Age 10: The Most Bittersweet of Ages


age 10 bittersweet milestonesI have two daughters. Both have reached milestones that have evoked many emotions. For instance, learning to walk, turning a year old, going to their first day of kindergarten, and many others. As parents, we celebrate these events, while at the same time feeling a bit nostalgic for the times that came before.

No age has given me this bittersweet feeling more than the age of 10.

When my oldest daughter (who is now 16) and my youngest (who is currently 10) reached “the decade mark”, I saw a shift in them. I noticed it in retrospect with my oldest, but as my youngest is fully in the middle of her tenth year, it has hit me like a ton of bricks.

This is a transitional age of monumental proportions. If you have experienced it, you might know what I’m talking about. If your kids haven’t reached this age yet, consider this a heartfelt warning from a fellow mom.

This is the last year your child will be in elementary school. Those beautiful little drawings in art class of stick figures have ended. The group birthday parties that include all the kids in the class will be no more. The reminders for “picture day” and “food drive day” will not be shoved in a backpack swirling around hand-written notes from friends that say, “You are my Best Friend Ever!”

Next year, the 10-year-old will be in middle school (some places it is considered “junior high”). Cliques are going to start to form. Puberty is starting to set in.

Before you know it, your daughter is going to be needing a bra and your son may have to start using deodorant. The physical changes that start to happen at age 10 are a reminder that the teenage years are merely an “eye roll” away. You child will seemingly grow overnight.

Unfortunately, around this age, girls in particular start to experience body image disorders due to their changing bodies. The carefree confidence of your child starts to fade a little as they question themselves and their abilities.

They start to have more questions about their skills and competency and how they fit in socially. Activities that were once “all-inclusive” and open to all kids at school may start becoming more competitive.

Your 10-year-old starts wanting a bit of independence from you and may start to desire to be more knowledgeable. This may show up as defiance or exasperation. It becomes a push and pull between wanting to be taken care of as your “baby” while at the same time wanting to be more independent.

I’m not a child psychologist or a doctor, and these are just my observations based on my own kids. But in my experience, I feel like I’m holding on for dear life to my “baby” while mother nature is pulling her away from me into adulthood.

It’s not an immediate, definitive transition like “going potty” for the first time, or sleeping in a “big girl bed”, or even getting a driver’s license. It’s a slow and subtle “pulling off a band aid” feeling.

Don’t get me wrong; I love seeing my daughter blossom and grow. I’m proud of her pursuing her passions and expanding her interests. I love her sense of humor and her ability to converse about a broader range of topics. The conversations are more two-sided and engaging. She’s becoming a little adult, and I swell with pride at how she’s turning out. I see a beautiful young woman forming in front of my eyes, at the exact same time that I am seeing my sweet baby girl fading away from me.

My heart is swelling and breaking at the same time. But isn’t that the very definition of parenthood no matter what the age?

The answer of course is “yes.” I just think it hurts a little more at age 10.


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