And now we are nine…


We’re a month or so into Flea being nine.

I’ve been a parent now for almost a decade. And I’m realising – it doesn’t get any easier.

Sure, children learn to dress themselves. They can tell you if they’re tired, or hungry, or hurt. They can play independently for entire afternoons, providing there’s a ready supply of Lego bricks and Ribena.

But something happens around this age. I think up to the age of seven or eight, children are really pretty much the people you make them. Everywhere they go, you’re there – so it’s not like there are too many mistakes they can make.

At nine, though, Flea’s becoming more independent. She’s making more choices of her own. And I’m starting to see all the lessons we still have ahead of us.

At an age when I thought parenting was going to be less about me, and more about keeping Flea warm, safe and educated while she found her place in the world, I find myself wondering about things like, “How do I teach her to be responsible?”,How can I instil a sense of compassion?” or “How do I teach her that sometimes it’s okay to make a fuss, and push for what you want?” 

Stupid, I know. And it turns out these lessons – the ones I never considered how I would teach – are far, far harder to learn than tying shoelaces and folding socks.

I know it might sound weird, but Flea didn’t tantrum as a toddler. We’re a very low drama household. We don’t shout, we don’t slam doors, we don’t say unkind things to each other. Even as a toddler, if Flea was very upset, she would tell me that she was sad, and she would take herself off to another room until she felt better. She’s a ridiculously easy child in so many ways that we’ve never really had those battles that help kids learn difficult lessons as they go.

But this weekend, my nine year old ran away from home. Granted, she was careful to say goodbye, and she only got as far as the top of the street (I was following her, out of sight, of course) before running back home as fast as her little legs would carry her, but it was a quiet moment of defiance.

I sort of don’t mind. Secretly, I’m pleased to see that my easygoing, perma-relaxed daughter will eventually push back if she’s cross enough.

Equally, though, I’m having to be a grown-up and explain that, no, being asked to keep your room tidy and not lose incredibly expensive things ALL THE BLOODY TIME does not count as child cruelty, actually.  And I’m going to have to keep pushing her to be responsible, to make good choices, to consider the people and things around her.

I’m not sure I’m fully prepared for this stage.

Any tips?



24 thoughts on “And now we are nine…”

  1. My tip: choose your battles. Decide what matters in the long term, and what you can ‘tolerate’. There are some posts on my blog about ‘Living with teenagers’ – lots of bloggers’ tips about how to prepare and survive the teenage years. I know Flea is only 9 but by the time kids are 10/11 they’re already heading to the darkside.

    You’ll be fine.

    1. Yes! I have to say there are lots of things I let go – Flea is chronically untidy but I don’t see that as a major issue – I was a very messy child and I lost things endlessly but as I got older I realised that being tidy meant I didn’t lose things, and I just sort of grew out of it.

      Like I said to someone else though, I feel like I’ve done Flea a bit of a disservice – she’s far from being a teen or tween – she’s very polite and cheerful and amenable, actually the problem generally is that she’s so happy and having so much fun in her day that she entirely forgets the things I’m trying to instil in her, like responsibility and reliability. And then I only have to express my disappointment and she is DEVASTATED. I’m not sure how long this phase will last, mind…!

  2. I have no advice as I haven’t been there – and I am dreading it! It sounds though that you and Flea have a great balance and a great relationship. I’m sure you’ll deal with those moments in the best possible way x

    1. Ah, I feel like I’ve done Flea a terrible disservice because – honestly – things are GREAT and I’m blessed with an amazing child. It’s just that you have a strategy as a Mum for teaching kids to read, or ride a bike, or chew their own food. But teaching values, and responsibility? Gosh, that’s a lot harder, even with a good natured child like Flea…

  3. Wow – I must admit the running away from home part struck the fear of God into me. I’m sure it will come from my 9 year old too – along with hurtful comments like “I hate you” – but not yet please!!!

    We’ve had a few dramatic angry/tearful/shouty moments but only around homework so far. I’m not ready for the next stage… *buries head in sand*

    1. I think the running away is a rite of passage. I remember going when I was seven – nobody noticed. Most upsetting (for my pride).

      We haven’t really had shouting or rows yet – this little polite running away is just my first taste of it, I think!

  4. She needs to know the firm rules of the household and you need to spell them out. You might think some are self evident but they might not be. The reasons for them might also not be evident to flea.

    Explain the red lines that don’t get crossed. Sit down with her and put together a contract of sorts. Talk about what you expect. Ask what she expects and come up with something you are both happy with.

    It’s easier to live by rules when you are involved in making them. Explain to her why your rules are important…safety and whatever,

    Remember, kids need rules and limits to feel safe.

    And since I know you love them so much…sending you lots of hugs. 🙂

    1. You are quite right but it’s hard to have firm rules and contracts about values. I’d love some advice! Of course we’ve always had a few family rules – we don’t hit, we don’t lie, we don’t use unkind words – and Flea’s certainly not challenging any of those. We have a pretty happy existence in that regard. Where I am finding it harder is, for example, “picking up your clothes from the bedroom floor” or “not losing things at school”. I explain that I think it’s important for Flea to treat her belongings well, because it means she has enough clean clothes and uniform ready when she needs it, it means the cleaners can get to her floor, the clothes last longer etc. I ask Flea to talk with me and agree what would be a good way to ensure that happens. We come up with a plan, she very earnestly tells me she will absolutely remember to put her clothes in her new laundry basket every day… and then it’s forgotten five seconds later because she’s distracted by something else more fun, and she’s just a carefree little soul. As someone who’s tidy, it’s irritating anyway, but the fact that I can’t seem to actually effect any change in my child’s behaviour (or is it nature??) is something I just find…. ARGH. SO frustrating.

      1. What are the consequences of her actions? If her stuff is not off the floor will she learn by wearing dirty clothing to school?

        Explain to her that you know she has good intentions but that it’s frustrating when she agrees to do something and then doesn’t. Ask her what she would do in your place. You might actually get her thinking about answers that might help her.

        A great book that I recommend if you haven’t already read it is by Faber & Mayzlish called How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk.

        1. Ha! My child has gone to school without coats, shoes, PE kit – she doesn’t mind. My child has seen her toys packed away and given to charity. She doesn’t mind. She’s sent to her room. She doesn’t mind. She doesn’t get an allowance. She doesn’t mind. Given that I’m not someone who shouts or hits, it’s pretty hard to think of things that she’ll mind – she’s such a determinedly happy little soul. We chat together and I play the, “How would you feel in my shoes? What would you do to help you learn?” and she says, “I would be sad and cross,” and we come up with joint solutions and admonishments – and none of it ever seems to stick.

          Actually the only thing that EVER upsets her is if I tell her I’m not happy, or disappointed and then she’s devastated, but only for as long as I’m chastising her – the minute I stop, it’s all forgotten. Which I sort of don’t mind – because I grew up in a household of resentments and silent grudges and it’s REALLY not something I want to have in my life these days. In my book, you speak your mind, you apologise where you need to, and you move on.

          I guess what I’m telling myself is it’s a blessing to have a child who is so sunny natured and maybe the rest will just come in time. Maybe there are some things you just can’t teach? (Although I’ll definitely try the book. Because lord knows, it’s worth a try!)

  5. I wish I had some advice, but sadly don’t. Isabelle is 7.5 and has been changing so much in past few moths. I feel she is already like a teenager some days, and I am so not ready for it. She was a very easy child, so can associate with you being used to a very good girl, now changing into a big girl who needs to be woken up in the morning, constantly reminded to tidy her bedroom, etc… parenting is very hard sometimes, but wouldn’t we do for our children?

    1. Oh Gosh Mirka that sounds familiar – after years of being a really easy-going Mum I think lately I just feel like such a nag – I’m constantly reminding Flea to tidy this, pick up that, don’t forget the other thing – and she’s still incredibly amenable and happy and doesn’t resent it at all – it just won’t sink in! I’m hoping blind repetition will get there in the end 🙂

  6. Emily is 11 and I’m still not sure if I am doing it right. You know yourself, there has to be ground rules and you have to stick to your guns. But as someone else posted, you do need to choose your battles wisely. Sometimes things run smoother if yes, they are allowed that extra half hour on Minecraft or whatever, but then call the extra half hour on homework. I am currently trying to teach my Em how to be an organised, responsible Year 7 – we are getting there.
    I think from age 9-15 is that really moving into awkwardness and full-blown teen stuff – so important to just let them express themselves but also be there for them. I am still finding my way with this, and I am sure that you and Flea will find yours too. 🙂

    1. God yes. I’m lucky that Flea is fundamentally pretty easygoing – but where I am really struggling for now is getting these values to sink in. So we’ll have a chat about why it’s important to be reliable or careful or whatever, and we’ll agree new ground rules, and Flea will apologise and promise to be better, and tell me she understands what I’m saying and why I think it’s important and… 20 seconds later it’s as though I never said a word because it’s all forgotten as she skips off into another happy 9 year old adventure…. ARGH!

  7. Oh gosh, no tips, but as mum to a 9 year old too I am asking the same questions, and more – how can I build her self-confidence and stop her from being scared of being told off in school for things that don’t matter (eg being late once in a blue moon)? I also had a ‘tricky’ weekend, with huge racking sobs about how unfair her life is, that she doesn’t have things (toys, computers) that her other friends so have. I kind of wouldn’t mind so much if it was true, but it’s the trying to get her to understand what a lucky young girl she really is which is the biggest problem! Outside influences (friends and more awareness of news/television/YouTube) are all creeping in now too. Sigh. Let me know when you’ve figured out all the answers. You could write a book on it 😉

    1. Oh Steph, tricky weekends are tough! I’m so lucky in so many ways with Flea – it says something that she managed to run away from home while remaining unfailingly polite, no shouting, no tantrums. Just a quiet protest 🙂

      But it’s tricky I think to realise that you’re the one helping them learn values, especially when you think those values are important. Like, I don’t really CARE about tidiness, but I care that Flea shows respect for her belongings, and the things she’s given, because she gets so much. It’s carelessness that infuriates me more than untidiness.

  8. Hm.

    Surrender to a future of always getting it slightly wrong?

    In all honesty, I don’t know. My big two are insanely easy and I’m learning recently all parenting experience counts for nothing with dd3. (She dropped the c-bomb on Facebook… Sigh).

    What I do think is straight up honesty, explaining your actions and reasons and acknowledging with apology any errors you make counts for a lot. I try to give mine some choices but explain why some might be less good for them or all of us. Simehow that seems to help them understand why sometimes I will just lay down the law.

    As for the rest of it; you a&e slready going it. Modelling it for them is everything and I know you do that. She will be awesome.

    And… 9!!!! I remember 6!

    1. I think you’re right that embracing imperfection is key, and modelling what you think are good ways of behaving.

      I think the bit where I feel lost is that it’s REALLY not an issue about boundaries or discipline (at least not for now) but more about realising having taught your child all these practical survival and social skills, you’ve got this whole other job of helping them learn values – responsibility, bravery, compassion, reliability – because it’s not necessarily just stuff you’re born with. It’s about realising you’re not just raising them, you’re helping them to be a decent person, too. Or hopefully. Argh.

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