I’ve seen the article “Quit Doing These 8 Things For Your Teen This Year If You Want To Raise An Adult” zipping around FB and I like it. While “harassing your kid to be on time” wasn’t on the list it’s none-the-less one I feel caught doing most mornings. Can’t everyone see the time slipping by during yet another leisurely breakfast? How do they think they can make lunch, get dressed, pack their bags and get out the door in ten minutes when it’s never been done before? Most mornings I’m a buzzing time bomb, calling out “It’s 7:31. Now it’s 7:43!” No more. I’m adopting the mantra that learning to be late is a good thing. If you don’t like the consequences then change your behaviours.
My parental safety net default was put to the test this past morning. My daughter’s bus leaves at 8:03. As far back as 7:35 I could see things were going to go south. Come 7:55 I was sure of it. By 8:04 it was confirmed. I watched passively as the temperature rose and the tornado grew. When the bus whizzed past and the backpack fell to the floor, open, amidst a dizzying twirling teen I waited patiently for the realization to hit, options to be considered. I was available to fill in as the emergency taxi this time but I’m adjusting my routine to be around less during departure time. It’s not that I want to see my daughter stressed out in the morning. It’s more about wanting her to learn the consequences of messing up. Taking responsibility for ourselves is a lifelong pursuit and far better it be over a missed bus then something that has real effect later on in life.
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to stand back and watch. We’ll see how things go for the rest of the week…
I guess I shouldn’t complain. A week and a bit into school and so far there are no complaints. When I see the kids and ask them how their day was, I’m hoping to hear about funny things that happened with friends, class updates, teacher stories, team goings-on. Pretty much every day the answer I get is “Fine”.
I suppose fine is a lot better than: “Awful”, or “I hated my day and I can’t wait for summer.” or “That was the worst day I’ve ever had in my entire life. It could be the worst day anyone has every had in the entire world.” Answers like these would lead to bigger conversations than I’m probably really ready for. I’ve had a busy day too and getting dinner prepped and after school activities in line is enough of a distraction.
I’m a parent.
So, I’m unrealistically looking for a glimpse, just a sliver of insight into how my kid’s day went so perhaps the answer they are giving me is just…
We all know the days are long and the years are short, but summer, it just seems to fly by every year. There is a palpable freedom that comes with the summer months, best appreciated during one’s school years. It’s an easy comparison: sitting a desk or riding your bike/going for a hike/eating ice cream in the middle of the day/going to camp/wondering what to do to fill a day… Summer comes and we all take a deep breath to relax and when we release fully September has hit us and the new year starts.
When the kids were young I used to lie awake at night wondering if they’d like their teacher, if their friends would stay their friends, what they’d learn to love, what they’d learn to move on from. Now, with high school a part of our lives and another in middle school I find myself writing this late at night before the first day of school wondering, will they like their teacher, will their friends stay their friends, what will they learn to love and what will they learn to move on from. I guess not much has changed but it feels like the effects of these questions becomes more intense as they get older.
Thanks for the great memories summer 2017. Let’s make some new great memories over the next school year.
Is it just me or has this school year been the classic sprint marathon? As I stumble into the last day of June and the hopes and promises (and inevitable question “Dad, what should I do now?”) of summer, it feels like a good time for some self reflection.
September is always mental. It’s the true start of any year. School starts. Sport/art/community activities start and the malaise of summer days are quickly replaced with racing to an after school program (or two), the need to pack lunches, sign forms and plan and pay for winter activities. October was just as big a punch in the face, as was November. December offered a faint bit of hope – the calm before the holiday storm. January charged in and February and March were a blur. April offered a wee respite with winter activities ending and a week or two before summer activities began but it’s now a distant memory. May passed in a day and June has been the long painful crawl to the end.
I know it’s not just me as I’ve talked to other parents who’ve said they are “done”. We’ll use the next couple of months to recoup and refresh with days on the dock or hikes in the mountains depending on where we all live. G&T’s are not geographically specific. So let’s raise a glass of our favourite beverage and cheers our effort. We made it through another year of permission forms, sick kids, car pools, meal plans, laundry needs, project deadlines, homework dread and never ending cheque writing. Enjoy the summer and rest up. September is looming in the distance…
Parenting doesn’t come with a play book. Things happen unexpectedly and I try to be pretty close to right more often than I screw it up. The jury is still out on whether I’m succeeding or not.
So was the case tonight when we were faced with the request from our daughter to join friends who’d invited her to dinner in advance of the grade 8 farewell party tomorrow. While my wife and I hadn’t formalized plans together or as a family, we’d both separately had it in our minds that we would have a family dinner after which my wife would help with any hair drying and styling needs, we’d take the family photo to capture the moment and then head down to the school together.
So, like the true rookies we are in these days of teenagers and digital planning, we fumbled. We first said yes, then reflected on our disappointment that we wouldn’t be having the dinner we imagined, then rallied to support the idea that there is a peer group that included our daughter, then doubted ourselves again over the reality that our child only graduates from grade eight once, until finally the confusion on our faces led our astute 14 year old to ask us what we were really thinking.
It may seem quaint we said, but the celebration of graduating from middle school and the traditions that go with it carry an emotional side to things that we were only just realizing at that moment. We reflected on our own grade eight graduation (my wife’s with jewelry from her parents and grandparents that she still has today and plans on wearing tomorrow night, and my own memories of being dragged out to Tip Top Tailors to buy stiff and scratchy grey flannel pants and a blazer that I’m sure were only worn that one night, and my mom crying at the playing of Pomp and Circumstance). Graduations like this may in fact be more for the parents than the actual participants because the importance of the moment can’t be fully appreciated without the benefit of time. It’s lunacy really, that as parents we work tirelessly to raise our children to be confident, independent and thoughtful people, only to feel a palpable sadness when they start to demonstrate those very qualities that we’re hoping they’ll attain.
In the end, we all felt better and agreed to let her enjoy the dinner and preparation with her friends but we made her promise that the moment we got the chance we’d be making a great fuss over capturing the occasion in an awkward and sure to be greatly treasured photograph.
My first reaction after he asked to go out and buy something else was to shut it down. I’d already taken time out of my day to go to two separate stores to buy the gifts and with dinner to make, skis to wax and driving to co-ordinate with other families, adding another trip to a store was non-negotiable. Heap on top of that the fact that I was the one pushing for this to be done ahead of the night before the exchange was to happen and I felt secure in my inflexibility. He pouted. I simmered.
After a short while he came back and explained how his secret Santa had “finally” told him what she wanted, and then it hit me. These secret Santa gift exchanges are nuts. As a kid, you’re assigned a person who you may or may not know and you’re given a limit on spending (it’s getting bigger every year as this year’s limit was $20. Twenty bucks?! I thought this was supposed to be a small thing, five bucks, tops.). I suppose the purpose of this activity is to enact thoughtful behaviour towards someone else. To take a moment to sereptiously inquire into your secret Santa recipient’s likes and interests and then search around for a worthy gift that will surprise and delight them. Here’s the reality though. It’s another thing to add to already the busiest time of the year. Kids (well my kid) are either disinterested in the melancholic notion of gift giving or blatant in assessing their recipients interests by asking them outright which eliminates the “secret” part of the giving anyway. At $20, I’m not asking my kid to take that out of his allowance and savings so now I’m on the hook for another whack of dollar store crap. Oh, and in return my kid is going to get something that ineveitably will wind up in the trash heap or the second hand store in two weeks anyway…
Ouch. Am I sounding Scrooge-like? Perhaps, but let me offer an alternative idea.
Let’s take the money we were going to spend on a kid in a privileged school who doesn’t need something else to begin with and allocate that to a charity within our town. Let’s create one of those giant fake cheques with the amount raised in the class and present that (and the actual cash) to the charity in question, take a photo and keep that in the classroom as a reminder of the value of giving to those in need. Secrets aren’t broken. Parents aren’t running around to find a gift. Kids are reinforced with the importance of helping others. Everyone wins. Isn’t that more in the spirt of the season?
And yes, I did got out with him to buy the thing she said she wanted. Sigh.