Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Growing Up

We just finished our first year of homeschooling and it still boggles my mind to think we now have two high-schoolers and our baby is in middle school. I’m pretty sure it was just last week when our oldest dressed her little brother up in a pink tutu and told him “superheroes wear these” to get him to pose for pictures and our youngest was on a kick where she refused to wear clothes. Now we have one sporting a promise ring and driving (*gasp* DRIVING!), one who will soon learn to shave and one who is discovering eyeliner.

Those adorable Hoover munchkins in 2002

Abby has had her driver’s license about six weeks now and I’m finally getting to where I’m not so anxious every time she drives down the driveway and out into the world. I especially find the anxiety absent when I need her to pick something up from the store for me. She’s a good driver and takes the responsibility very seriously. She’s cautious and drives defensively, keeps the radio volume low and her cell phone in her purse. She doesn't speed at all. In fact, we tell people that if they ever get behind a long line of cars going about 45 to look and see if there’s a navy blue S-10 at the head of the line because chances are, it’s Abby. We are totally okay with under the speed limit.

Oh my goodness, it was windy that day! 

She babysat one of her friend’s little girls last night and we enjoyed having a toddler in the house once again. Sophie was a doll and absolutely wore Abby (and us) out with her exploring of our not-so-baby-proofed house. The babbling and snuggles were adorable and made me for about a split-second early in the evening think that maybe we decided to stop having kids too soon. Then I fished a bread wrapper from Sophie’s mouth, snatched her up mere milliseconds before she and the dog kissed through the screen door and stepped on a piece of banana in the living room floor. Sure, she’s precious and all, but I have to say: the teenage years have been my favorite stage so far.

Infants are intense, but oh-so-snuggly and they smell so dang good. Toddlers are delightful and inquisitive and mimic everything. Preschoolers are independent and temperamental. At each stage in our kids’ lives, we've reveled in their discoveries and progresses. Especially with Abby – our first and therefore our “practice” kid – we found everything to be wondrous and phenomenal and full of excitement and promise. The other two were different in their own ways, but even more so by the time we got to Kid #3, we felt like we had this whole parenting thing pretty well licked. Paul and I both enjoyed each stage and welcomed the next. At the end of each stage, we’d both agree: “This one was our favorite.”

This was probably 2004. Kady was about three.
And royally whizzed she wasn't going to school that day. 

Everyone warned us about the teen years. Veteran parents would get wide-eyed when they spoke of how their darling children turned into the spawn of something wicked when they hit puberty. They would condescendingly smile as they said, “Oh, just you wait. They’re cute now, but you’ll see.” It’s hard to happily anticipate something so largely warned-about.

We were told about the attitudes, the refusal to cooperate with anything and everything, the extreme mood swings and all sorts of other wonderful personality quirks. We've had our fair share of communication break-downs, emotional meltdowns and days we truly understood why some animals in the wild eat their young. Strangely enough, though, we've been the parents of at least one teenager for three and a half years now and I have to say: This stage is our favorite.

Abby's 12th birthday
It was a rare sight to see her eyes at that time. 
Usually they were covered by much bangs and eyeliner.

They've always been growing up. They've been doing it since they were born. When they were infants, toddlers, and preschoolers their developments were adorable, breathtaking, exhausting, mind-blowing and emotional. First there was sitting up, then crawling, then walking, then running. (And, because they are my children, usually there was tripping and bleeding.) Paul worked hours with each of the kids, teaching them to tie their shoes. I fussed over sight words and phonics. He removed the training wheels from bikes and let ‘em fly. I took pictures and saved drawings and would get teary-eyed over a sleepy, lisped “I luth yooo” breathed into my neck as I carried Bug down the hall to her bed.

This was after a "park marathon" where we visited every park in town.

Now their growing-up moments are slightly more subtle and sometimes overlooked until one day they full-on smack you in the face. The realization that our son has a junior mustache was a recent one for me. His new workout regimen and goals for a six-pack by summer's end are something we've never dealt with before, seeing as how he’s our only son. Abby getting her driver’s license was a drawn-out process, something I am grateful for. I never understood why the state of Oklahoma requires such a lengthy time between permit, intermediate license and license, but I now wholeheartedly believe it is so parents’ hearts don’t break all at once.  And then there’s that baby girl who is the last one to cross the threshold into adolescence and is having the hardest time acclimating to her new-found hormones. Her older sister has always been mature for her age and we figure that year she was emo was when she did a lot of growing up, under cover of her bangs and about four inches of black eyeliner. The boy outgrew his short momma in a period of about two months and the deep voice is still a shocker when he answers the phone.

Last day of school pics with my two high-schoolers *tear* 

But that Kady…..she’s just waffling back and forth between confident little girl with glitter in her veins and an awkward teenager in her first high heels and a week away from braces on her teeth. She spends hours scanning the pages of Bop and Tiger Beat for stories and pictures of One Direction, but will also spend hours playing with her dolls. She puts a hair bow in her hair….then takes it out…..then settles for a ribbon in a ponytail instead. Just today I convinced her that she no longer needed her Easy Bake Oven since she can use the real oven any time she wants and does so with natural ability. She wants to be svelte and confident like her big sister, but sometimes the urge to run barefoot in the yard chasing the dogs is just too powerful to resist. I cannot wait to see her grow up, but I also want her to slow down. Just a little. Right now she’s caught in the stop and go.

Kady has *always* loved the sparkle! 

Our last day of school was last Friday. We celebrated with lunch with another homeschooling family. We went shopping and got ice cream. It was a long, exhausting day. 

Kady and her friend Alex 

That night I was sitting on the couch, waiting for everyone to finish brushing teeth so I could tuck them in (something they insist I do and I am not about to stop until they protest). Little Kady was so very tired and with shoulders slumped, walked into the living room and stopped in front of me. I looked up at her and said, “Well, Bug….it was your last day of elementary school. You’re just…..growing up.”  Before I knew what happened, she had busted into wails and tears, flung herself onto my lap and sobbed her little heart out.

I just patted her back, smoothed her hair and let her cry.

Soon the tears stopped, she sniffed, took a deep breath and said she was ready for bed. I tucked all of them in and we did our usual four-way routine of “Good-night, Nurse” followed by good-night to whatever other medical professional we can think of. Kady asked for an extra hug that night.

I smoothed her hair back, kissed her forehead, told her good-night once more… and made it to the my bedroom at the other end of the house before I busted into tears myself.

 My sweet Kady and me
Last day of school 2013

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Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...