“Mom, what’s that movie when the two dogs are eating spaghetti, and they start at different ends, and then they get to the middle and they kiss?”
“Mom, can we make cookies this weekend? I’m your Cookie Monster! Can we make chocolate muffins with chocolate chips? BIG ones!!”
My boys are little boys. Despite growing taller every day and being mistaken for sixth graders, they are still walking the line between Kid and Tween. Losing interest in Dinosaur Train and begging to WhatsApp with their friends, but secretly seeking out the other boys in their class who still need their blankets for sleepovers and play with stuffed animals at home. Or as Eli puts it, “still like to be cute.”
Cute is one word for it.
Boys are definitely changing by third grade. The athletes and more aggressive kids make no time for cute, and even at age 9 Jake and Eli can sense that the dynamics of life have started and they don’t favor “cute.”
As important as our role seemed when the boys were little, our job as parents now seems to have even bigger consequences.
Like, how do we teach them to be kind, to show compassion for others, but still love and stand up for themselves? How do we teach them that the beauty of failing is learning that you’re not a failure?
How can my kids be Americans and not know what Jell-o is?
If only all my deficiencies as a Mom were as easy to fix as boiling a cup of water.
Our life right now feels normal. Fun, real, balanced between work and play, like a life that’s leading somewhere and not just marking time until whatever comes next. Mike has his job with OSCE and I have mine at the Embassy, and on the side we are building these two little human beings. We send them off to school with Cheez-Its and chocolate chip cookies, and remind them that part of the Cub Scouts oath is “to be clean.” On weekends we balance picking up the house with taking them to art shows, and marvel at how easy it is to cook here. Marscapone, artichokes, prosecco, and chicken breasts without any cartilage or blood vessels still attached. It’s the little things. The bakery section is full of tiny marzipan animals to decorate cupcakes, and I can buy “flocked” chocolate and tiny sugar crystals in all kinds of colors and silvery shapes.
It’s fun teaching the kids to bake.
Mike likes showing the boys how to fire up the BBQ.
The right chimney makes all the difference!
For Sunday dinner, we opened this nice wine that our hotel gave us for my birthday in Portugal. Part of parenting is teaching kids to drink responsibly!
I overhear them talking all the time. Maybe they know I’m listening, I suspect they don’t yet care, but for me these moments with my back turned in the kitchen are what I’m living for.
“Jake, if you could be any animal, what would you be? I would be a bird, a duck, or a shark.”
“I would be a polar bear, a bunny, or a tiger!”
They tell stories, they love Air Buddies, Mall Cop, and Winn-Dixie. They come off the bus and dump their backpacks on the floor, and every single day I have to tell them to put their dirty clothes in the laundry. Can you put your shoes away, and please hang up your jackets? I hope one day their wives won’t have to do this, but I want their wives to know I tried! Every single day.
“Mom, will you play UNO with me? Can we sit outside and light candles?”
Some days they are normal brothers, who pick each other apart and drive us crazy. Other days they are best friends.
I guess if they are getting all that out of life right now, maybe we aren’t doing so bad? The consequences may be bigger, but as the details keep getting more complex, maybe I need to quit thinking that all those details actually have consequences.
A misspelled word or an uneaten apple don’t really matter when you have cookies to make or a game to play. Work never ends and can always be done later. I will probably never let that go completely, but I’m getting better…
My family likes me best when I’m just being a Mom. I’m starting to understand, and embrace, that this is enough.