A belated 11th birthday interview

{Editor’s note: My son’s birthday is this week and he asked to look at his interview from last year. That’s when I realized that I had written it but never posted it. I wanted to add pictures but at this point I want to get it out there more and thus it is published.}

My youngest, my only son asked me just yesterday if I remembered what he had for his birthday dinner. It took me nearly five minutes to pry those memories out of my overcrowded mind. And that’s when I realized… it’s time for me to make time for journaling (aka blogging). I seem to feel that because my children are not adorably silly preschoolers there is nothing to talk about. But there is. There certainly is. And it starts with a birthday interview that is more than four months overdue.

My baby boy… he’s a scant inch away from being as tall as me but I can still call him that right? My baby boy turned 11 last fall. That’s the age where a little part of me cringes because I know the hormonal roller coaster that awaits us for the next few years. But it’s also an age where I mourn a bit because his childhood is truly behind him. He’s making decisions now for different reasons than before. He is aware of things that he was blissfully unaware of before. There is heartache in store for him and I’m not talking about the girlfriend kind (though goodness knows that’s not too far in the future either).

You know what else is in store for him? New friends. New experiences. And – if I’m lucky – more than a few good morning hugs. He no longer piles himself in my lap each morning but more often than not, he stumbles up to me sleepy-eyed with arms open for a good morning hug.

What did my huggable boy do this year? He wrestled and played baseball and football (for the first time!) and basketball. He declared that his favorite sport was whatever was in season. He ran more than one 5K with his mom and he even smiled at the finish.

He joined the school orchestra and learned how to play the bass. An instrument his orchestra teacher says his perfect for him because he’s tall and has strong hands. We learned how to play Jingle Bells and Good King Wenceslas over Christmas and forced our family to listen to our piano/bass duet.

He saw his first big shows this year – Blue Man Group in the spring and Lion King in the winter. He partook in fancy dinners in downtown Chicago. He went on dunes hikes and baked a coconut cream pie from scratch. He managed to slice his leg open while playing at a friend’s house and 15 stitches later had a scar that he’ll be able to brag about for the rest of his life.

He learned how to play gin, how to make a breakfast souffle and how to survive summer camp (aka how to live away from home for a week). He dressed up as Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs for Halloween.

These are a few of her favorite things from the past year:

color: red – because it’s the color for CPHS and IU
food: chicken curry over coconut rice
dessert: mint chocolate chip milkshake
part of school: Math – I don’t really know why but I don’t have to write a lot so that’s good.
sport: wrestling because it’s a team sport but at the same time it’s more about your self improving
thing to do: watch Dude Perfect
game: Ticket to Ride
tv show: I don’t really have one… but I did rediscover Teen Titans Go and that’s pretty fun
movie: Hoosiers
song: Twist and Shout by the Beatles. I’ve been into the Beatles lately, they are really upbeat. I set up a Beatles channel on Spotify.
book: A Night Divided
restaurant: Bartlett’s – I really liked the brunch poutine (editor’s note: it’s his mom’s favorite too!)
time of year: Fall because it’s like 65 and sunny almost all the time and the leaves turn pretty colors.
animal: A sloth because they are so ugly that they are cute.

What did you request for your birthday dinner?
On my birthday I had blue-cheese stuffed burgers with a homemade jalapeno popper on top. We had ice cream cake for dessert. But I got a birthday brunch too and then I had buffalo chicken dip and baked ham sandwiches.

What is something that can always make you smile?
Wrestling

What do you want to be when you grow up?
There’s so many things… maybe an Olympic wrestler… maybe an astronaut

If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
Glacier National Park in the summer and I would hike and maybe eat some bison.

What do you love about your family?
That we can all go on road trips together. That we play board games together. That we can all be really funny sometimes.

What were some of your best memories from this past year?
Getting a really good grade during Spell Bowl. Seeing Blue Man Group… going to camp for the first time and playing football for the first time!

What are some of your wishes for this year?
To make the Science Olympiad team. To be able to get first in the end of year wrestling tournament. I’d like to do another triathlon this summer.

Each year I interview my children on their birthdays and write a post about their year. My hope is that someday these musings will spark special memories. Search for ‘birthday interview’ over there on the right to read previous posts.

A parent of older kids

I’ve really felt a shift in parenting in recent months. I’m no longer the parent of young kids. I don’t do crafts, plan elaborate activities for a rainy afternoon, or take my kids to see children’s plays. I don’t go on popsicle walks or puddle walks or to story time at the library. I don’t pick up legos and doll clothes at night. My kids don’t need to hold my hand and sometimes they even go on adventures without me.

I am the parent of older kids. We go to the library and each wander our own way until we come together to show each other our selections. We go out to eat more often. We go on dunes hikes and long bike rides. I stay up late at night waiting for everyone to get home.

It’s different. Not bad mind you, just different. Part of me misses all the little kid action but more of me is enjoying all the new adventures I can now do with my kids.

For Mother’s Day we went on a short trail walk and out to lunch in a nearby Lake Michigan beach town. At lunch there was a table next to us with a younger family – three little kids. It made me smile to watch them all clamor for mom’s attention – both because those days are golden and because they are so tiring. I smiled because I was sitting at my table with a beer and older kids who can cut their own food and don’t need to announce something to me every 30 seconds. It’s a good phase of parenting for sure. Still… I knew that mom was going to have kids crawl into her lap later that day and ask to read a book. And I miss that.

So after lunch when we walked down to the beach and this immediately happened…. well, it made my heart happy to see that my older kids are still kids at heart. (even if they don’t ask me to read aloud to them anymore)

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The things that stay with you

I’m having one of those weeks as a parent that aren’t so fun. We had to have a hard conversation with one of the kids about commitment and effort. We all walked away feeling a little beat up afterwards. (Though I’m sure said child feels like the parents did not feel bad at all… I probably would have felt that way were the roles reversed.)

The lingering after affects involve a bad attitude, curt responses and some definite snark. One of those snarky comments surprised me and made me think “THAT’S what was taken away from our conversation???” THAT wasn’t the intent. And as a communicator I can’t get that out of my head – I must not have communicated clearly enough. (Or we acknowledge that I was communicating with a teen and that’s a whole different animal.)

And then I got to thinking…. what are the things that stayed with me from past constructive criticisms?

There’s always going to be a filter when people are trying to tell us how to do something better. It’s hard to take criticism. The times that I’ve been able to do so with grace have been good learning experiences. The other times (the many other times), still make me angry. Sometimes angry at myself. The ability to learn from criticism and make positive changes is a hard lesson to learn and like many of life’s hard lessons, it often has to come from a parent first.

But that doesn’t make it any fun for any of us. I need a drink…

 

A college visit to my alma mater

My oldest is a junior in high school and we’ve encouraged her to be proactive about her college search. We’ve taken all the kids to college campuses whenever we’re nearby for “unofficial” visits. We think that the more colleges you see, the easier it will be to know when you’ve found the right place for you. After all, college is a place where you will grow both academically and mentally. It is the place where you will start to forge your own path and create your own identity – all of that is an important part of the college experience. That’s why I think it’s important to find a place where you can comfortably explore and grow.

Two years ago my daughter was all about going to college far, far away (oh the words that my teenage self uttered came back to haunt me many times). But when faced with the realities of paying for college, she came to realize that staying in-state is best. We are lucky to live in a state with many good, world-renowned universities – and it’s hard to beat paying in-state tuition for that kind of education.

Over the past year she and I have started going on college visits. I want her to have plenty of time to explore, re-visit and learn what colleges have to offer her. But last week was a first. Last week, we visited my alma mater: Indiana University.

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My 17 year old self did not want to go to IU – to an in-state school with so many others from my high school. (and my 17 year old daughter has those exact same feelings) However, once I saw the campus I knew that it would be okay. It’s a beautiful place. Big and sprawling. Filled with thousands of people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. Meadows, creeks, bridges and arboretums are all a part of daily life walking to class. As are hearing different languages and meeting new people. A school as big as IU is not for everyone, but it was a great place for me to take my first steps into adulthood.

I don’t know yet if it will be the same for my oldest, though she did indeed fall in love – even though she wasn’t expecting to, in fact was resisting the thought. As I watched her walk around campus on the very same paths that I walked so many years ago, I had the weirdest sensations. I remembered so many of my thoughts and feelings of that age and knew that I never, ever considered what it would feel like to lead my daughter around that campus. To look around and see how she fits in and how many opportunities are surrounding her. To sit down at Nick’s and have a beer while we talked about what she wants to do next. (Well I had a beer, she had a lemonade.) My college looks a whole lot different through these eyes.

Lately I’ve felt like I’ve crossed into a new parenting phase. My youngest will leave elementary school this year and I very much feel as though I’m officially the parent of older kids now. I’ve left the fun, busy, exploring days of parenting young children behind. I’m entering the fun, busy, awe-striking days of helping my kids find their paths. It’s pretty cool.

Of thoughts and writing

I’ve been missing free writing each morning. I’ve never been very good at keeping a paper and pencil journal but I was pretty good about writing here for years. I had a few people read along with me – which is fun –  so now, after ignoring this blog for months (and months) I think I’ll try to get back to writing each day.

I owe my kids some birthday posts so I’ll try to get to those soon. I might also start posting some recipes again because I’ve found myself using my blog in the kitchen when I need to remember a favorite meal or two. It’s easier to find recipes on here than in my messy recipe binders! In the meantime I’m going to try and write at least a few times a week. Just like before, I’ll be writing whatever comes to mind – running, ranting, raising kids…

Another blog that I enjoy (Runninghood) is also trying to get back in the writing habit and she is focusing many of her posts on gratitude and intentions. I have often written about small moments of gratitude but I don’t think I’ve written about intentions. Not large scale intentions – just intentions for my day. I really like the idea of starting my day focusing on good things and clear intentions:

This morning I am grateful for…

  1. Blue skies and warm sunshine (they rarely feel as good as they do after a long cold winter)
  2. A day with plans to see a friend

My intention for the day: to act with focus. I’m taking two days off this week for college visits with my oldest and the to-do lists each day this week have been mighty ones. I need to stay focused and productive so I can really enjoy the next two days and a busy weekend after that.