the ascent of The Third Child as meant she’s had to learn to be more self-sufficient but there are times where I feel quite obsolete. On the whole, I love her independence but every now and again I find myself doing the, ‘Please, don’t help yourself to that. I’M THE MUM!’ monologue. After which, I turn my back and I’m pretty sure the eye-rolling commences.
‘No’ means, erm, nothing. Boundaries and discipline are a real challenge, at this stage. That brilliant independence is a double edged sword. And you find yourself constantly having to readdress the balance and reassert yourself as the ‘authority’ figure. They’re getting braver. And you’re getting more out of your depth because, ‘If you don’t do X, I’m banning Netflix’ has totally lost its impact and you’ve run out of things to threaten. They also don’t seem that fussed about anything you do threaten. ‘Fine,’ they say.
Their emotions know NO bounds. They can display amazing levels of maturity and then, five seconds later, amazing levels of meltdown. We had one of these moments in the bath recently, where Beaver announced in the dramatic fashion that only girls can, ‘My life has been SO hard since these two came along,’ pointing in disgust at her brother and sister. This is why, at bathtime, I can usually be found on the toilet, drinking a gin in a can.
They get tall. Those small people that you could once almost fit in your pocket? Suddenly they have massive feet and when they hug you their heads are on your chest. It’s weird. It literally happened overnight. And it makes you consider wearing heels again.
They call you out when you’re not, er, cool. Seven year olds do a really good, ‘You’ve let yourself down there, Mum,’ look. REALLY good. The other day, on a usual, stressful morning trying to get out of the house, Beaver calmly said to me that she didn’t really like being shouted at. I was gobsmacked. After I’d told her I didn’t really like having to ask her to put her shoes on 371 times, of course. But these seven year olds? They watch you. They watch your reactions. They watch how you handle yourself. Which means now? You have to be on your BEST behaviour. Damn.
They’re blooming good company. When it’s just the two of you, with no other distractions, there’s no one you’d rather hang out with. They WOW you with their conversation, their emotional intelligence and the fact that they still think you’re cool enough to hang out with.
You realise you know absolutely nothing about parenting. Give me a newborn or toddler any day. They might cry and throw spaghetti at the wall but they’re relatively short phases and at least you know how to clear up spaghetti. Dealing with the complicated mind of a seven year old? Well, I’m just not ready. Also, the best bit? The sevens is just the entry-level to what comes next. Tweens… teenagers… EEK! I need a lie down. With gin.
Parents who have survived the sevens and beyond, feel free to leave some tips for those of us who are new to this scary and undiscovered terrain… more posts over on Facebook and Instagram. Not parenting advice, obviously…