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Now We Are Ten

lbdelDSC_4746web“I wasn’t born yesterday,” you say when we offer you the smallest bit of advice. We know that. In fact, we remember the exact moment you were born, even though it was, unbelievably, ten years ago.

Ten. It’s the most frustrating and exhilarating mish-mash of little-boy-big-kid. We never know which one of you to expect. And, probably, neither do you.

You might be the kid who insists, furiously, on walking the mile to your after-school program alone, with two dollars to spend at the convenience store on the way.

Or the one who panics when you think your sister’s kidnapped the love-worn stuffed tiger that kept you company every night for years. (Guess what I stole? she taunts. It’s Scratchy, isn’t it? you whisper.)

You go snowboarding, listen to Eminem and quote The Breakfast Club.

Then you beg us to squeeze the mustard on your burger for you. Or carry you, all knees and elbows, to your bed because you’re too tired to walk.

At Thanksgiving, you tower over your sister and younger cousins. In the class picture, you are the smallest and skinniest of the lot.

You walk the dog, pick up after him and train him to sit, and stay. You ask me if I think that, just maybe, you can communicate with squirrels through hand gestures.

You are pissed that you weren’t allowed to use the diving board at swim class. You cry when I say you have to wash your hair in the tub.

You teach your sister to hold a pool cue. You ask her to show you how to use her rainbow bracelet loom.

You worry about the homeless woman with the sign that said, “9 month old baby.”

You wonder if puppies have belly buttons.

You get mad that we won’t let you see The Hunger Games. You watch Scooby Doo.

You stalk into your bedroom because I took away your iPod. You clamor onto my lap for the first time in months, or maybe a year.

Life is about contradictions. For us, it’s unimaginable that we’ve already had you an entire decade, and that our lives existed before you at all.

Photo by Megan Dempsey

Read more essays on ages 1 – 10 in This is Childhood, a book about the first years of childhood and motherhood. 


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This entry was written by Karen Dempsey

About the author: Karen Dempsey has written for The New York Times Motherlode blog, Babble, and Brain, Child. She lives in Massachusetts. Read her work at or follow her @karenedempsey.

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