The Evolution of My (And Possibly Your) Feelings About Nine-Year-Olds

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.

Nine-year-olds are nowhere near as interesting as that piece of bread someone dropped two days ago and never picked up.
Nine-year-olds are nowhere near as interesting as that piece of bread someone dropped two days ago and never picked up.

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:

  1. Other babies
  2. Other small children who are not quite babies but who are running around using the same playground equipment
  3. Any live or taxidermied animals or pictures of animals
  4. Food that has fallen onto the ground.
  5. Firetrucks

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 I was four my life's goal was to someday be nine.
When I was four my life’s goal was to someday be nine.

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

Ah, the joy of being unencumbered by puberty.
At age nine my favorite adjectives were “cool” and “awesome.”  Unless someone was doing a Mad Lib, in which case I would offer the adjective “poop-covered.”

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

Nothing says 1994 like oversized flannel shirts with overalls.
Nothing says 1994 like oversized flannel shirts with overalls.

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

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5.  I Rarely Encounter Nine-Year-Olds And When I Do They Are Usually Annoying.

FYI: I drew myself looking much more hip and cosmopolitan than I actually looked in 2005.
FYI: I drew myself looking much more hip and cosmopolitan than I actually looked in 2005.

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

nine year olds theuglyvolvo 6

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.

nine year olds theuglyvolvo 7
Oh I’ll just stand here in this cowlneck, feeling bewildered and ancient.

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.

God, I hope that in 2038 I'm not wearing a fannypack and that horrible outfit but you never know what the future holds for us.
God, I hope that in 2038 I’m not wearing a fannypack and that horrible outfit but hey, you never know what the future holds for us.

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

nine year olds 9

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.


The End

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38 CommentsComment

  1. I remember when my daughter turned 6, and I had two simultaneous thoughts. 1) that she was half way to where she stops speaking to me for a number of years and 2) she was the same age as Calvin (of Hobbes fame). Now she is 9 and feels more like a teen ager every day.

  2. So true! I have an eight year old now and I’ve experienced all of these feelings. Love this!

  3. My boy just turned 9 this week. How did he get so big and when did this happen? Surely I blinked and then….Great read, thanks!

  4. Love.

  5. Haha! I totally relate with you! I was born in 1980 and have 1,5 year old twins!

  6. your writing is great, it shows the neuroses we can suffer, but also another level of self in which we are peaceful but which is often unexpressed. also, as always, so observant.

  7. I love it. You are awesome. Thanks for bringing me awesome when I should be balancing my checkbook.

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