The sensitive sevens

My eldest has always been a tad sensitive. Things that other kids seemed to take in their stride were often difficult for him - and us. Cutting his fingernails was a screaming, flailing battle until he was five, when I suddenly thought to explain that water makes them softer and cutting them while he was in the bath would be easier.  

And as for getting a tiny splinter out of his foot? Afterwards I considered going around to the neighbours to explain that we weren't actually torturing him with medieval devices, and apologising for the noise.

It improved, though, as he got older. He developed better control over his body and emotions. I even managed to get an infected prickle out of his knee without needing earplugs, by talking him through breathing and visualisation. If it got me through two natural labours, it can get him through a prickle-extraction!

But from seven-and-a-half, it got harder again, for him and us. It was as though he had learnt to handle his emotions, but then his emotions went through a growth spurt. Suddenly his feelings were bigger and more complex.

Never having dealt much with seven-year-olds (beyond being one, many years ago), I did what lots of modern mothers do: I googled, went to the library, and whinged on Facebook. And I found that we are not alone.

It turns out that around this age, humans go through adrenarche, when a new zone of the adrenal cortex develops, bringing with it a surge of androgenic hormones. It's not puberty, but it's a step along the path.

Some people called it "the stroppy sevens". Oh boy, can I relate. We've had "I wish I were dead!" as well as "I wish I'd never been born!" Apparently asking him to put his bike away when it rains is "SOOOO mean!", and worthy of a door slam.

I've been reading The Explosive Child, and it reminded me of an event from my childhood. I was a similar age, six or seven. I don't remember why we were arguing, but I remember becoming suddenly, incredibly angry and throwing a piece of salt dough sculpture across the kitchen. I screamed at my mum, "LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!" and stormed out.

I didn't know where the rage came from, but I knew it scared me. The physical intensity was unfamiliar - and I could not have controlled it. Is that what it's like for him? I think so.

Tiredness and hunger make things worse. We arrived home from One Day School and he asked for a turn on the computer. I said no, as he had outstanding chores from the day before. It was the final straw for my tired, hungry boy. He hurled his school bag down our steps... and his new glasses fell out of their case and clattered across the concrete.

I nearly lost it. I could easily have lost it.But I sent him to his room, sat down and despaired. What was I doing so wrong?

Surprisingly, he soon emerged from his room, calm and solemn, even a bit shaken by his own intensity. He came to me and said, "Mum, I'm very sorry. I think I shouldn't have a turn on the computer for two weeks."

I said "I think that's a very fair consequence, and thank you for apologising." He gave me an apologetic hug and walked away, as I sat, stunned.

He had calmed down, thought about what he'd done, and come up with a serious and appropriate consequence. It seems as though he's getting to grips with his new, improved emotions. Are we through the sensitive sevens? No, but it's nice to see some payoff from the "deft frenzy of brain maturation".  

We'll get through it just fine. 

Did your kids go through a stroppy or sensitive stage, at six or seven?

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