We have been reading My Side of the Mountain on the way to and from the farm in the evening. It was a book both Ethan and I enjoyed as kids, and we knew Mirin would absolutely love. After hearing the first few chapters, he became enchanted with the idea of making a house in a tree, despite the fact that hemlock doesn’t grow here and we have no such trees, unfortunately!
I suggested his pit as a good alternative, but it was too public and easy to see, he replied. So he has been digging out a new pit for a hideout in an oak thicket.
It’s almost big enough to move in, he says.
There is certainly something about nine, I think, when children start really thinking of independence, and there’s that draw to go off and live by yourself – at least you think you can. It began just before Mirin’s 9th birthday.
“I’m running away,” he would announce. Or several times he began making plans to stay at the farm, even building a shelter and getting his bow ready to shoot a rabbit for a survival dinner. Of course once a few seconds of real solitude sunk in he was back or running after the truck as we drove to the gate, saying he’d changed his mind.
When I was ten I got to live in France with my grandmother and my great-aunt and uncle for three months during summer vacation. That separation from my family, although painful at first, was so needed. It gave me such a great perspective on my family and my culture, and the opportunity to feel on my own and have the freedom of thought to begin that long and often upsetting change through adolescence. I remember how important that space is to be able to try out different selves as you decide who you are going to grow into.
I also think about the yo-yo affect – how children are always having times of clinging to you. I often feel like tearing my hair out in this phase, and long for my own silence and solitude. Then they come right out of it and run away, leaving you sniffling and longing for the days when they were chubby and cute and wanted to be held.
And then there’s some day that will come (and I know faster than I will anticipate) when they really do leave and go off on their own.