Nine. It's a very good number.
It's also a sort of awkward, sort of silly, sort of strange bridge into the double digits. Nine year olds are too old to pitch fits, too young to party, too old to catch a ride in a stroller, and too young to think just strolling along the sidewalk is a fun thing. Nine year olds. . . I have one, and I think he's handling it really well.
From what I can remember, nine was not a very flattering year for me, so I'm really digging this boy's newfound sense of self. He's so smart, but what he's always longed to be is funny, side-splitting-slap-your-knee funny. Um, how do I say this? He was more cute than funny, more smart than funny, more fun than funny. This has been a sore spot for him, as you might expect, especially since his little sister seems to have been born with the class clown gene fully intact and working well since she was old enough to talk. The boy tried too hard to compete, taking his jokes that extra not-so-funny mile, straining to get a laugh.
Well, I am pleased to announce that I think he has finally started growing into his own sense of humor. It's funny, it really does seem to have happened within the last month. Technically, he's only been nine for a little over a week, but I think the "I'm nine" realization started sinking into his brain as soon as his sister turned eight. For four weeks each year, James and Kate are the same age. This does not amuse either one of them anymore. James starts referring to himself as "practically nine" as soon as Kate reaches eight (same thing happens almost every year, just the numbers update themselves). This year, I think 9 means "I'd better start acting like a big kid" to him. He's a little less dramatic with his fits when things don't go his way. Okay, he's still dramatic, but it has toned down a smidge. He's a little bit more thoughtful of others. He's literally walking taller-- the way he carries his little boy body is starting to have a teenagerish turn to it. He's funny.
Yep, all these years of trying too hard and coaxing the laughter have coalesced into a hilariously laid back sense of humor. It's starting to be really fun to watch. The "bumper stickers" for his tennis shoes appeared one afternoon after a period of furious work with papers and markers and such. After wiping the tears from my eyes and catching my breath, I begged the little booger to let me take a picture of the bumper stickers. He obliged. The bumper stickers disappeared later that evening and have not made a reappearance yet. . . but I think "yet" might be the key word. Sunday morning, Ricky was sitting at the dining table with his back to the stairs when James casually slid his hand through the railing and started rubbing Daddy's head with his knuckles. "Have you had your Father's Day dutch rub yet, Dad??" I like it-- sly, dry, funny wit.
So, James, since I know you have a habit of reading my stuff when you get a turn on the computer, let me say this to you: Nine looks good on ya, Boy!