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The nice things about pre-preteens

January 5, 2011
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Some moms and dads prefer cuddly, dependent babies.  Some prefer independent teens. Me? I just love having a pre-preteen.

At eight, my son is still young enough to jump in bed with Mom and Dad on Saturday morning and cuddle. But he’s old enough to wipe his own nose and set the table. Never mind that he sometimes does these tasks simultaneously.

The child this age WANTS jobs to do around the house and yard. He’ll work for praise. In fact, he’d PAY you to give him a job. He insists he is big enough to graduate from picking up sticks to mowing the lawn himself. He’s enthused about handing tools to
the handy parent who’s working on the car. He’s a cheerful, chatty employee. He even wants to get up early to help clean gutters or rake leaves. He thinks digging potatoes is as exciting as digging for treasure.

My pre-preteen behaves at the grocery. He’s small enough to sit in the cart (in the “big part,” not the baby seat) while Mom or Dad cruises the aisles. There he quietly reads Sonic comic books while groceries are heaped around him. Most of the time he doesn’t even ask for candy at the check-out counter. If given a treat for not whining or begging, even a healthy treat, he sometimes remembers to say, “Wow, thanks, Mom.” And when we get home, he’s proud to show off his muscles by lugging in sacks of potatoes and bags of toilet paper.

My pre-preteen takes baths by himself. He doesn’t want his hair to look too wild. His stomach, pouched out in the mirror, is just the right size. He worries more about how clothes feel than how they look.

The pre-preteen can pick out his own clothes and get dressed by himself. However, standing in his striped top and plaid shorts before the mirror, he muses, “I wonder why people always KNOW when I pick out my own clothes? Maybe it’s because I look so NICE.” He nods to himself; yes, that’s probably it. The parent can go shopping alone and buy clothes, even school clothes, for the child. The clothes fit and the child will be happy. The child will be even more thrilled with hand-me-downs from special relatives and friends.

My child suggests menus that sound like a fast food smorgasbord. But he actually worries at times about junk food and wonders if brown bread French toast is even healthy. He may be a picky eater at home, but he tries eggplant casserole at Grandma’s, the better to get praise and cake.

The pre-preteen still enjoys Mom or Dad reading a goodnight storybook. In fact, he sincerely believes he has a binding contract that someone WILL read to him nightly. He can read to Mom or Dad if they’re really tired. And he can forego a goodnight book in a pinch. However, when the bedtime stories contract is breached, the pre-preteen sounds like a labor attorney hammering out a new contract, and the weary parent unknowingly agrees to read 20 books nightly for the rest of Child’s life.

The pre-preteen still has simple wants, usually within the budget. The slide and the merry-go-round at the park are still fun. All that’s needed for a party are hot dogs, balls and some squirt bottles filled with water, which are still acceptable water gun substitutes. Neighborhood transportation is a bike; and playing cards clipped to the spokes to make a motorcycle sound are cool. (How did you know how to invent that, Dad?) A visit from the tooth fairy is still magic.

A child this age can clean his own room—sorta. It’s actually best to ask him to clean his room when you REALLLY want him to play with all the toys he bought and played with for 46 seconds. The child this age will even part with old toys, provided he gets lots of money for them at the yard sale. Or provided he feels sorry for kids who don’t have toys and need his good used ones.

My son moved some toys to his Unusual Museum under the stairs. There people are going to pay large sums of money to see Dad’s antique GI Joe doll and the feather that’s probably from an ostrich. Picking up a feather off the zoo sidewalk next to the ostrich’s cage is probably not really stealing, is it?

The world is an exciting place when you’re a pre-preteen. There’s treasures in neighbors’ trash, like springs and clocks that can be fashioned into a time machine. The best part is, it really works. Lots of kids would probably like to buy time machines, wouldn’t they? Could we have a business selling time machines? Does anybody know where Dad hid his toolbox and the duct tape this time? And does anybody have any old clocks or cameras for making time machines? And it was okay to cut these pants into pirate pants, wasn’t it?

Our pre-preteen is a wonderful conversationalist. When you ask what he did at school today, he tells you. He talks to grandparents on the phone, telling them news like why Mom is mad at Dad for buying the new computer. He has black-and-white opinions about how to fix the environment or punish lying politicians.

The pre-preteen can play with friends without a referee. You know where he is, what he’s doing and who he’s sleeping with. His girlfriends don’t telephone him much. He thinks drugs, even aspirin for parents who’ve played too much volleyball, are evil. He thinks smokers smell stinky and look stupid.

The pre-preteen still gives kisses when a parent drops him off at the school. School is fun and homework is a matter of pride. His teacher is really nice and kinda pretty.

Best of all, our pre-preteen thinks Mom and Dad are about the smartest, nicest people on the face of the earth. Or at least on this block. The earth IS a pretty big place, he notes.
-jme-

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny permalink
    January 5, 2011 7:57 am

    I have three pre-preteens. I can see each of them in different parts of your story and it’s made me realize what a blessing this stage really is. I’ve enjoyed this!

  2. January 5, 2011 12:08 pm

    Enjoyed this! When I was a teacher, my favorite grades to teach were the 2nd and 3rd grades…the pre-preteens. They loved to cooperate and were enthusiastic about nearly everything.

  3. Greta permalink
    January 6, 2011 1:54 pm

    I’m not so sure mine went through this stage. I remember a lot of finger pointing and “You never make them!” and “I ALWAYS have to do it…”

  4. Char permalink
    January 7, 2011 2:42 am

    I fully enjoyed reading this story!

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