Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Age of Innocence

Littleboy 1 had a friend round to play today. This boy is clearly someone he looks up to at preschool, as he's always quoting him and has been begging to have him over for a playdate for weeks. But, while the friend was here, the differences between the two boys really surprised me. Although the same age, the friend has an older brother and seemed light years away from Littleboy 1 in manner, interests and general maturity. Friend was a sweet boy and well-behaved. But he struck me as much older than his nearly-five years.

The three boys rushed upstairs, where Littleboy 1 was determined to show his friend his collection of Thomas the Tank Engine trains. But his friend looked clearly bored by this, and although he was able to name the trains had an expression on his face that clearly said: "This is baby stuff and I outgrew it years ago...". He certainly didn't want to look at Littleboy 1's Richard Scarry counting books with him and he also looked horrified when Littleboy 1 enthusiastically showed him a Dora the Explorer book which he is rather enamoured with - Dora was clearly just for girls.

Instead he wanted to tell the boys all about Ghostbusters, which he'd clearly seen a few times, and said was 'really scary'. Now, I love Ghostbusters, but I remember watching it at the cinema at age 11 and finding parts of it distinctly terrifying. Littleboy 1 cowers under the sofa at anything even vaguely spooky, and I really couldn't imagine him liking it at all. "Don't worry," said his friend. "It's rated PG. You can watch it at my house when we have a sleepover.."

"You have sleepovers?" I asked him. (He was a little vague in the answer, so I wonder whether it was just his brother). Then I mentioned that we had some brownies downstairs for them to eat. "Do you like brownies?" asked Littleboy 1 eagerly. "Y_E_S" he replied, spelling the letters out like a bored teenager.

To encourage him, I asked him what other films he liked - mentioning that the boys love Madagascar and Finding Nemo. He looked distinctly unimpressed and said he liked Power Rangers better....

I was beginning to wonder whether perhaps I had babied Littleboy 1 too much; he's only allowed to watch preschoolers' TV and seems quite happy with games designed for little kids, which is perhaps not surprising considering his best friend is his three year old brother. But then I remembered: what it's like to be the older child. I, too, had friends at school with older siblings and they always knew SO MUCH MORE than me. They'd all been to the cinema to watch ET when I was still on Pinocchio. They knew naughty words like willy long before I ever did; they were into Michael Jackson and David Bowie when I was still listening to Disney long playing records. I always felt naive compared to these friends and somewhat out of the loop, because by the time I'd discovered these things for myself they'd always moved on.

Compared to his friend, Littleboy 1 seemed such an innocent baby. And I love that, I really do. But I do wonder what it will be like when he starts proper school in September. Peer pressure will undoubtedly mean that he wants to leave Thomas behind and exchange his Lego farm animals for Nintendo. I hope he doesn't feel left out, but equally I hope there is not too much pressure to grow up too quickly. And most of all I hope that, at four, Littleboy 2 doesn't become the worldy-wise younger sibling......

23 comments:

Nicola said...

Oh I so relate. Captain Underpants was obsessed with Thomas and all things distinctly 'young'. Until he got to school. His younger sibling inevitably grew up faster and now almost appears jaded when compared to his 4 year old friends who are the older sibling. I feel I have really missed out on this extended period of naivety that I enjoyed for years with his older brother. And I almost feel embarrassed when the 4 year old dismisses stuff as 'for babies' when we are with other children who I think are still wonderfully untainted by all these superhero malarky.

Mind you. Neither boy has ever seen Ghostbusters. And the offer of brownies or cupcakes would still be greeted with undisguised glee. So maybe it's not all bad.

Mud in the City said...

Grown up at 5. Oh there's the irony, as a child you can feel so grown up and on top of things, as an adult it is largely the other way round!

I do fancy a brownie though....

Jenny Rudd said...

keep him a baby as lomg as poss. Prescious, precious years

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

I was thinking about exactly the same issue. Luke, my younger one, is always working at a level way above the ability that Adam was at at the same age. Things like being able to run and jump or the types of games he plays. But I am hoping that when Adam goes to school and I get a bit of one on one time with Luke we'll be able to do the baby stuff then, to keep it all in perspective.

Heather said...

oh it seems such a shame, doesn't it, when they grow up so fast. i know they have to eventually but at only 5?

Danish Girl said...

This made me really sad. Please keep your boys how you want them - remember you are their primary influence. This kind of thing used to really worry me but living in Denmark there is less pressure than in the UK or USA. My brother in law's son sounds just like this little boy and he is only 3 (is also American) and it makes me really sad as well when I hear the things he likes eg Jurassic Park. I ask you! it is almost like he has completely missed all the good stuff and gone onto the wrong things too soon.

Nota Bene said...

That's fascinating...they do grow up quickly and younger brothers do have the benefit (or otherwise) of trying to do what their elder sibling is up to...it's a shame they lose their innocene, at whatever age...

nappy valley girl said...

Nicola - I guess it's inevitable. My sister definitely grew up faster than I did. I think some of it is bravado, though - the friend munched away on the brownies looking very happy!

Mud - yes, half the time I don't feel like an adult at all...

Jenny - they are. I guess none of us wants our babies to grow up....

Brit in Bosnia - Littleboy 2 is actually less physically advanced than his brother, but I think that is just a personality thing - he's not such a daredevil. But, yes, he's definitely ahead in other ways.

Heather - it does seem terribly young. I still think of LB1 as a toddler, really - even though he's about to go to school.

Danish Girl - you may be right about the different cultures. And Jurassic Park - I think that would terrify my boys, even thought they love dinosaurs.

NB - I do think in other ways the younger ones have advantages - they don't have to blunder unsuspecting in the world. And I could definitely have done with an older sibling at boarding school.....

conuly said...

Spelling out words in speech, my older niece does that, but she insists on using ASL to do it! Annoying, but quiet.

As far as sleepovers go, my nieces have had a few sleepovers by the time they were four (the younger one just turned four), but not with just anybody but with close family friends.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Miss M (just 5) is as happy playing with her 9 year old sister's toys as she is playing with her 3 year old cousin's so I'm sure lovely Little Boy 1 will be fine.

I often worried about Miss E as she's an August birthday and while fine academically has often seemed a lot 'younger' maturity wise, but now, when I see her friend who has older siblings and wears tiny skirts, long socks and looks about 14, I'm so glad my little girl is still 'little'.

They're little for such a short time. Your little one sounds absolutely fine.

As for sleepovers, Miss E didn't have her first proper one till she was eight. Maybe I'm a mean Mummy? ;D

Hot Cross Mum said...

Sounds like your little man would get on great with my 4 yr old who still adores Thomas and Dora. I'm holding off on the other crap for as long as possible - Power Rangers are dreadful anyway. Like you, he starts school in Sept so we shall see what influences he starts to bring home then.

nappy valley girl said...

Conuly - I think girls are probably different but I wouldn't want to be the mother that had to deal with several four year old boys for a sleepover!

Jo - thanks, I know he's fine and I love that he's still so little. As for sleepovers, see above - can you imagine them all jumping into your bed at 6am?!

HotCrossMum - I'm not sure I would even recognise a Power Ranger....! I've only just got to grips with all the Thomas characters.....

mothership said...

You hang on to your baby, and don't be too sure that he will grow up too fast when he hits school. I think far more of that is to do with what exposure to media you allow than what his peers expose him to. Five has definitely grown up during her time in Kindergarten this year but she is still delighted by Teletubbies, Dora, and other very 'baby' things and I can see a clear difference between the children who are deliberately kept away from overly mature influences and the ones who have either much elder siblings or unchecked media exposure (PG fims, pop music with eyebrow raising lyrical content etc.).
I notice, too, that some of the Kindergarteners have toughened up this year and some of them most definitely haven't - again, a huge split in the parental styles. Given the choice, though, I think the kids like to stay on the youngish side. It makes them feel safer (makes me feel safer, too!)

Liz (LivingwithKids) said...

Oh it's so hard because you really do want them to stay small and innocent for as long as possible. No 1 Son quickly had a lot of carefully constructed illusions (Santa Claus, where babies come from etc) shattered by his BF at primary school who had an older brother who couldn't wait to spill the beans. But even so he was still cuddling up with his teddies at night until he was about eight. We were always very careful about choice of movies, and so on. I know someone who sneaked her seven-year-old into Avatar. Why would you do that?!

A Confused Take That Fan said...

NVG - I am exactly the same with my eldest. Really want to keep her as young as possible for as long as possible without her appearing too naive at school. It's difficult when these play dates start and you have children over, who, due to siblings have entirely different vocab, likes and dislikes. I am so against sleepovers...at the moment. She is just too young (she's 6). What's the rush? I think I will keep my head buried in the sand and not correct her when she said a boy called his winky 'peanuts' at school.

Expat mum said...

Now that I have a 6 year old with two teenage sibs, I will never comment on precocious kids again! The stuff he comes out with and the songs he knows all the lyrics to are unbelievable - and not even rude.
I wouldn't worry about him at big school though - there will be kids who are the oldest, kids who are in the middle and kids like mine - 6 going on 16!

Tara Cain said...

Pah. You hang on to their innocence it goes far too quickly.
And you're right, once they're at school they're all 'mummy, Joshua told me that we'll be having sexercation in middle school' . . .
(I hid my head and carried on making the cup of tea, in case you're wondering!)

nappy valley girl said...

Mothership - I will. I agree that restricting media is important - it frightens me how much they are influenced even by the things that they DO watch, which are for the most part incredibly innocent.

Liz - there is no way my kids would even sit through 'Avatar'; they barely made it through Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs.....it does seem like a strange thing to do.

CTTF - Love 'peanuts'... LB1 seems to call it his 'billy' at the moment, a sort of confusion over willy and belly I think....

Tara - I think I would have hidden as well!

Anonymous said...

We found the same thing when we moved to the States. My son was 7 and he had friends who would talk about the newest episode of South Park! At age seven, he did do one sleepover but later sleepovers were always at our house.

We just told him that parents were different and we didn't allow mature level video games and adult shows for him. He accepted all of these rules and eventually, at 14, made a case for watching South Park. Now that he can watch it, of course, he doesn't care much for it.

There's nothing wrong with keeping children "innocent". I think my son had more influence on his friends than they did on him.

Anonymous said...

We found the same thing when we moved to the States. My son was 7 and he had friends who would talk about the newest episode of South Park! At age seven, he did do one sleepover but later sleepovers were always at our house.

We just told him that parents were different and we didn't allow mature level video games and adult shows for him. He accepted all of these rules and eventually, at 14, made a case for watching South Park. Now that he can watch it, of course, he doesn't care much for it.

There's nothing wrong with keeping children "innocent". I think my son had more influence on his friends than they did on him.

Susie said...

My youngest (out of 5) is soo independent. (But my older ones were as well.

At 3 1/2 and as a 5th child, she is doing things many of her friends who are the first child have no idea what to do.

I don't see anything wrong with it as long as she is the one intiating the actions, and no one is pushing it on her.

I know many people have commented to me about how it is not fair to have so many kids because you can't possibly give them as much attention. I say, okay but they also have the benefit of learning from their older siblings, being more confident and more independent.

Like I said, I don't view it as a bad thing if it comes from the child.

Iota said...

My 9 year old has just spent all his Christmas money on a cell/mobile phone he's not going to be able to afford to use very much. We agonised over this, and started off by trying to dissuade him, as it's so clearly motivated by the fact that his 12 year old brother got one (also from his own money). In the end, we let him. It wasn't a passing fancy - he wanted it for weeks. My 12 year old told me "the other 3rd grade moms are going to hate you, you know", and I think he's possibly right. I wouldn't have dreamt of letting HIM get a phone at the age of 9.

But I like my kids being around kids with older siblings. Childhood seems very age-segregated these days (in both UK and US). I think they learn so much from older children, that they would never learn from parents. It does feel a bit sad, I know what you mean, but I like it too. (And I agree - Ghostbusters is definitely not for 5 year olds.)

nappy valley girl said...

Anonymous - South Park definitely VERY adult content, and although I have a naughty liking for the show, would never let a child watch it.

Susie - I think it's fine if it comes from the child; I guess they all mature at different rates. I can't believe people told you not to have so many children - what busybodies!

Iota - you're right, they can learn good things from siblings too. In many ways it is so hard to be the eldest child; in contrast my husband is the youngest of 3 and he thinks it was a great position to be in.