I made good on a four year promise this week when I took Cecilia to Six Flags as part of her twelfth birthday. Be very careful what you casually say when they are eight. Kids remember everything.
We planned, we plotted, we watched the weather, we figured out the best routes and the best deals. And things mostly worked out. We had a great day. I hope we had a memorable day but I don’t really get to choose.
Despite all the planning and stress, what I’ve heard her mention most to others afterward wasn’t the coasters or wild rides but the M&M design on the park’s entrance steps, the various tattoos on the people in line, the frappuccino she got at Starbucks on the way, and the Nutella pizza the restaurant had on the menu.
We can stress about perfect summer vacations or special birthdays but mostly its the little ordinary moments that stick. Big or little, I’m happy she will at least remember who else was there with her.
When I was growing up, 90% of my time and energy was spent on sports. The other ten percent was used up with SimCity strategies and reading sci-fi novels. But mostly it was sports. Any sport.
The girls have zero interest in sports, at least right now. Not even if it involves glitter. And that’s fine with me.
My life is better and richer now with musicals, bubblegum pop, trombone, dance recitals, and crafts.
Being a parent isn’t easy but a lot of it is common sense. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t try to give them your childhood. Don’t close your mind. Adjust.
I started thinking about the bridge, the traffic, the timing and had to stop myself. What exactly am I rushing to? Why rush through what little remains of their childhood?
We only have so many summers together. With Cecilia we are already more than halfway through our guaranteed eighteen.
I’ll certainly spend a good amount of time stuck on Route 6 this July and August but I’ll be stuck with the kids, too. Or maybe they’ll be stuck with me.
I had a realization this week that feels obvious when typed out here: it’s impossible for kids to understand what being a parent is like.
I don’t just mean that they are being obstinate or immature. I mean they literally can’t understand. They have no frame of reference for understanding. I’m not sure why that took so long to sink in. And it made me feel better about some of their reactions to (what they see) as my constant, annoying reminders or worrying. All they understand is the outcome. And they don’t often like it. And that’s ok.
Their reactions and inability to understand isn’t their problem. It’s my problem. It’s the burden of parenting. So I just have to Dad-up and deal with it and ask them to empty the dishwasher again, or turn off that light again, or put on their helmet, or go over the flash cards, or give them an embarrassing hug in public one more time.
Even if it’s baffling to them and obvious to me.
Wait, maybe that’s how they feel about glitter?
Michelle and I joined a fitness challenge recently, not because we feel out of shape or need to lose weight, more because we just felt in a rut both food-wise and exercise-wise.
The challenge includes access to trainers, workouts, meal plans, and nightly motivational-type videos. Typically I half listen while Michelle watches but we have noticed that Cecilia has taken an interest and seems to drift into the room when Coach Jeff is preaching and it reminded that parenting moments can happen in the strangest and most unexpected places and we should be prepared to use all of them.
Driving back and forth from dance or sports can seem like a chore but that’s when I hear the most about their days. Sitting and reviewing math homework is not something I really want to do after dinner but that’s often when she gets chatty. Can’t waste any of those opportunities.
Coach Jeff talks a lot about resilience, putting the work in now for results later, discipline, and accountability. All good things for her to hear and better that it’s coming from him than me. Changes the frame a bit. It’s not just Dad doing an adult rant in a Peanut’s cartoon voice.
Now if I can just get him to slip in a mention of flash cards.
The girls had a half day of school on Friday. Cecilia walked to town with friends for lunch and shopping. Typically the shopping involves Starbucks, candy, and random…trinkets (trying to be generous) from the local bookstore. This time was much the same, trinkets included, but she also bought a book. On her own. With no prompting or side eye parental guilt. My hope is that my long twelve year quest to raise a reader is starting to bear fruit.
Lewin’s equation states that behavior is a function of a person and their environment. Our habits and actions are largely determined by our surroundings. So to build a reader, surround them with books. Show them you’re a reader. Celebrate libraries and bookstores. If they aren’t surrounded by books, how else could they possibly become a reader?
It’s not like flipping a switch but, shhhh, I think it’s working.
A few weeks ago both girls did their piano guild auditions. In another few weeks, they both have their dance recitals. Both things require practice and commitment. Both girls did fine at their auditions. And I’m sure they will do fine at their recital. But I had the nagging sense, in my mind, that they could have done better. They could have practiced more, worked on those rough spots more. It bothered me that they couldn’t or didn’t see this. They were happy with their performances and shrugged off any mistakes.
Why was I getting upset? Why did I care more than they did?
Which is ridiculous and mostly just me projecting my baggage onto them. I’m sure they will learn to care more as they mature but they are also kids and, I often forget, feel and interpret things differently than me. And my adult way isn’t necessarily right or more correct. A kid’s innocence shouldn’t be corrupted too early.
Maybe I should take that lesson and shrug more things off, too.