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5 Things I Don’t Understand About 11-Year-Olds

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My 11-year-old son is a cool kid. He is giving, caring and funny as hell. But he’s also at that weird tween phase, no longer considered a little kid but not yet a big, hairy teenager. And I’m noticing that he’s exhibiting some traits and doing some things that have the potential to really annoy me. I’m told, by parents of other kids this age, that these things are common to this crowd, and I guess I notice that when he’s with his friends. They all do the same awkward things! Here are five things I really don’t understand about 11-year-olds.

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1. The mustache craze. OK, this mustache thing has gotten out of hand. And I don’t even really know where or why it all began. I’m pretty sure it was a hipster thing that trickled down through middle school and is now affecting kids as young as even kindergartners. In my day, the rage was Guess jeans and Swatch watches; now it’s a hair lip. For me it was, “Look at these awesome neon jelly bracelets I got at Claire’s Boutique.” Today it’s all, “Hey everybody look at me, I have a mustache!” Why is it cool to look like a swarthy perv? I don’t understand! Kids love this mustache motif. It’s all over their binders, their T-shirts, their jewelry and backpacks. Maybe it’s because I work hard these days to fight having a natural, lady mustache that I’m in such confusion about this craze. Maybe I should just embrace it and enjoy being part of this pop culture phenomenon. Or maybe I should just continue waxing my upper lip.

2. Saying, “My bad.” When he forgets to do something or does something wrong, he says this every time. As if it were up to debate who was at fault. As if I need him to clarify.

Me: “Evan, you tracked mud on the carpet.”

Evan: “Oh, my bad.”

Me: “Evan did you brush your teeth?”

Evan: “My bad.”

Sometime in the last six months, my son has lost at least 60 percent of his hearing.

He uses it as a confession, an apology and a generic answer. Every time my son says this I reply, to his annoyance, “NO, NO Evan, it’s MY fault.” And he laughs every time and says, “It just comes out. It’s a habit!” The sad and embarrassing thing about this phrase is that I’m pretty sure I use it from time to time. There’s just something about my kid saying it to me that really bugs. The stodgy parent part of me wants to hear an “I’m sorry, mom,” or “No, I didn’t brush my teeth, mother. I will go do it now.” And also, it wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t use it ALL THE TIME. Kids love to take a phrase and play it out like mad. Don’t even get me started on their use of the word “boss.”

3. They don’t like to bathe. They beg and plead with you to let them "take one in the morning." They groan and moan when you hand them a towel and point to the shower. They don’t like to bathe! Perhaps it is because they are in this weird, in-between phase where they are not yet old enough to care if they smell and not young enough to like to play in the bath anymore. But it’s gross, and I don’t get it.

4. Their hearing starts to get bad. Sometime in the last six months, my son has lost at least 60 percent of his hearing. He’s not able to hear me when it’s time to finish homework, when it’s time to sleep and when I’ve asked him a question that requires some time to think of an answer. The 40 percent of his hearing still intact is used to eavesdrop on my phone calls and juicy conversations with friends, and to hear every single lyric through his headphones.

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5. They know everything. Perhaps this is a trait that sticks all the way through one’s 20s. But, good hell, this kid is an expert on EVERYTHING. An expert according to himself, that is. He knows about everything from sports to science to celebrity gossip. He will throw statistics out that have no basis in any real study. His justification is a feeling in his gut. And for an 11-year-old, that’s as good as science.

I may never understand these deep, perplexing traits of an 11-year-old, but it’s probably OK. And I’m pretty sure I displayed these same or similar traits when I was that age. Except I didn’t want a mustache, and I did know everything. So maybe I ought to, for the most part, just let these traits play themselves out.

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