Life at eight years old
Lately I have found myself increasingly thinking about my eight year old self and comparing my memories of that time to my eight year old daughter and her life. Next month my eight year old will be nine and starting grade four.
When I was that age my parents separated, my dad moved to his parents house in one city and my mum, brother and I moved to another city where my mum worked. I started grade four at a new school in a new city.
That was a challenging year for me. I didn’t like my teachers and I don’t think I did that well in school that year. I got in fights at school and got in trouble for writing swear words in chalk on the school walls and sidewalks. My punishment was to clean the chalk off the walls, but as it turned out it had rained the night before and everything had washed away. In spite of the challenge adjusting to a new school, city, home and life, I made new friends and adapted. Grade five was a better year for me.
My memories of myself at that age are simultaneously of a kid old enough to know what I was doing in the world and of being just a kid. I see my eight year old the same way.
I can have conversations with her in which I forget she is eight. I watch her look after her little sister and lead her older and younger sisters in creative play and activities. She can be mature and committed to what she is doing. She can also have blow out temper tantrums that make me wonder if she is in fact three.
This eight year old of mine consumes a lot of thinking time. I think about her future more than her sisters’ future. This is primarily because she is the smart, stubborn kid who make me work harder as a dad. She is the child who pushes my buttons and frequently engages in power struggles with me. She challenges me in many ways to be a better dad.
I think about ways to help her channel her frustrations and stubbornness in productive ways. I know that these characteristics that make her challenging to parent will serve her well in the future.
Then there are times when I remember – she is only eight. She loves to play with dolls – she and her older sister would spend all day at the park playing with their dolls if they didn’t also need to eat and pee.
I love listening to the stories and adventures that they craft during their play. They build off of each other and take on different roles. Sometimes they speak for the dolls and sometimes they speak for themselves as the mothers, aunts, doctors and teachers of their doll children.
Their play is not so different from the hours I would spend with my friends playing GI Joe, Star Wars or Transformers when I was their age. We acted out the parts of each figure and spent a lot of time getting everything set up for whatever action was going to take place.
These moments help me to remember that in spite of all my thoughts about the future, impending adolescent years and efforts to stop them yelling at each other, my girls are after all, still just kids.