My eight-year-old daughter and her friends giggle and whisper behind closed doors when playing at our house. They’re quite obvious with their secretiveness. That I can handle. My 10-year-old son? He’s got this whole covert life, and now he’s put it in code.
I shouldn’t be surprised. A few years ago, when I was cleaning the shelves of his bunk bed/fort, I came upon a small spiral notebook. Curious, I leafed through it. (No, I wouldn’t call it snooping; it wasn’t a diary under lock and key.) There were doodles and a bunch of script signatures of his name. And then this passage, along with stick-figure illustrations: “Mommy telling [sister] to brush her teeth. [Sister] saying no. Mommy getting mad. Oh, they see me!”
A spy was in the house.
Yeah, there were more reports a few pages later. And I do recall seeing him duck around corners with pen and notepad in hand. Subtle he wasn’t. He’s gotten better. Less noisy. Sneakier.
This fall his school librarian told him about the Alex Rider series about a British teen spy. Those books fueled his interest further. Then his grandmother got him binoculars for Christmas (and a telescope, too—but for our neighbors’ sake he’s only allowed to point that skyward). He loves it when his sister has a friend over and they play outside, because that just expands the spying landscape, as it were.
Earlier this year I was filling out some paperwork about him for a program at the school and was asked about his career aspirations. Career aspirations? An elementary school kid who knows what he wants to be when he grows up? I guess there are some, but not in this family. Then I thought of his spying, and how he says he’s going to grow up to be a spy. Or own a pizza parlor. Or be a spy who owns a pizza parlor as his “cover.” So what the heck, I wrote that. A spy counts, right? (Then again, now that I’ve blabbed it to the blogosphere, he’s not off to a great, anonymous start.)
Lately, he’s taken the secret life to a whole new level. It seems fourth grade is a popular time for all this spy stuff. My son has formed a (non-official) spy club at his school; members are busy learning secret codes (they’re studying real, honest-to-god codes in books) to write secret messages. He handed me one the other night to see if I could decipher it. Come on, there weren’t even any vowels in it. I gave up after a few minutes.
“Great!” he said as he disappeared to his room to finish his coded note.
I hope he still uses some stick-figure drawings to illustrate his comments in that little spiral book.