Oh no, are those hairs under his arms? Karin’s head swims.
My 6-year-old runs into the study where I am working to announce, greatly excited on her 9-year old brother’s behalf, that he has sprouted some armpit hair. My stomach does a little lurch.
‘I promise!’ she reassures me as I swivel in my chair to gape at her.
Her brother thunks into the twilight room wearing no shirt and a smug grin. He does a muscle man stance at door exposing his armpits. My head swims. He has not grown a single scraggly hair; he appears overnight to have developed a fully formed beard under each arm. It takes me a minute to regroup, get up off the chair and peer more fixedly at the site of his sudden hirsuteness. He has pencilled in curls with a brown koki pen on his smooth hairless skin. In the evening light it was completely convincing.
I give a perfunctory hoot at their tricks and they run off to go and show some other – probably less gullible – adult, No.2’s prematurely hairy armpits.
Two days later a girl of exactly his age, who I’ve known for most of her life, lifts her sleeveless arms to tuck her hair behind her ears, and my stomach does that little lurch again. She has hair there and it’s really hers. I am, again, completely unnerved.
My son and his friend hop, sweaty and muddy, into the car after rugby practice and perfume the car with what I can only imagine is the scent of rampant testosterone. I have pictures of bulgy little molecules of hormones leaking whatever the fluid is that announces childhood is on its way out. What used to smell slightly like puppy now smells like old dog. I feel giddy, not sure whether it’s emotion or the pong.
That children mature into adults and that adults grow old is obviously natural and normal and something I like to consider myself to be at ease with. It’s just that these unexpected developments are so, well, rude, really. I’d much prefer it if they sent an email stating their intent and give me a day or so to get used to the idea of evolution - in myself and in my loved ones -instead of just rocking up one day in the middle of jobs completely unrelated to the philosophies that ground one against change.
Even just an abrupt SMS would be good. ‘Warning: next time you see your husband, his chest hairs will interspersed with grey.’ Or ‘Warning: in a month’s time, when you walk into your son’s room, it will have that man smell.’ Or ‘Warning: start looking into training bras.’
I always find myself wholly unprepared for these sudden developmental strides in which the children grow further and further out of the circle of my arms which felt like they were holding babies just last year.
Later on the night of the little armpit-hair trick I walk in to switch off the bedside lights. No.3 is spread-eagled in repose, an arm flung back on pillow. A dark patch of something weird catches my eye as I flick the switch off and I turn it back on immediately: She too has also drawn on some armpit hair on her 6-year old skin.
What the hell is their hurry?
Which developments in your child’s life have taken you by surprise?
Read more by Karin Schimke