We all have opinions about nine-year-olds and these opinions depend on a number of factors.
Are we related to these nine-year-olds? Are they eating next to us in a restaurant? Are they sitting directly behind us in an enclosed train car loudly scrolling through some ringtone app on their smartphone, exclaiming, “Ooooh ooh ooh, they’ve got TURN DOWN FOR WHAT,” after which they treat you and the rest of the train car to 30 second increments of the song TURN DOWN FOR WHAT, as well as snippets of innumerable Pitbull ringtones while you desperately try to read some book that’s just been adapted into a movie that you’re trying to finish before the movie comes out?
Also, our opinions on nine year-olds change depending on our own age. Are you a young whipper snapper? Someone hopelessly old and out of touch? A person who’s like, “Hey, whoa, I’m not old and out of touch,” but at the same time who wasn’t familiar with the TURN DOWN FOR WHAT reference in the last paragraph or the rapper named “Pitbull” and mistakenly thought that the reference to “Pitbull ringtones” was about ringtones of noises that pitbulls make, such as growling or barking?
I feel differently about nine-year-olds than I did a few years ago and I’m sure I’ll feel differently a few years from now. Here’s a brief run through on my (and possibly they are also your) emotions regarding them.
1. Did not even really notice they existed.
Based on the reaction of my own son, I would wager that at one-year-old I rarely noticed that nine-year-olds existed.
Here are the types of things toddlers notice:
- Other babies
- Other small children who are not quite babies but who are running around using the same playground equipment
- Any live or taxidermied animals or pictures of animals
- Food that has fallen onto the ground.
It is rare that nine-year-olds and toddlers would play together, so there is not much awareness. My son has an almost-nine-year-old cousin but he does not seem to register her as a baby or as an adult—merely as someone who will continually give him pieces of candy until I intervene and go, “Hi—could we maybe stop feeding the baby Twizzlers?”
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2. Nine-Year-Olds are SO BIG
When you are a young child, any older children seem impossibly old. To a second grader, fourth graders seem ancient and anyone in high school is basically an adult. When I was a young child I would look at nine-year-olds and assume, I guess, that they were probably voting or signing up for the draft. Possibly they smoked cigarettes or could read cursive. I had no idea. They seemed enormous. I could not imagine that I would ever be that old. I felt like most of them had probably been alive when Kennedy was shot.
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3. Nine is a Really Cool, Awesome Age
When I was nine I felt, unsurprisingly, that nine year-olds were neither really old nor really young. I felt like nine was a great, really fun age to be. My nine-year-old friends and I played videogames and for those of you who are going to immediately get on my case about playing videogames, we also played Kick the Can every night in the back yard. Once we innocently spent a half hour throwing mulberries at people’s cars until an ex-police chief pulled into our driveway because he thought we were throwing rocks and we all hid in the garage while he talked to our parents. Another fun part of being nine is that you can constantly remind your parents that in seven years you can drive a car even though only six months ago you still believed that a man in a red suit flew around the earth once a year delivering presents.*
*This could be either “Santa Claus” or a generous, helium-filled pimp.
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4. Nine-Year-Olds Are So, So Little and Also They Seriously Have No Idea About Anything
After only five years time, I went from thinking nine-year-olds were the coolest people on the planet to being overwhelmed by how tiny and childlike they seemed to me. I think most of my thoughts when I myself was fourteen were:
- I miss being nine and being so innocent.
- The only people who understand less about the world than nine-year-olds are my parents
- No one will ever love or understand me
- WHEN WILL THEY AIR MORE ‘MY SO-CALLED LIFE’ EPISODES??”
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5. I Rarely Encounter Nine-Year-Olds And When I Do They Are Usually Annoying.
In a weird way being in your mid-twenties is like being a one-year-old in that there are just not many nine-year-olds around. Possibly some of your friends have kids, but those kids are babies. And possibly you have younger siblings but most likely those siblings are in their late teens. Nine-year-olds are not in bars or clubs and you are not matched up with them on any online dating websites*. They are not at your job except for maybe once a year during take-your-child-to-work day when some guy from accounting brings in his daughter and you initially mistake her for a freakishly small intern.
**”Looking for that special someone who’ll let me copy their math homework”
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6. Nine-Year-Olds are so BIG
I have a baby who is a year-and-a-half old and the other day a bunch of nine-year-olds were shrieking and running around the baby playground, and have you ever seen those old Japanese movies where Godzilla comes in and destroys an entire city while legions of tiny people are either crushed or run away screaming? It felt more or less like that.
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7. Nine-Year-Olds Are Both So Big and Also So Little.
Wait, when did I have this child again? Wasn’t it like a year ago? How has he been alive for almost a decade? How can he simultaneously feel so grown up and enormous and yet still be writing reports about why Manatees are endangered in which he multiple times misspells the word “Manatee?” How can he sometimes seem so intelligent and mature and yet simultaneously think that the most hilarious thing in the world is the sound of a person farting?*
*I am aware that that last sentence also describes many men in their 30’s.
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8. Nine-Year-Olds Are So, So Tiny.
WHOA WHOA WHOA. How did I ever think he was big when he was nine? How did I think that?? He was still hugging me and asking me to come with him to amusement parks. His voice hadn’t dropped. I was taller than he was. Now I have this adult male who sort of looks like me but who has opinions and thoughts and maybe possibly a job and WHOA, HOLD UP, WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NINE-YEAR-OLD? How did I not realize how young he was and treasure every minute of it and AAAAARRRGHHHHH, regret regret uncertainty uncertainy PLEASE, PLEASE HELP, DOES ANYBODY KNOW HOW TO STOP OR REVERSE TIME??
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9. Nine-Year-Olds Are What They Are
It is ridiculous, maybe to write a post about emotions you are not positive you will have in a time that is years or decades away. Obviously, a lot of it is speculation because we are talking about the future. Maybe in 2048 my son will have no children, or five children, or twelve cats and $40,000 in student loans. It will be 2048, so possibly all of us will be wearing those metallic, futuristic space suits all the time. Who knows.
But more than anything else I hope to have reached a point in my own life where I am not always noticing how old or how young someone is. To stop thinking about other people’s ages in relation to my own and enjoy everyone for who he or she is. A baby is a wonderful baby and a nine-year-old is a wonderful nine-year-old and a teenager is–ok, really nobody likes having those– but a teenager can be (as much as this is possible) a wonderful teenager. I want to be happy enough to realize that an adult child is a wonderful adult child, regardless of whether or not he or she decides to have children and that there is nothing inherently better or worse about being older or younger than anyone else.
I hope to enjoy the smiles of babies and the curiosity of children and the enthusiasm of everyone who is enjoying life. I know that it’s precious and I know it goes fast.
And no matter how old I get, may I always remember a truth I have known since I was nine-years-old and which I still, to this day, hold dear and close to my heart: No matter how long you have lived or how much you have seen, there are few things quite as funny as the sound of a person farting.
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