Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, states, “In the ninth year the child really experiences a complete transformation of its being, which indicates an important transformation of its soul-life and its bodily-physical experiences.” As with much of Steiner I find an intrinsic truth among the woo. At nine and a half Fox Boy is shifting slowly and seismically toward putting both his feet on the ground.
I mean this literally as well as figuratively. Fox Boy is a child who has always run on his toes, long, tangled hair streaming behind him, singing, staring, asking complicated questions about God. He has my father’s beautiful deep set, green-gold eyes, and on his thin, pallid face they look like he has the oldest of old souls. Right before he was born his father had a visit from a hummingbird that he felt was a preview of Fox Boy’s soul. Fox Boy was in a terrible accident when he was five, leading to brain surgery. The experience was harrowing, but the way he emerged from the trauma and coma seemed almost mystical: like a violent, involuntary trepanning.
He went into Kindergarten two months after it started, not knowing anyone. He had a thick white scar across the crown of his head like a headband, and the dirty remnants of surgical glue the stuck to his temples for almost a year. He seemed either unable or unwilling to learn or connect with other kids, he hid all day, feral under a table. No one knew how far he’d come back, and he went to doctor and (occupational, physical, plain old) therapist appointments instead of play dates. He started growing his hair to hide the scar and the glue, and then to be distinct and beautiful. He is doing fabulously now in the third grade, but his neuro-diversity seems easier for me to grasp as shamanistic, even in boring meetings in the SPED classroom.
He was always bewildered when people thought he was a girl (which was all the time, particularly when we left Portland), he saw himself as an adventurer, a prince. I hated that hair every morning as I combed it and he sobbed, always refusing pony tail and man buns. As I loved it because it increased his magic, a story I was clearly deeply complicit in perpetrating. His hair was like Samson’s hair; a bulwark of strength against further danger and loss. It seemed to me to be a prayer, even when I resented it, to oil it and brush each day, a connection between me and my bristly boy, like the connection between a religious Sikh and God.
And then one day he asked me to cut it. He said he wanted a “Skater Cut”, and my heart lurched. I hadn’t realized I was so invested, but it is his damn hair and so we looked at hundreds of photos of shaggy haired boys until he found the right one. When we went to Spokane at Easter, we went to see some old friends who had just opened a barber shop (Classic Cuts, they were excellent) and it seemed like kismet. He looks so cute! So much older! SO less magical!
My dear boy is becoming his own person and it is so amazing and I may not survive. He doesn’t want to talk about his vast world of imaginary friends anymore (although he is still very concerned for their survival, ala Inside Out) or dress up in costumes. He is curious in the real world and the people in it. He is torn between wanting to still believe in Santa and wanting to confront me in my hypocrisy . He no longer asks me to send him to Hogwarts or believes I have a shrink ray in my closet. He is hilarious and sarcastic and kind, and has new friends I find dubious. He is struggling terribly with these transitions, but I need a moment to grieve for myself as well. I am in love with this new boy, but I will never quite get over my magic, hummingbird Fox Boy with the long, long hair.
On Turning Ten
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.