I look at him and I see both my sweet child (err.. he can be sweet), and then I see an entirely different human evolving in there.
I'm often taken aback by his requests for mother-son bonding things: a head scratch, a back scratch, a hug, a kiss, to just sit with me and hold my hand, merely because he is male and A Certain Age and I expect and have expected these things to fade away. I suppose that's part of his upbringing, but it's no less shocking as I sometimes don't view him as a baby any longer. He is, for the love, not a baby.
Can we talk about children in 2016? What it's truly like to be a 10.5 year old male in the U.S. in this great year of ....
I feel our parents and grandparents have sufficiently reacted to "youth these days". Every fifth news story (not-politically related) concentrates on the failures of our youth "always on their phones" and "never outside roaming the neighborhood". I know it exists. I don't deny it. But I also don't see it in this home.
In our home, a nearly 11-year-old boy lives in what I'm trying to understand and chose to define as a "Cocoon phase". He's this child-shelled pre-teen, cloaked in mystery and raw tenacity who loves being home, his brother, his stepsister and occasionally running away to his top bunk. He is a helper, and I count on him for various pet chores as well as laundry. Oh y'all, when they learn to launder...
His favorite hobbies include, in no order: Space Engineers (engineering & space game), Minecraft (you know what that is), Kerbal Space Program (again, engineering game / space), his XBOX, his iPod Touch (Youtube), Youtube (for understanding the games mentioned beforehand), and literally every other activity is outside-based (chasing the dog, playing in the fort, getting dirty in the creek, soccer, football, basketball, scooter, bike....), and last (but not least) - Reading.
At his age, I led this "difficult" life in which I internalized anxiety and spent a majority of my time exactly as I am now - in my head. I would get lost outside, find friends and find trouble, and discover a new trail on my bike. I loved Polly Pockets and Disney movies. I obsessed over tv and my N64. I didn't care anywhere near enough about washing my face, wearing a bra or fashion in general (bless).
I broke a wrist around 3rd grade (while under the care of a babysitter, so not even outside), I spent every single summer at Camp Winnataska for at least a week, and I have a laundry list of extra-curriculars actively participated in.
I had, what amounts to, the quintessential childhood of the early 1990s.
I don't deny the value in every single one of those activities, but I don't deny they are different from the things my mother did as a 10-year-old.
Her activities at that age are not entirely similar to her mother's, but the differences are less subtle. I don't expect these days for my children to look like 1994.
Youth, these days, do spend a significant amount of time online. Their connectivity is high, alarmingly high, I entirely agree.
Behind the physical facade of a child just sitting there is more though - a gigaton more.
Behind the screens of my young men, let's focus on my eldest who turns 11 this Summer, is immense intelligence. His complex understanding of technology and the applied sciences behind his favorite "games" are numbing. I can't imagine there is anything that a now 30-something's parents could have compared this to when "we were young". He can swallow thick books whole without digesting. His adaptability to all new things is remarkable, yet his compassion towards others is still perfectly sensitized. He, and his peers, are wholly capable of connecting face-to-face. They are chameleons, and their childhood is nothing short of alluring.
I'll admit I'm reporting to you ahead of the Parenting Curve. I'm 31 and had my children early (hello, Alabama). Many of my peers waited like the rest of the country to have their children after 30 and so forth. So here I am to tell you guys, don't be scared.
You can do this.
You can raise these sentient yet connected, intelligent and immersed, spongy and curious children to be the generation they were intended to be - the one that digitizes everything. Getting them there is our job. One we can only do if we don't freak out, check their devices regularly, ask a ton of questions, never stop looking when they ask you to look OR when they ask you to stop, and arm them with everything our parents gave us - and then some.