~these beautiful flowers come from The Bridal Bouquet florist in Thomaston, ME~
Parenting older kids is different. There are great things like: no bottoms/noses to wipe! Much less bodily fluid exchange overall in fact, and I am not sorry to see that chapter end. I recall a special morning when I decided upon the name of my Mommy Memoir, Spit-Up in My Slipper, when I was in my bathrobe, holding Sylvan with one arm while brushing my teeth with the other, and I felt a warm trickle down the back of my ankle heading for my cozy slippered foot. It was hard work because one of my children came to the planet with very clear demands: surely there was some mistake and he was actually an adult in a small body, possibly the crown prince? It was relentless, truly that was the word, and because we are parents we set limits and boundaries, said yes when possible and no when necessary, thought long and hard, reflected on our work as parents, frequently felt terrible, sometimes felt euphoric, set regular routines, had a family rhythm and structure, all of which was designed to help the crown prince stay amazing and yet not become a tyrant. By contrast, now we sleep in on the weekends and Jonas is not the Extreme Lark (early bird to the max) that he once was by choice; as a teen he has also lost the ability to wake up and snap immediately into high mental functioning that once made me despair. I take for granted the continuous hours of sleep per night that I am afforded.
Jonas recently remembered a time when he was small (and Sylvan was an insignificant factor in the story, so we place Jonas’s age at 4-ish) and had the hiccups all day. The painful kind that wouldn’t go away. We tried everything. Then we drove across town to Miss Joanie’s, since she is fabulous and magical and of course would know just what to do. There was a lot of giggling. Did she suggest sugar on a spoon? Or something equally hilarious? He couldn’t remember the remedy, but he remembered the visit and being cured (with love and laughter?). Jonas remembered us having the time to do this together, just drop everything to make an impromptu visit to see a special person. Just look at this old post if you want to see those soft, round cheeks of Jonas and Sylvan and the hands of that Hiccup-Whisperer, even though the photo is a few years later than the hiccups.
Parenting older kids is still a lot of work and it’s complicated because it’s my first and favorite and forever and most important full-time job, but I have an out-of-the-house job now too that is also full-time. They still need us—and thank goodness!—even if it isn’t for bottoms and noses. We converse about a lot of interesting topics and not so much about pooping, Uranus, and farts (I mean these are all still important topics, don’t get me wrong, they just get less play now). There is teenage snarking. Male love manifesting as loud and physical and wrestling and licking (!) and dead-arms and games of indoor basketball. We read aloud. We help do the dishes. Some of us complain about the need to shower with regularity. We play together. Learn new words. We help edit papers, find resources, give ideas, discuss teaching and teachers. Sometimes we have to talk about the use of media, when this is and is not appropriate for all of us. We clean up our messes, sometimes grudgingly. We drive our kids places, not that we are over-scheduled, but we take them where they need to go. We work on teaching skills for life, like how to be a good guest, keep track of your belongings, and how to remember that critical last step of eating a bowl of cereal (carrying it to the sink, rinsing it, putting it in the dishwasher). Someday these people will not be just my people! And I want them to know how to have fun and be silly, be loving and be loved, share a home, make and eat healthy food and have good conversations, put their devices down when appropriate, participate and be interested in the world, etc.
I do really like these people my children are becoming and it’s interesting to know them, and to have known them since the beginning, to see how much they have always been THEMSELVES, even from tiny babyhood. Sylvan has never been an easy person in the morning but he has always been a champion cuddler and snuggler and wrestler, and is always ready to have fun with people of all ages. Jonas always had his eyes wide open to the world, ready to take in every detail (the Internet was made for him to discover Chester Arthur, among other many bits and bytes of knowledge to consume), but he has also been given to singular obsessions with and repetitions of words and songs (annoying), and is quite prone to teasing. It is so funny to hear about what they remember, those moments that feel like nothing when they happen, just life, just hiccups, just the corner in the sunshine making Valentines.
This is a whole new level of socialization, of personhood and parenthood, that all started with “Please don’t wipe your nose on me.”