Last week we spent part of the school spring break down in Charleston. It was a charming city and very walkable. And we walked. And ducked down alleys and side streets and tried to take in as much as we could. This led to questions. Quite a few questions from the girls.
When was sugar invented? Why did they paint those houses those colors? What kind of name is Harris Teeter? And many more.
For a long time, I found it mildly frustrating or annoying to have a why child. (Sidenote: of all the parenting industry insanity, I do find the phrase why child rather delightful). A why child isn’t content with simple explanations or the first answer. And this can be a bit frustrating when trying to explain things adequately to a toddler. But now that they are a little older? It’s quite enjoyable to try to answer the girl’s questions as completely as possible. It can lead to further conversational nooks and crannies that you never saw coming.
And curious is better than complacent and annoying is better than ignorant.
As we try to be the best parents for two kids navigating the ups and downs of two distinctly different ages, it’s a good time to remind myself that while I will, of course, always love my kids, but I will not love them all the time in exactly the same way. It’s impossible and unfair. It will only set everyone up for disappointment.
I think as a parent that you need to strive to make love a constant in the relationship but both kids and parents grow and change and if a strong relationship is going to survive, love has to be fluid and flexible.
Like a dance.
And dance is something I’ve becoming very familiar with as a parent.
It was a jolting revelation to get an email reminder this week for Cecilia’s upcoming high school information night. As if my birthday wasn’t enough of a nudge that time was clearly accelerating.
By the end of the calendar year, we’ll have a high schooler. Yikes! Michelle then pointed out that we first met when she was just five years older than Ce is now. I put my fingers in my ears and ran out of the room.
After 45 years, if I could go back and give my younger, Cecilia-age self some advice it would be learn these four phrases and use them often: “I was wrong.” “I’m sorry.” “I don’t know.” and “I need help.”
No need to complicate things. Simplicity leads to wisdom.
Here’s my annual birthday list of things I was grateful for last year.
There’s no time to waste. On to Saturday!
This has become one of my favorite things to compile and write each year.
My annual birthday list of the 45 things that I learned, was grateful for, or brought me joy in the last year. (last year’s list)
We had the talk about the basement again this week and as the weekend approached I could see Michelle getting more agitated. She really wanted to clean it. Better yet, she wanted to purge and eradicte clutter.
We were hosting a second birthday party for Ally. That’s right, she somehow managed to get us to agree to a second, joint birthday with her out-of-town (i.e., non-school_ friends. She looks innocent but she’s devious. In preparation for the party, we were straightening up. Or, I was straightening. Michelle was tossing things in garbage bags and sneaking out the back door.
Is a spotless house with no clutter, no mess, no evidence of kids really the goal?
There is a particular table in our basement. We’ve had it since our first shared apartment. Ally now uses it as her craft table and it is a maelstrom of mess no matter how often we attack it.
You know what? Kids are messy. The more chaos, the more mess, the more fun they’re likely having. And the more fun they are having, whether they’re toddlers or teenagers, the harder the evidence is to hide. And why, would you want to hide it?
This isn’t to say we should let everything go, but you do have to let some things go. You’re going to have to accept some mess.
Because it’s beautiful evidence. Evidence that the kids are alright. Evidence you are doing some things right.
A reminder to myself from the inimitable Dear Abbey as the holidays creep closer. As the boxes pile up on the front step and the girls make last minute changes to gift lists and we worry we’re not giving them enough and somehow giving them way too much.
“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.”
Money can make things easier, no doubt, gifts might make them temporarily smile, no doubt, but there is no substitute for that garbage time.
One silver lining to living through a kitchen renovation is the ample crazy time at home. I’ve written before about capitalizing on the garbage time with the girls: various car rides, doing chores, walking to the bus stop.
We should be just about done with the kitchen next week (famous last words) and it’s certainly provided some stories we will tell and remember for years. And no one is too important or too busy to have some crazy time at home.
These moments are the best moments. If they’re rare, you might be doing something wrong. They should be regular. Maybe not renovation projects but the crazy, stupid times that feel discardable in the moment, but stick in the mind.