The Big Seven

From The Jack Wrangler Story (by Jack Wrangler and Carl Johnes, 1984), p. 30:

… I hadn’t figured all that [that his father was a perfectionist, an achiever, and a pessimist, and had judged his son to be doomed to failure] out by my seventh birthday. I just knew I felt a new sense of uneasiness. The Big Seven. Seven is that point in life where precocious children start writing sonatas, creative children do murals in the bathroom, tough children hit the hard stuff, and healthy, normal children receive birthday cards showing a brown teddy bear holding up a big orange 7. But if you’re growing up in Tinsel Country [L.A.] and your father is  a motion picture producer and your mother is glamorous and you have two gorgeous older sisters and you’re skinny and your ears are too big and your hair is so blond and short that you look bald–well, then seven is the time when the heavy insecurities set in permanently.

(Eventually Jack Stillman, under the name Jack Wrangler, muscled up and made quite a career for himself as an object and embodiment of gay men’s sexual desire. Brief story on my X blog, with pictures, here.)

Recently, several children of my acquaintance, in the 6-to-7 age range, have said they had discovered, to their considerable dismay, that they were different from the other kids — geeky, freaky, bookish, etc. These feelings set in around this age, as the social lives of children begin to revolve around social groups at school. Some of my friends recalled experiencing a similar realization about this age, as did I.

Then Mary Ballard noted in e-mail:

This issue came up in my child and adolescent course a few weeks ago. There is some evidence that MOST children feel that they are different from everyone else and my students strongly echoed this sentiment.

Well, yes, that’s probably so, but some of these children have an accurate perception that they are not merely different but off the norms in one way or another, and that they have to find a way to cope with that. It helps to let them know that there are other kids in comparable positions, with similar feelings, and that their parents love them as they are. Even if it’s true, it probably doesn’t help to tell them that their parents went through similar experiences.

A hard lesson of parenthood: increasingly, the kids have to work things out by themselves, and the best you can do as a parent is be supportive — but intervene when there is real trouble.

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