Older, Wiser

jen parker
8 min readMay 24, 2023

A Different Kind of Coming of Age Tale

I got my feelings hurt by a six-year-old the other day.

It happened at the park.

I was there with my youngest, watching him contort his gangly limbs through a too-small tunnel. This place was made for smaller children, but that is not something my son would ever care about. He just turned thirteen, but he’d never regard the sandbox, play structure and spider-web-climby thing as beneath him.

Why would he give up this kind of fun just because he’s turned a certain age?? Just because that’s what other kids his age usually do? At thirteen, my son is literally in his prime. And those other kids? They can be suckers on their own time. They don’t know what they’re missing.

My son always brings a bag of small race cars to the park. He hauls them to the top of the slide, lines them all up, blocking everyone else from using the slide as an actual slide, and narrates the mounting race drama like a color commentator in a booth. One of the racers always gets off to an early lead; one of them always…dun, dun, duuunnn: cheats!

Some days my son brings his cars magnanimously, not just sharing, but telling kids they can take them home with them if they want; other days he doesn’t like when a kid gets within social distance of the cars.

And while it is hardly conventional park etiquette, I consider this his prerogative.

I know a lot of people think young kids are supposed to share all the time, like miniature socialists who should be willing, if not overjoyed, to put all their toys in a communal pot to be used freely by all. But after a long career of cajoling proprietary kids to give stuff up and pass it around, I’m just no longer one of those people.

Believe me, I did all the bargaining required of early parenthood, sweaty, negotiating with irrational dictators over the release of a hostage, usually a 99 cent Hot Wheels car. But I can no longer say if this particular brand of stress was worth it.

My oldest did not like sharing very much when she was younger. I’ve teased her about it for years because I too was a kinda stingy oldest — when you’re born to everything being yours, and then have to switch to an ours mentality as siblings come along, well, it kinda blows.

Still, despite these beginnings, my oldest’s grown into one of the most generous of spirit people I know (who, yes, still gets…



jen parker

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