Dexter is 11 next week. I know this because not only did I give birth to him, so I’m pretty sure I’ll always remember the date, but in the three months running up to his birthday, Dexter is always there to remind me. Every. Single. Day.
I kid you not. I have never known anyone to get so excited about their birthday and it’s great to see him so excited! Because when you get to my age, you sure as hell aren’t excited about it.
He will be 11. There has been much discussion about what he wants for his birthday, where he wants to go, who he wants to go with. Also much debate about the fact that he can’t have everything he wants and if he has A then he can’t have B.
I’ve been given a verbal Top 5 list of things he wants and herein lies the problem. Other than the obvious expense of course (because he definitely doesn’t want anything cheaper than £50) he wants an Xbox One for his birthday. He’d also like a new Chelsea kit but the Xbox is what he really wants. As much as I want to make him happy, I struggle at the best of times to get him off the console he already has and so if I buy him a new one, maybe I’m just reinforcing the idea that I’m OK with him playing on it. (I should point out in our hypothetical discussion of what I will buy him, he knows that if he gets an Xbox, he has to sell his PS3 – I definitely draw the line at him having two!)
I offset his love of gaming by knowing he plays football at least three times a week and if I want to go to the seaside at the weekend, he’ll come with me (he might not like it at the time, but he always enjoys it once we’re there). He plays netball after school, and football every lunchtime … BUT, I can’t help but feel I’m failing as a Mum if I facilitate his favourite sedentary hobby.
The thing is, I can’t keep comparing his childhood to mine. Yes, I was out exploring or bike riding a lot as a child, climbing trees and going down the ‘Chalk Pit’, but technology wasn’t an option back then. I was 12 before I was even allowed a TV in my room (a black and white one at that) and I loved my stereo more than anything in the world but again, that was a birthday present when I was around that age. In fact, come to think of it, I’d spend as much time in my room listening to music and watching Grange Hill as Dexter does playing FIFA.
The Xbox or PS3 is their equivalent. I’ve just let him have a (closely monitored) Instagram account, because all of his friends have one. What on earth does a nearly 11 year old want with an Instagram account? I have no idea, but he loves it. He also loves giving me daily Instagram facts, such as who has the most Instagram followers or which footballer is the most popular. To be fair, most of the facts are football related and I zone out somewhat, but part of me is pleased to see he is at least passionate about something.
He’s growing up fast and even though I’ve gone through this before with Ben, this generation, ten years later, is even more high maintenance. Perhaps that’s not the right phrase, but there are definitely different dynamics I have to think of with Dexter than I did with Ben. Ben was all about the Pokemon, Dexter is all about social media.
I sometimes worry that as a single mother trying her best to raise boys (because believe me, the parenting doesn’t stop when they turn 20!) somehow it’s never good enough and I’m missing a trick. There are only so many hours in the day and I have to constantly juggle work, parenting, finding a house, and everything else … and there is just me to do it all.
I know I can only do my best and I take comfort from knowing that my boys are, for the most part, happy kids so I must be doing something right. And as for Dexter’s birthday present, I know what I’ll get him … but better not say it here in case he sees it! We’re going to go out for an early dinner with the family and he wants to Facetime Ben and his cousin Vicki and sit the phones at the end of the table so it’s just like they’re there!
He’s not a demanding kid during the rest of the year and so if I can make him happy on his birthday, I’ll definitely try my best. But tween life is hard – for both of us. He’s convinced his voice is breaking and he’s seen one rogue armpit hair, but, at least for now, he’s still my ten-year-old baby who is growing up just a little too fast.