This year wasn’t perfect, but look at us, damn it.
We’re healthier than we were a year ago. I’m no longer depressed. Business is recovering. Graham can eat food again — kid gained 13 pounds in one year! YES it is true that we now have two kids in braces, and your job is somewhat soul crushing, and my crappy year hurt us financially, and the dog does these horrible farts but for the most part? This year’s been better.
I can’t point to any one thing that made it better. I think we’ve both just worked on everything, trying to do more of the right things and less of the wrong things. Slowly it all makes a difference. Meanwhile, LOOK WHAT WE MADE.
These boys are 10 and 13, certainly old enough to work the fields and slop the cattle and milk the weeds if we were in the old farm days. But we got modern times, so instead they unload the dishes and take the trash out if I ask.
At what point are they not children anymore? I feel like this is getting out of hand. A few months ago, the big one’s voice changed. Seriously. THAT. HAPPENED. He uses deoderant and probably needs to learn how to shave at some point. It’s that awkward stage, but you know what? He doesn’t seem bothered by it. If anything he thinks it’s funny. He’s becoming this amazingly easy-going, fun person whose interests include computer games, celtic literature, European history, psychology, and trolling grown ups.
A woman recently asked him what careers he might be interested in pursuing. Immediately he said, “I’m going to be a cat exterminator.”
She looked worried so he quickly added, “By that I don’t mean that I would exterminate cats, that would be terrible! No. Although that is a very common misconception about cat exterminators. I plan to be an exterminator that cats could call, like if they need help getting rid of bugs or mice.”
She asked him how he would do that and he admitted that he didn’t honestly expect her to actually listen because most adults don’t, so he was very sorry but he had not planned for the conversation to get this far.
In other words, the kid’s got my sense of humor with your ability to deadpan no matter how far it goes. I don’t know how this will serve him in the future but for now it is a lot of fun to see in action.
And then there’s Grahammmmmm. Graham Graham Graham.
Graham is the butter for my toast and the pickles in my tea. He’s the reason I soar like an eagle on the days when I am able to do that, and when it’s a bad day oh my god he is the reason I sink under the swamp of sadness and complex emotional exhaustion. When he was a baby I said he reminded me of the ocean. YES. The ocean rolls along in waves, deep and filled with incredible wonders. But we know that we must always be vigilant because just like the ocean, in an instant he can turn into a serious asshole.
This phase is hard, but the good stuff is SO good. I have earnest hope that at the end of it a pretty high-quality human will emerge.
Thinking back on the last year all I can think is thank goodness for you. Thank you for coming home and taking over so I can go drive by myself and play loud music and just not be in his wake. Thank you for talking to him patiently and rationally when he is freaking out about something and I can’t tell if he’s really hurt or if he’s just doing this thing right now. Thank you for waiting until he is calm before telling him that dude, you can NOT treat people that way if you care about them.
I feel like you have much better instincts about how to parent kids this age. They are maturing so fast and yet they’re still kids… I have to re-calibrate my instincts every minute. Is that movie too violent or am I babying them if I say no? Is it good or bad that they cry about finding a dead bird outside — but then jump at the chance to go hunting? This is all very confusing.
Little kids are so easy! All you have to do is don’t let them die. I mean it’s tiring because looking for ways to die is their entire hobby from ages 1-8, but my job as a parent was clear. The lines were easy to draw. Yes to bubbles, no to Dr.Pepper. Yes to chalk and messes, no to screeching and hitting each other. Yes to knives, no to guns, yes to swords until someone gets hurt which was always immediately. Yes to Finding Nemo, no to Aliens, and so on.
But for a kid who looks and sounds like a proto-adult? I second-guess my instincts. Like, who am I to tell this entire other person what he can and can’t do? What’s that, you want another cookie? Well gosh, it’s fine with me — what does your mom think? Then I remember, oh WAIT. Crap. What DOES your mom think? Hmmmm. She thinks she doesn’t know if she is supposed to let him have another cookie or not. She thinks that might make her a bad mom, but she also thinks that in the grand scheme this doesn’t matter that much. She thinks she forgot to eat her own lunch and is sort of mentally tired right now and oh look! Here’s daddy. Ask him! He’ll almost definitely say yes unless there’s an actual reason to say no, and it’ll all make sense.
So yeah. They trust you, they listen to you, they think you are hilarious and cool. They pick on me and I don’t mind because I know that what they’re really doing is trying to be like you. Ha.
Anyway, yes. This isn’t as profound as I would like it to be. I would write much more but it’s difficult to put into words, and I’m hungry.
The thing is just: I like you. I love you. And when I see myself going into this next leg of parenting, working to raise two teenage boys into excellent young men, I am so so very grateful that you are here with me.