My kids just turned 7 and 9, so it’s time for a yearly update of what ages 6 and 8 were like. I wrote a post a year ago called 5 and 7 Have Been the Best and Easiest Years Yet. But guess what? This past year was even better! It’s different for everyone, but I really have been enjoying parenting as the kids get older because they’re so much more independent, but still feel like little kids who want to hang out with me. I just hope this phase doesn’t end too quickly, and they become moody tweenagers who are too cool for me before I know it!

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I don’t think either kid changed too much from 5 to 6 for Olive and 7 to 8 for Charlie. They still continue to be the best of friends, but I don’t think they would be as close if we were living in the US, as they probably would be busy with their individual friends like they were before we moved to the Philippines. Here they share all the same friends, do the same activities, and have spent the past three years together 24/7. They had no choice but to be best friends!

Charlie and Olive have become even more voracious readers as chapter books are much more addicting than picture books. I’ve surrounded our home with as many books as I can and watching how much they love reading makes my heart sing! Olive transitioned from picture books to chapter books so we donated almost all our picture books, and Charlie devoured longer chapter books, rereading series like Harry Potter over and over again. Plus all the reading means they don’t miss their lack of screentime. Due to the negative effects of screentime on Charlie, we’ve almost completely eliminated screentime from our daily lives the past six months. For the most part it’s been out of sight, out of mind.

O L I V E  –  A G E  6

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Olive is such a sweet girl. She says I love you multiple times a day, loves to snuggle, and wants to be with me 24/7. She still feels like a little kid in that way. She is super easy going, and I can’t remember the last time she had a tantrum or meltdown, though she definitely had a couple when she was 5. When she and Charlie have a fight, I always ask her to give in because I know Charlie won’t (regardless of who is wrong), and she usually relents. This chart on ADHD Executive Age really changed the way I think about Charlie’s behavior because it shows that he has an emotional maturity age lower than Olive’s, and I think it’s been accurate with our family.

Olive has always been the one we underestimated because she’s much quieter and Charlie seems more obviously “bright,” but she always surprises us with her intelligence and creativity. For instance, she is so good at Scrabble (Charlie hasn’t ever beat her), regularly getting 50 bonus points for using all her tiles. I even got her a Scrabble dictionary for Christmas!

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Olive thrives on the routine of school. She loves her small class which consists of 10 students total, a mix of first and second graders. It’s only 3 hours a day, but that will change next year when she enters third grade, which is unfortunately the highest grade her school offers. Finding this community in Olive’s school has been life-changing for us because we didn’t have anything like that in El Nido where our friends were a huge mix of different ages from 25 to 55. Now we have tons of birthday parties, playdates, and activities. After living here for 3 years, it finally feels like we’re settling in. Or perhaps it’s just me who’s finally settled in.

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Both Olive and Charlie love taekwondo, which they do three times a week. It has been amazing for them to learn a discipline, as well as learn more about their Korean heritage. Olive’s favorite hobby is art, and I want to enroll her in some art classes this year, in addition to dance as she’s shown an aptitude and interest in that. Oh yah and surfing lessons for Olive, while Charlie will be learning scuba!

C H A R L I E  –  A G E  8

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Many people have commented on how bright Charlie is over the years, but we try never to tell him he’s smart. I’ve read articles on how kids that are told they did well because they are smart vs. having worked hard develop an aversion to making mistakes, and I already see these perfectionistic tendencies in Charlie. For instance he’s been having trouble learning his forms in taekwondo, much moreso than Olive, so he tells me that he doesn’t care about getting his green belt. He would rather not try at all than risk failure. He gets in his head and really gets stuck there.

Charlie was very intense from 3-7 years of age, but has really mellowed out the past two years. The 8th year wasn’t without some meltdowns here and there, but they were infrequent and much less intense than when he was younger. He’s no longer little like Olive — technically he’s entered his tween years at the age of 9 — but he still needs his mommy! He has a lot of fears and regular nightmares, and on those nights he sleeps in my room. Honestly I worry about Charlie a lot because I’ve seen signs of depression and anxiety in him since he was 3. I see so much of myself in him, and it worries me. Depression and anxiety hit me like a million bricks and has shaped so much of my life. I pray that he doesn’t have to go through what I did!

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Charlie would be in fourth grade if we were in the US, and with his December birthday he was always the youngest and smallest kid in his class. Though we are homeschooling here, which is much better suited to his personality, if we return to the US, I would definitely hold him back one year. He would do fine academically, but I want to give him a chance to grow, and with his ADHD, his maturity level would definitely be below his peers.

Charlie is such a good big brother and truly loves his little sister. Whenever he buys something for himself with his allowance, he makes sure to always buy something for Olive too. It’s so sweet when he buys something for her even when she’s not there. I think many of us idealize and try to recreate the positive dynamics we had in our families we had growing up, and Charlie and Olive’s relationship reminds me of the dynamic I had with my little brother growing up. My brother and I are close to this day and I hope that will hold true for them when they’re 40 too!

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I constantly worry that I’m messing these little humans up, especially as I’ve been solo parenting the past six months. But because it’s just us, I actually have way more patience with them and truly appreciate this time together. It’s hard being apart from Mr. Bee because the kids love their dad oh so much. Our life is so extremely complicated right now and not normal at all, but we’re trying to make the best of it. And we are proud of these little humans.