Life with Liz: A new year of adventures
Eighth, sixth and fourth grade have arrived.
Keeping with the trend of this year, I’m about two weeks behind writing about it. I think this is the first year that I really feel like I have big kids, and not just because one of them is now over 6 feet tall. At the end of last year, I was still laying out uniforms and packing lunch, and now just a few short months later, my main function is as alarm clock.
Maybe it’s the new house, maybe it’s the new year, maybe my kids are just finally hitting the age where they are fully functioning without me breathing down their neck, but I’m trying to enjoy it to the fullest, rather than missing being needed for every little thing.
The boys have worked out a system. Once I wake them up, G heads right out to do his morning farm chores. Basically, he gets out of bed so he can go play with his chickens for a few minutes. This seems to have cured his chronic need to get just five more minutes of sleep every morning. While he’s out in the barn, A goes through his morning ablutions, getting his hair just right, checking his complexion, and putting in his contact lenses. Oh, the joys of adolescence! Since this routine takes longer than chicken time, G usually heads to breakfast next. After I’ve been updated as to the status of all the poultry, it’s time for him to head upstairs to get dressed.
Then, A comes down and starts to make decisions about his lunch. Although he’s insisting on packing this year, he’s also gotten way better at actually packing his own lunch. This is our one-on-one conversation time, and usually revolves around what after-school activities he has on the calendar for the day, and how he will be nicer to his little brother, who is now on campus with him and involved in many of the same activities.
I know A was less than thrilled about having G back in the same building with him, and the first day was rough. I’m pretty sure they had a session where A instructed G to pretend he doesn’t know him EVER, but after a week of coordinating band and stage crew practices, the two of them finally seem to be rediscovering the bond that they had when they were very young and were each other’s sole playmates.
Once the boys are squared away, it’s time to get E up, although most mornings, she’s already wide awake, since the boys have all the stealth of a herd of elephants. Once we get the boys out the door, we have our own quality time, which usually involves me putting her hair into braids or ponytails or slapping on a quick coat of nail polish. We also make our plans for after school, when again, we have a few uninterrupted hours of girl time before the boys are finished with their activities.
Our favorite things to do are meal plan or get dinner started, and she’s becoming quite a good little sous chef. I’m also grateful for the quiet after-school hours when we can sit and really focus on her homework and reading. E has always needed a little more help than the boys do, and it’s nice to have undivided time to work together.
I am becoming a huge fan of extracurricular activities now that they mainly revolve around school. Sending the boys out the door in the morning, and then not having to spend every evening running them to different practices gives me hope that we will survive the next few years, until they start driving themselves. I’m also foolish enough to think that when they do come back home after hours of being away, they are more willing to sit and talk to their old mother and tell her how their day was. Maybe they even missed me a little bit?
Looking backward, it’s easy to remember the good parts of every stage of their childhood, and forget the bad ones, and I’m sure this one will be no different. I could already do without the mouthiness that comes with the teenage years, but this feels like one of the sweeter spots that we’ve been in lately. Having kids that can act like fully functional humans, and even occasionally communicate like them, is enjoyable. Who knew?
I’m counting my blessings right now, because the year has gotten off to a good start. My kids are thrilled with their teachers, and with their advisers and with their coaches. It’s such a good feeling to know that there is such a huge extended family that is so dedicated to making sure my kids do their best and excel in every area. But I’m still taking every day with a grain of salt. I know from experience how quickly things can go south.
A has an ambitious plan for this year, from student council to drama club to various sports. He’s a goal-oriented kid, and perseverance is his strong suit, but I fear that he has bitten off a little too much. Balancing it all will be a challenge, and he’s going to sink or swim. Keeping my parental mouth shut and letting him find his way will be my challenge.
For G, the battle will be reading, as it always has been. Believe me, everyone has given me their recommendations for books that finally got their nonreading kid to read, and I’ve invested in them all, and we haven’t found “that” book yet. With G, I’m hoping that it will just be enough that he has to get the reading done or he can’t do all the fun clubs and activities that he has planned. My challenge will be to let him fail if that’s what it takes to get him to read. I also need to let go of the idea that he’s ever going to be the bookworm that I am.
And, E. Well, with E the challenge is always dealing with the best and worst of my own personality distilled down into a pint-size version. That, and helping her figure out how to display her own unique style and still stay within the boundaries of the dress code, and we’ll be busy! Here’s to the adventures that await in the 2019-20 school year!
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.