This parenthood thing

Just when I feel like I am getting the hang of this parenthood thing I enter a new stage where I am learning all over again

Our oldest is in her senior year of high school. And she is right in the thick of her college applications and working hard to make sure her grades for this semester stay strong.

I am trying to be as supportive as possible and be a sounding board when she needs it.

And I am excited for her…senior year will be a fun year in the end and life beyond high school will be the journey she is clearly seeking out.

But i find myself becoming increasingly wistful. I can’t seem to get my head around that this baby girl that came into our lives some 17 years ago is moving on. This is coming from the guy who is open to life changes and embracing the unknown.

And yet I remember teaching her to walk and then ride a bike like it was just yesterday. And how we go from seeing each other nearly every day to a new life when she is out of the house seems beyond comprehension at this moment.

I am happy for her.

But I am sad for me.

Yesterday

Yesterday was my birthday. 

We stayed inside and ordered take out from the local Thai place. 

We talked about the days events. And I was reminded of the birthday wisdom Ellie dropped last year

After dinner the kids brought me into the family room. They connected my daughter’s laptop to the big screen via Airplay and then played a 5 minute video they created for me. 

It was hilarious and unbelievably touching. I was laughing on the outside and my heart was beaming on the inside. 

I’m so grateful. 

Every year, as the weather gets colder around here, James and I have a little tradition. We bring in all the outdoor furniture cushions. 

And each year, he stacks them up at the bottom of the back staircase so he can take a few flying leaps before we store them in the attic for the winter season. 

It’s our thing. 

The next chapter

I’ve heard it described that raising kids at different ages is sort of like different formats of tests, if you will. 

The baby/toddler years is like a true/false exam. It’s obvious, your job as a parent is to love them, protect them, feed them, etc.

As they get older, during elementary school years, parenthood moves from true/false to multiple choice. Which schools are best, how to juggle after school activities, how to manage online vs offline etc. 

The teenage stage is more like an essay test.

The answers are not in front of you. In fact, there may not be a right answer at all. 

We have three children. The oldest one has entered the essay test stage. She is dealing with them as an adolescent and we have them as parents. Sometimes the three of us work together, sometimes we freestyle. Each moment seems to reveal new choices, new opportunities, new challenges, new risks, new experiences. Some feel familiar and many are completely new ….even though I was a teenager once before. 

I’m excited for her and this new stage of life. It’s truly wonderful. In many ways I am looking forward to it. But the old days were pretty damn great as well. And definitely much simpler. 

Where is the pause button?

My oldest daughter is going into 10th grade. School starts next week in our town.

Over the summer her AP world history teacher assigned over 300 pages of reading and a lengthy writing assignment. Her english and biology teacher also assigned summer reading. She has a test during the first week at school. 

My other daughter who is 12 had summer work and so did my 8 year old son.

I was an active kid growing up. But I also had free time. I could attend school, play sports and have time to teach myself guitar and play in an awful cover punk band. I hung out with my friends and spent time hacking away on my BMX bike or finding new wheels for my skateboard.

It felt like I had all the time in the world.

It’s fairly obvious my kids are all smarter than me. They certainly get better grades than I did and have a better work ethic. They are also better athletes. Mostly I’m proud they are kind and love each other (even if they want to kill each other and me from time to time). 

But I feel like there is tendency to push these kids well beyond what’s necessary and they are racing against the clock.

I need to figure out ways to hit the pause button. Or at least find it. 

“Your heart running around outside your body”

Sometimes parents tend to get caught up in the minutia of parenthood: the logistics of getting from one place to another without losing your shit, the weary deflection of the 34th “Why?” question of the afternoon, and all the rest. At least, I know I do. You forget to lift your head up to appreciate what you have. Author Elizabeth Stone once wrote that having kids was deciding to “have your heart go walking around outside your body”. Steve Jobs put it similarly: your children are “your heart running around outside your body”.

That’s the truest sentiment I’ve ever read about parenting; it feels exactly like that to me. Reading Eric’s writing about Rebecca, a girl so close in age to both my kids, has affected me greatly. That could be me. My kids suffering. My heart, broken and dying. Imagining one of them…I can’t even do it, the tears come hard and fast, washing away any such thoughts ~Jason Kottke, “In Memory of Rebecca Myer”

Three more years

Our oldest child turns 15 in a few days.

I remember the day she was born, the day she first laughed out loud, when she started walking and when she painted the walls in our living room when we looked away. Purple everywhere!

I’m so proud of this kid, who she is, how hard she works and what she cares about.

But it hit me like a ton of bricks that in 3years there is a very good chance she will be moving out and going to college.

And if she is anything like most kids this age, this is a time of becoming more independent, not less.

So the next three years will go faster than the last three.

I will kiss her on her birthday like I do every day I see her. But I’m going to do my best to enjoy the next three years with her. I know it’s not the end of our relationship but it will be an end to a chapter that I’m trying to deal with.

And in the meantime if any startups out there know how to slow down time I’m interested in hearing from you :)