I have two sons; Number One Son is 11, and The Little Guy is four. They're both going through big changes this year.
The Little Guy has always been a very happy kid, the apple of our collective eyes (as well as his big brother and me, he has a big sister - nine-year-old Miss Mucks - and a very devoted Dad). He is lots of fun, gorgeous, in possession of a startling good memory, and is very very loud. And like most small children he is tenacious.
We're big believers in time out in our house. It works to send the miscreant child to sit in the laundry door for however minutes they are old, while they calm themselves down (sometimes an angry child responds that they'll send me into time out, to which I reply that I would gladly go and spend 40+ minutes sitting quietly on my own to calm down and reflect on my wicked behaviour). The Little Guy, however, has decided to rebel against this practice, so we've had to escalate the punishment. On Thursday night he was behaving abominably, and refused to sit in time out, so we banned him from television for the night.
"I don't care!" he shouted back.
After a quick parental conference in the hallway, we decided to escalate the punishment further, to remove something that he really cares about - Friday night takeaway. It's a sacred ritual in our house, and to miss out is A Big Deal. And yet he still didn't believe that we'd actually do it. However, he'd also forgotten that if you have two Scorpio parents, it is virtually impossible to get them to budge, if they set their minds to it.
It was a right royal screaming match all the way home from kindergarten last night when he asked what was for tea, and was told that it would be baked beans for him.
"But it's takeaway night!"
"Yes it is - for your sister. Remember last night when you wouldn't stay in time out? We said no takeaway for you, and we meant it," replied his determined father.
The Little (Tenacious) Guy proceeded to scream, cry and hurl abuse at us for the next two hours. It was horrible. And then he suddenly stopped, said a genuine sorry, asked for his tea and then consumed an entire 420g tin of baked beans with two slices of buttered toast. Then he snuggled up to me, in his warm jimjams, to listen to a story, and promptly fell asleep.
Ah, four-year-old boys - revolting one minute, utterly delightful the next.
On the other hand, we're starting to see an adolescent emerge from our beautiful 11-year-old boy. On the whole, Number One Son has been a very easy and delightful kid since he passed the trantrum throwing four-year-old stage. I'm confident that he's going to emerge as a wonderful adult, but I do worry that he is about to turn into a grunting, non-communicative teenager, any month now.
The signs are starting to appear. He has that distinctive smelliness of early adolescence, particularly after a soccer match. We spotted his first pimple yesterday. And I got my first "yeah, whatever" when I loudly asked him to get off the Playstation for the fifth time the other day. (He apologised later and say it was the teenager in him coming out.)
He makes us mighty proud too. He sat an entrance exam today for a selective high school earlier today. His approach to it was very mature. It's pretty unlikely he'll get in - over 250 kids are trying out for 25 places - but he had a great attitude and gave it a good shot.
So it's a time of change this year. Number One Son is getting ready to take the next big step in his education, and The Little Guy is in his last year of kindergarten. Our job is to make sure we all enjoy this special, fleeting time.