Daniel and Michael were 8 on September 27 and my parents celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary, so a significant date all round. Let me summarise where we are. Better late than never.
Daniel at 8
Daniel has been losing teeth by the new time. We woke one morning to the sound of him weeping bitter tears as the tooth fairy had forgotten to come. Mr. Waffle went to check and it was all a terrible mistake, he had just missed the money left safely under his pillow. Another time, he thought he saw Mr. Waffle put money under his pillow but this was clearly an error as Mr. Waffle said that the money was already there. How the tooth fairy managed to slip it in earlier, we shall never know.
Daniel still loves playing all kinds of sports and is out at GAA training on Friday night and matches on Saturday morning. An exhausting regime for those of us who stand by the side of the pitch (his father generally) but, one assumes, even more so, for him. If left to his own devices, he would never wear anything other than nylon sports tops and shorts. He cycles in the park with great speed and determination.
He is a picky eater but fortunately is fond of dairy products, so he won’t starve.
He is meticulous and thorough in his school work though inclined to get distracted when doing his homework. He can be very focussed though. He taught himself to read at an earlier age than his brother or sister by sheer force of will. He also seems to have taught himself to swim over the summer. I was pretty surprised when I saw him go under water and strike out since he has never had a lesson (parental ineptitude, it’s a long and slightly dull story).
He enjoys school and seems to have lots of friends in his class. Though I am finding the world of young boys and their friends much less clear than the world of girls where I have good empirical experience.
He is usually the first to run out to greet me when I come home from work (unless he has been granted the right to use some electronic device, in which case, I might as well not exist). He loves, loves, loves playing soccer on the x-box which is only allowed at weekends. The consequence of this is that he arrives into his parents’ bedroom regularly at 7 on a Saturday morning to ask whether he can play the x-box. For his birthday, he got Skylanders (if you don’t know, you’re better off) for the x-box and he loves his Skylanders also.
He enjoys reading. He particularly loves facts and jokes. He was best boy of the day in school the other day for his encyclopaedic knowledge of ancient Egypt. I am sometimes surprised by the ways he finds it comfortable to sit and read.
He hates to hear me sing, except for a song which I sometimes hum to him at bedtime (my mother-in-law tells me it is from the merry widow, she is better than soundhound).
He is tidy. He clears his plate after dinner, he puts things away in his room. It is a delight to me to have a tidy child. In my own family, I was the only tidy person and I sometimes felt like a changeling, so it’s great that there are two of us.
He loves to play with his brother and sister and, sometimes his sister is kind and makes up games for them to play together. Sometimes she is not and he wanders around the house disconsolately looking for someone to play with.
Overall, he seems to be quite a content child despite occasional rages and announcements that “this is the worst day ever” in relation to issues which might not make you think that the day merited that description (you have to put on your shoes now, for example).
He is a most affectionate child and loves his mother but will no longer let her kiss him in public for which her heart aches a little bit but that’s life, I suppose.
Michael at 8
Michael has taken to saying “indeed” instead of yes which makes him sound like a Victorian gentleman. He is officially the thinnest and lightest boy in Ireland. He nearly made me cry the other day by saying casually, “I don’t like cheese sandwiches any more”. To my impassioned, “What will you eat then?” he replied laconically, “Dunno.”
He hasn’t enjoyed the return to school much which may explain the following dialogue:
Me: Sleeping is my gift.
Him: Feigning blurry eyesight to miss school is mine.
Him: Don’t worry, you have a short memory, you’ll forget this.
The Princess has been spreading propaganda about the blog among her siblings and Michael is terrified of what I might write as it could be embarrassing. Since my continued existence is slightly embarrassing to my children at times, this could all go horribly wrong.
He is very clever and quick at all kinds of games: cards, chess, computer games; x-box games. Maybe he will become a professional poker player when he grows up. However, he sees no point in applying himself to things which are not of interest to him, which may explain his handwriting.
He is extremely charming and outgoing and has a very winning manner. He is very rarely cross and usually inclined to yield in arguments. Occasionally, however, he gets cross and stares at us all from under creased eyebrows, howling his annoyance. Also, occasionally, he can be stubborn and at these times, any effort at persuasion is pointless. He is very independent and is not too concerned about the views of others. His uncle, who is unreconstructed, will often say things like “That’s for girls!” and he will either ignore the comment or say he doesn’t care, and I really don’t think that he does.
Michael’s catchphrase is “I’m bored” and I cannot tell you how tired we all are of hearing it (delivered with a slight lengthening of the o sound). Often I yield and offer up the computer to the altar of Michael’s boredom. Sometimes, I make him soldier on, because I am cruel that way.
Fortunately, he likes to read and that fills in the time between opportunities to play on the computer and my phone. They all like the Beano but Michael loves it. He is also a huge fan of Asterix and Tintin and Snoopy. He is often to be found leafing through the pages of Gaston La Gaffe. You can tell that he was born in Belgium; the comic strip holds infinite appeal for him.
Though generally not sporty, he does like to climb mountains.
He finds it very hard to get to sleep at night and equally hard to get up in the morning (these may be related). At bedtime, he often smiles at me and says, “You can stay here with me.” And there is something so appealing about the way he says it that the prospect of sitting at the end of the bed watching him read seems momentarily attractive. He regularly trots downstairs after bedtime and announces dolefully, “I can’t sleep” and then curls up in my lap looking hopeful. His kind father will often carry him back up to bed and I think he quite likes that.
Even though he is only 20 minutes younger than his brother, he has very much carved out for himself the position of youngest child which he rather enjoys.
He hates to let anything be thrown out or given away, including but not limited to, baby books, toys he no longer plays with, old socks with holes (they might be useful), school lunch bags (I could draw on them) and clothes he has grown out of. Like my mother, he does not belong to the throw away generation. He is still sad that we moved house. He is now, however, resigned to his new accommodation.
Altogether he is a charming and slightly unusual combination of occasional determination and a general willingness to yield; interest and sympathy in the problems of others with no concern about what others might think of him; no interest in almost all foods (including sweets) other than cereal and Yorkshire pudding (of which I am heartily sick).
Together at Eight
Although I try to talk about them separately and not compare too much; it is inevitable that two eight year olds in the same family and the same class in school are going to have a lot in common. They are great friends but they also annoy each other regularly. They have lots of common interests and can talk together about Skylanders in phenomenal detail.