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CHICAGO TRIBUNE

August 7, 2018

This is (almost) 9: A celebration of childhood’s final single-digit year

By Heidi Stevens

My son has a birthday in a few days, and it’s the last one that will keep him in single digits.

After this year, he’ll be big. Maybe cool. Maybe a little aloof. We’ll see.

Right now, he is that magical mixture of gentle and goofy, loving and live wire, tender that tries on tough, occasionally, for size.

Ten will arrive soon enough, and I’ll love that age the way I love all of my kids’ ages — with wonder and gratitude and a tiny hint of fear that I’m doing it all wrong.

But for now, I want to savor almost 9.

Maybe you know a boy who’s almost 9. Maybe you, too, are moved and delighted daily by the way he bobs and weaves between big guy and little guy, ready for the major leagues and also ready for a nap.

Almost 9 is arguing with your friends over who gets to be Steph Curry and who gets to be Kevin Durant.

Almost 9 is still crawling into your mom’s lap at the movies.

Almost 9 is toothbrushing contests with your sister before bed that dissolve into giggles and spit and, inevitably, a pajama change.

Almost 9 is showing up at a sleepover with a teddy bear that doubles as a backpack but is really, let’s be honest, a teddy bear.

Almost 9 is arguing with your friends over who gets to be Anthony Rizzo and who gets to be Javier Baez.

Almost 9 is wanting, more than anything, to be tall.

Almost 9 is giving serious thought to whom, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, you would take with you to a deserted island and settling on your mom, your sister and Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Almost 9 is saying “dude” and “bruh” a lot while you play Hot Wheels, so it’s different than, you know, when you used to play Hot Wheels.

Almost 9 is being unable to contain your enthusiasm at your sister’s sporting events and bouncing, literally, in your seat while you tell anyone who will listen how the scoring works, how the coaching works, how the award ceremonies work.

Almost 9 is arguing with your friends over who gets to be Aaron Judge and who gets to be Mike Trout.

Almost 9 is riding your bike at full speed, even when you round the corners.

Almost 9 is wanting to win at everything.

Almost 9 is starting to figure out whom you see yourself in. Maybe that’s Rizzo, and maybe that’s your older sister, and maybe that’s the boy who solves ballpark mysteries in your chapter book and maybe it’s all of the above.

Almost 9 is grappling with the questions that author Wendy Mogel says most young boys wonder: “How can I be myself without getting into trouble? Does anyone consider me a hero? What do I contribute to this family that someone else doesn’t already contribute better?”

Almost 9 is wonder-filled and wonderful. And if we’re lucky, we can all carry a hint of it into our years ahead.

August 7, 2018