They will flat out say they like you best. I mean, they like being with me because I’m their mother and when they were little I brainwashed them with that Are You My Mother book. But I don’t have the same credibility that you do. They roll their eyes and say “Yeah but you’re our mother. You basically have to think we have good ideas.” Which is absurd and unfair; I think they have dumb ideas all the time! But still, when I tell them they’re awesome it doesn’t carry much weight because all moms think that. Where did our kids learn to stereotype people?
I don’t remember what brought it up but the other day Graham chimed in, “No offense? But yeah. Daddy’s just so much cooler. Like honestly there’s just no comparison, and I really do not mean that offensively.”
And I said oh no, of course! None taken… I did marry the guy on purpose.
Because oh my gosh if DADDY thinks something is a good idea, it must be a fantastic idea. If Daddy thinks something is funny, it must be hilarious. And if Daddy says things will work out and be alright, everything’s going to be better than fine.
I’m glad one of us has serious influence because this year our children turned into pre-adolescents. No more little kid stuff. Sometime this year the bath toys were dragged out for the last time before both kids decided to start taking quick showers instead. There was a last time for Graham getting up to say “I’m scared” at bedtime, a last time that Nicolaus fit in his stripey adorable winter hat with the hangy down ear flaps. Bittersweet doesn’t quite cover the shifts that happen as our kids become more independent. It’s like nostalgicbummer/FANTASTIC. I love little kids but oh holy heck big kids are easier. For every last time some adorable thing happened, there was a last time for wetting the bed or clinging to us at the playground or oh my god why is there poop on the wall.
They almost never play with toys anymore, not even Legos unless they’ve invented a game. Whenever they’re not hanging out with friends, life is all computers, reading books, drawing, board games, building things. They are happiest when you’re making something and they can work nearby.
Even if they’re working on something totally separate, they want to be near you and talk talk talk talk. Which isn’t easy for your brain I know but you seem to enjoy it as long as they aren’t bickering.
So our life is filled with things you’ve made. That’s their normal. Doesn’t everyone make their own dishes or have their dog’s collar decorated and tagged with hand-cut sterling silver? It’s awesome because you’re giving them access to something a lot of people find intimidating: of course you can make things, and if you don’t know how you can take a class or look it up.
This year we deepened our social life, folding friends into our plans almost every day. It can be overload, but our guys have this core group of creative, compassionate, hilarious kids. They make puns. They openly mock adults in ways that are too funny to be considered disrespectful. They play Dungeons and Dragons types of games, and talk about Tolkien and science and oh my god Minecraft.
It’s a relief, isn’t it? You and I were both shy kids who tried to avoid talking to other kids in elementary school. Our boys are a little shy, but this year they’ve learned to work their way into a group of kids, how to negotiate and be a good friend. The non-stop socializationathon has radically changed our groove and it can be mentally exhausting but that’s okay. It’s totally worth the energy we put in. Bonus! They generally don’t care one flip about blending in, and their friends accept them despite their interesting style decisions.
Pre-teen hormones make life rough for Nicolaus some days, and when he’s feeling down or overwhelmed and stressed he will still talk openly with me about it. But he would rather talk to you because you, I’m told, “Get the exact perfect amount angry about things in life that are annoying.”
He also describes what it feels like to be stressed out: My brain has all these strings hanging down, little threads that are vibrating, and I need them. But people — ALL people, even people I like being around! — people zip around waving scissors. And I can repair the threads or put in new ones, but when there’s too much… that’s when I feel completely stressed out. But Daddy is the only person who doesn’t wave scissors around. Like he HAS them, but he just naturally like keeps them closed and walks around slowly. That is a bizarre metaphor but I get it. So whenever his brain makes him worried or sad, he looks for you. You navigated the little kid years plenty fine but this big kid stuff is where you’re a viking. You sat down for more Full House “Hey, Deej…” talks in the last twelve months than you probably ever imagined. Thanks for that. I do a lot of those talks too, but you know? There’s a reason Full House writers ditched mom before the pilot.
And it’s not ALL weepy heartfelt talks. The kid had a mostly excellent year. Elevens are allowed to watch movies with bad words in them. Elevens can tell when adults are joking. Elevens are allowed to start campfires and own real hatchets. Littler kids look up to elevens. Good stuff.
Graham too has benefited from the overall oldening of our kids. He got to watch Zoolander, Airplane, and The Jerk! He got to know all the bad words. He got to have his own bow and arrows, he can play outside without an adult, he can have more grownuppish pocket knives. Why do they love knives so much? They don’t stab stuff with them. It’s more about the collecting and occasional tiny boat making.
We must prepare. Teenagers are coming. They’re going to idolize someone as they hit this stage; it was going to be you or the Mythbusters or those idiots from gamer YouTube channels. The more I see them gaining confidence as they form their identity, the more I am so thankful that they picked you and that you and I have the same basic values. This is the point where it would suck to realize I’d married some kind of weird douchey materialist selfish a-wordhole. Moreso than it would’ve already sucked just from having to live with that kind of person, because now I’d be stuck living with two copycat a-wordholes.
Another year or two, you might become uncool. Who knows? But for right now they would follow you anywhere and you should take full advantage of that while it lasts.
Like trick them into going with you to insurance seminars or something.
“Well son, it looks like Graham and your mom’s head done fell off.”