Turning ten

Published 1:36 pm Friday, January 9, 2009

Today my youngest child turns 10. My oldest daughter is a college freshman. My son, a high school freshman, completes the Nolen team. Faith has reached what poet Billy Collins calls, “the first big number” in his poem, “On Turning Ten.” Watching Faith turn 10 and begin to feel she’s too old for parts of childhood is hard.

It seems like only days ago that Faith sat huddled in my lap one cold night as we watched the Pelham High School Band perform. Faith was about six and the drum major was a student I’d had the year before. Vincent’s incredible work ethic had earned my respect. My entire family rejoiced when he earned the spot as drum major. Vincent’s humility and kindness had made him a favorite of all of my children.

“Are you so proud of Vincent?” Faith asked.

“Yes, I am,” I told her. “It takes a lot of talent and courage to lead the band.”

“Are you also so proud of Vincent because he’s growing up? Because you may not notice it, but I’m growing up too, you know,” Faith told me matter-of-factly.

And now, she is 10, and still growing up quickly. Perhaps youngest children are in more of a hurry to grow up than their older brothers and sisters because they’re trying to catch up.

Kayla Gehman, a recent Pelham High School graduate, has a younger sister, Abbey, who is a Valley Intermediate fifth grader. Kayla says, “Abbey comes across as very mature. She seems so much older than I did as a fifth grader. I guess she’s trying to fit in with me and my friends when they’re around.”

Valley Intermediate counselor Janey Patty shared some strategies that she and her coworkers at the intermediate school employ to encourage the students to consider their options as they move towards maturity. Janey told me the school’s focus is on choices.

“We include a Words of Wisdom story in our morning announcements which ends with the statement, ‘Make it a great day or not. The choice is yours.'”

At our final fifth-grade assembly, principal Dana Payne alters the daily statement slightly and says, “Make it a great life or not . . .”

Before she can finish, the kids complete the statement with a loud, unified “The choice is yours!”

My older children were licensed for an extended childhood by their youngest sibling. But Faith is an old 10. She sees and longs for the high school and college years her older brother and sister enjoy. We’re thankful for Valley Intermediate’s positive atmosphere and we’re confident that Faith will make the right choice, and choose a great life.