Back to Sunday Books! We are in the homestretch of this book, and I am looking forward already to our next book….I just love summer reading, don’t you?
This chapter is entitled, “Paradise Lost: The Nine Year Change.” I know this chapter will be of interest to many of you out there who have children verging on this developmental stage!
In this chapter, Poplawski writes about how Billy Collins, a Poet Laureate of the United States, poignantly captures the essence of this age in a poem called “On Turning Ten”:
The whole idea makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light—
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I would shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
Poplawski traces the stages of development that come around age two, age nine and age sixteen. The nine year old is standing alone in a sense and realizing their separateness from their parents and the world for the first time. Waldorf Schools address this stage by working with the very rich stories of the Hebrew people as found in the Old Testament.
Poplawski points out other challenges many nine year olds face – their early learning abilities often become challenged and the child has to try to memorize things for the first time, the child emotionally withdraws, the child needs time and space and privacy. Children this age can feel stressed and anxious over chores, activities, homework. Parents can help by limiting their child’s activities and making sure there is ample time to dream and just be.
Poplawski writes about the importance of the parental role:
The nine-year-old child is yearning for autonomy, but parental warmth,
affection, and support continue to be important. Though the child can be irritable
and seems to want to push away, he still needs hugs and comforting from the
adults around him. A nine-year-old will sometimes hover near a parent wanting
and waiting for a reassuring hug, but hesitant to ask for it. A child will sometimes
be more prickly and hyper-sensitive with one parent more than the other, this
being affected by the respective temperaments of child and parents. Sometimes
one parent needs to step back and let the other be more involved with the child.
Many children have some psychosomatic symptoms around this time. Heart
palpitations, breathing problems and headaches are not unusual. Nine-year-olds
tend to be worriers and some physical symptoms may be related to that. Nightmares
—dreams of being chased or being bitten by a snake or even of being murdered—
are common and no reason for great concern. Dreams of storms and runaway
fires are also frequent.
For the nine-year-old, suddenly cut off from the world, forced to stand on her own, and beset perhaps by physical problems, anxiety is a dominant emotion.
Hence, the child depends on the structure and guidance that watchful adults can give to provide stability and a sense of security. The child needs the solid authority of teachers and a firm parental presence. Otherwise she will be overwhelmed by a sense of insecurity.
The nine-year-old likes to have rules. Adults need to be fair and consistent in enforcing them, however. Fairness is important for the nine-year-old.
Talking about life and death, the meaning and mystery of life, praying, asking about religion and prayer are all very common things in the life of a child going through this developmental change. Children in this stage are still young, but must be recognized as the young men and women they are becoming. How are we assisting our children in getting to an adulthood that encapsulates the ideals of duty to humanity through this stage?