Eight years old. Still so new at it, but starting to get the sense of things. Still willing to suspend disbelief so Santa can be real and the happy ending makes perfect sense. Still, albeit now grudgingly, willing to accept discipline for the sake of being re-evaluated as a 'good girl' or 'good boy'. Willing to eat, not willing to eat, insisting on eating, preferring snacking over eating, generally centered around eating. (In the cases of men and dogs, I understand, this remains constant for the remainder of life.) Eight years old is a great age.
My 8-year old daughter has a friend over tonight. There're alot of Barbies and Kens involved and the last time I checked in the Ken was losing a battle to keep his pants on in favor of the girls giggling furiously over the sight of his plastic butt. I tried, but then, I remember being an 8 year-old girl so I admonished, tsk tsked and then went upstairs pretending I didn't hear a thing. It won't go much further, I know, because, much to the girls' dismay, my 8 year-old boy is down there with them, torturing to his heart's content. I expect Ken to be inducted into the GI Joe's platoon any second now and the surfer shirt and khaki's will be exchanged for Army fatigues.
Of course, it didn't have to be this way. Originally, when I planned the sleepover for my daughter, I wanted to invite a boy over for my son to have company. That would have been cute. Boys would have had their play space. Girls theirs. Little snacks and a movie in there somewhere. Very cute.
Problem is, after I scrolled mentally through the list of boys I'd have to consider, I came to the sad conclusion that my son's friends frighten me. They're a little edgy. I think they're allowed a little more roughness at home? I don't know. It's probably not so much the boys as it is me. Something about boy energy that I'm still not good at managing.
Plus, for some reason, the crowd my son hangs with has a real penchant for spy games. This starts innocently enough. Boys pretending to communicate through walls by talking into their imaginary wristband walkie talkies. Lots of peering around corners and creeping around tables. The occasional frantic leap into the air when surprised by another, but friendly, 'spy'. This is often accompanied by an uncharacteristically catlike yelp that, honorably, all boys ignore so as to not out the yelper as a sissypants.
Everything seems fine. Right. Except the last two times I had boys over to play this game I found my son, once tied to a chair in the backyard while his friend played inside the house on the 2nd floor - presumably 'spying' on my son tied to the chair in the backyard; and the second time, trapped in a closet with alot of my expensive (read that as 'from my single days') dresses draped over his head and a nice boy-shoe size tear in one of my last surviving Marshall Fields bags. The Lord moved through me that day and kept those boys alive, but the Lord and I had a nice long struggle before I gave in.
Of course, my son is fine with all of it. But I started to mentally re-picture the boys/girls playdate/sleepover extravaganza. And visions of Disney movies with spilled paint and cats tramping through bedding and pillow stuffing flying through the air clouded my vision. I heard the whining of air raid sirens in my ears and heard gunfire sputtering in the distance. My head started to spin and, suddenly, a mini-Rambo figure appeared, clear as day, right in front of me. Except he was shorter and scrawnier and had the face of one of my son's classmates. In one hand, a spygear walkie talkie. In the other, a length of rope hanging out of a torn Marshall Fields bag. He drool-spewed, "I can't wait to sleep over at your house." AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH.
I'll admit, I totally panicked. I shook off the cold sweat and announced, completely unprompted, "Son, none of the boys are sleeping over Sunday. And that's final!" Lucky for all of us, it was Friday mid-afternoon and the kids weren't even home yet so no one heard me except the cat. And given the wide range of town-cryer announcements I've made to my midday audience - anything from "So help me I am NOT picking up that sock!" to "A TWO state solution for crissakes! TWO states!" - this declaration about a boy-free sleepover policy didn't even rile a long blink from the cat.
Which brings us back to now. My son is walking around clutching his transformer and Ice Avenger (no idea) toys and attacking the Malibu Barbie caravan as it proceeds along the basement corridor. The girls are squealing and pretending they can't stand him when, really, they're glad to have some company in the basement from someone they think can actually defeat intruders. He's pretending he's annoyed at the hormonal imbalance sending riple effects of pink girliness throughout the house, when really, he loves making the girls squeal and much prefers hounding them than keeping me company upstairs.
This is the beauty of 8 years old. In a few years, his sister truly won't tolerate his presence. Especially since her best friend, you can see it coming, will be all giggly and blushy around the boy. The mildly clumsy and innocently malevolent crew of boys I'm avoiding tonight will be pimply and sullen and will barely make eye contact with me or the girls. A few years after that, everbody's going to be taking shape - literally - and the girls' interactions will be entirely different, as will the boys. There's precious little time left where my son can be convinced to use his Legos to build a bench for Barbie and Ken to sit on, giving the girls endless hours of enjoyment and imagination.
Soon, the games they play will be the lives they lead. And then everything will be different.
But for now, there is blissed oblivion. Disbelief is in full suspension. The happy ending does make perfect sense. And Ken needs to get some pants on quick!