This week part of Cecilia’s homework involved coming up with words that described herself using the letters in her name. The note to parents encouraged us to help them use reference books, like a dictionary or thesaurus. After digging through basement boxes for 20 minutes, I did manage to find a dictionary. It had that peculiar, but lovable, old book smell and Ce found it slow and laborious to use, but we worked through a number of words.
As it grew later and she grew more tired, she eventually gave up and I heard her say, “Alexa, how do you spell ‘considerate?’” I started to say something then stopped. Is there value in knowing how to use a dictionary? Of course. Is there more value for Cecilia in learning how to interact with and ask the type of questions an AI can respond to? Probably.
Later, I had a question for Alexa. “Alexa do you know how to do new math?” Sadly, she was just as confused as I am.
How much do you let out the parental leash? How much autonomy do kids need? That’s a question loaded with all sorts of anxieties for today’s parent, especially when just about everything we consume is geared to grab our attention with clickbait headlines or crazy, edge-case scenarios. I don’t know. Organizing or dictating your life around the worst case scenario seems like a very stressful way to parent. I already consume enough wine.
Now, some questions are easy. Math homework? Short leash. Sharp knives, short leash. Practicing the trombone? Long, long leash, preferably in another room.
But what about the bus stop? Somehow, the bus stop has become the nexus of public and private parenting decisions. Do I wait with them? Do I drive them down to the bus stop? Do I pick them up?
On Friday, the girls walked home alone from the bus stop. It’s not exactly two miles. It’s not even two tenths of a mile (but there is a hill!) They were not kidnapped or harassed by strangers. They chatted quite happily and walked on the sidewalks. How do I know? Dash and I were watching from the window the entire time. You can let out the parental leash, but it doesn’t mean you have to drop it.
I can’t wait to see how they feel about walking home by themselves in January.
We are still in a phase where we get reports from the kids on everything. Every slight. Every poke. Every prod.
Every good deed.
I’ve been trying to tell the girls that what’s important is the willingness to be kind, the intention, not the result or any acknowledgement you might get.
You can imagine the blank looks of incomprehension that I get.
Getting into the habit of being kind for itself, not for the expectation of a reward or recognition, but for the happiness of others, even your sister, is a better way to get through life. The world has a way of boomeranging back good feelings.
“But if I help her get dressed and don’t tell you, is she dressed?”
As always, I’m hoping for parenting lessons through osmosis. Planting seeds of kindness. Can’t hurt, right. It’s either that or open more wine.
So fourth grade starts next week and we’ve been talking about goals. Or, I have been talking. Cecilia has been sort of nodding along and hoping for an endless summer. She is excited about a new school and the trombone, but math…not so much.
We’ve been trying to talk to her about mindset and approach. Throughout the summer, we’ve been asking her (torturing her) to do some math, reading and piano practice. Some days it’s great and all done in 30 minutes. Other days I want to peel off my toenails with rusty pliers to make it stop. There’s rarely a middle ground with Cecilia.
The expectations and activities don’t change. Just Ce. I’d love to see her embrace, if not with enthusiasm (a man can dream!), then at least an acceptance that certain things just need to get done. Better to approach those tasks with motivation, positivity and curiosity.
So far, it feels like I’m watering fallow ground. But parenting is nothing if not persistence, right? Persistence and lots of flash cards.
One measuring stick for today’s parent for the success or failure of almost any venture is the amount of times the kids ask for, think about, glance at, or try to sneak in tablet time.
Amount of times this happened in the last week on PEI? Zero. That feels like money well spent right there.
Prince Edward Island exceeded our expectations in just about every way. And given Michelle’s almost religious fanaticism in the last year about the place I think that’s saying something.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what it was about PEI that made such an impression. They make odd bedfellows, but it reminded us how we’ve felt visiting Hawaii. The confluence of beautiful scenery, swaths of undeveloped landscape, and unhurried pace make it almost impossible not to step out of the flow, unplug and truly relax.
The weather cooperated magnificently. The girls got along. The hand pies were outstanding. The beaches sang. The sea glass sparkled. Green Gables did not disappoint. Many pounds of mussels were consumed. It was a great week.
It all came to end on Saturday and, fittingly, with it came the rain, a drenching downpour that chased us off the island, but first we had to pack. And get more hand pies for the road…
We crossed the border yesterday and the girls learned an important new term: international data plan. You need to pony up some extra money to keep Spotify, Netflix and tablets running in Canada.
We made it to Prince Edward Island yesterday and Michelle is living her dream. Even without the help of some fortifying wine, I’m pretty sure she believes she has walked onto the set of Anne of Green Gables.
You don’t have to squint very hard to be transported back a hundred years. Outside of a few areas, the lack of development is both startling and refreshing. It’s large blocks of pines, tracts of farms and open views to the water.
Not a bad place to spend a week of vacation. Unplugged, unhurried and uninterested in anything resembling normal responsibilities.
That’s how the rest of the week will go (along with bottomless cocktails, long meals and practicing some free-range parenting), but first we had to get to the island….
We made it. Despite synced calendars, a multi-tab spreadsheet and electronic funds transfer, we somehow managed to double book camp last week. That left this week looming with an entire five days to both work and act as cruise director for the kid’s summer enjoyment.
What happened? Nothing. And it was perfect. With a little benign neglect, some help from the grandparents, and a pack of Sculpey clay, the girls made it through the week with only a few moments of whinging boredom.
Cries of boredom were ignored. Unless there was blood. Then I threw a box of Band-Aids down the basement.
Conference calls were taken. Work was done. Less than a case of wine was drunk. I’m calling that a successful week as a summer cruise director.