Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Extreme Parenting

Cradle to college? This is what it looks like.

Saturdays go something like this: The 8-year-old can have a play date with a long as it's on the way to dropping off the 10-year-old at long as it doesn't conflict with the 2-year-old's long as everyone is home in time for dinner unless letting me know otherwise... as long as I have met that girl the 16-year-old asked to the movies... as long as the 19-year-old can pick up the 16-year-old since I am not getting out after 11... as long as everyone is back home and tucked in bed and asleep by midnight. Wait a minute, where is the 10-year-old?! Oh right, she's at a sleepover. Go to bed!

A lesson with the current student driver begins with buckling the toddler into his safety seat.

The shopping list for the kids includes both tampons and diapers.

The half-hour following dinner includes begging the 2-year-old to please keep eating his potatoes and begging the 15-year-old to please quit eating out of the fridge mere minutes after consuming two big plates full of food.

A Saturday date night means tracking down the teenagers' schedules to see who is free to babysit the younger siblings. It also includes reminding that teen twice a day so he or she does not make plans and forget. Cheaper, yes. Easier, no.

After a day of negotiating play date politics and birthday party invites from kids my little ones don't necessarily like, it's time for an evening of negotiating the teenagers' plans with kids whom I don't necessarily like.

Guess what? Teenagers grow out of shoes just about as fast as toddlers do. Sizing, shopping, storing and sorting is a full-time job. The shoe issue is just one of the reasons the Brady Bunch had an Alice.

Having a yard full of teenagers playing basketball is totally awesome. Spending two hours distracting the toddler who so wants to be in the middle of all that action that he is clawing his way through the back door is not totally awesome.

Preschool = tuition, nap mats, book bags, new shoes and nervous parents. College = tuition, dorm bedding, luggage, new shoes and nervous parents. Having both simultaneously = broke and exhausted parents who are never quite sure what to worry about next. (Interestingly, I think that may help us worry less.)

What we could use more of is sleep. It's just a matter of squeezing it in between the midnight text ("I'll be a little late. Don't wait up!") and the 5:30 a.m. call from the crib ("Mommy! Where are you? I want my cup!").

All in a 20-hour-day's work.

This is also what it looks like:

The toddler entertains the chicks at a slumber party.
Few things more adorable than
big siblings caring for the tiniest.
Baby bros are always good for a laugh
as long as they are not crabby or poopy.

The most popular toy in the house
is the baby.
What I found one day when biggest sis had
been gone more than three months abroad.

The rewards (minus that kid studying overseas).
It is really tough to get them all in the same photo these days.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Last First Day

People sometimes assume that if you have more than one child nothing is ever quite as hard as the first time around. Sleep deprivation, potty training, taking off the training wheels, the birds and bees talk, etc. Right? Wrong.  Some things are hard no matter how much practice we get.

One of the hardest is the first day of school. And I don’t mean for those precious kindergarteners. I only thought it was hard to send my baby off for a whole day with new friends and unknown teachers. After a tearful good-bye (sometimes by both of us, often just by me) I usually spent that whole first day worried about what new problems they were facing, how they would handle finding buddies, and whether or not they could get their backpacks unzipped all by themselves.

Then, before I knew it, they were home with stories and songs and smiles. And another first day of school was in the books.

What I discovered a few years ago is that really the hardest first day of school is when the baby walks out the door for the very last one. The Senior Year. At least I know enough this time to have my tissues ready. The first last first day took me by surprise.

In August of 2010, as our oldest child rushed to get into her car and drive away, I grabbed her in a bear hug to wish her a wonderful first day of school. As I spoke those words I realized I would never say that to her again. Wasn’t she just leaving for elementary school recently? How did this almost-grown person sneak in here? Wasn’t there something more important for me to say? Then…tears.

Coincidentally we also had kindergartener in 2010. I don’t remember as much about his first day. I do know it wasn’t he who rolled his eyes and told me to get a grip that morning. And I know my anxiety between 8 and 3 had little to do with his buddies or backpack.

Last first day
First first day
This year marks the last first day for our second born. It’s not any easier. It might, in fact, be harder since I know what’s in store.

So I will spend a little more time with her discussing what she should wear. I will pack her lunch with a little more thought and care. I will hug her a little longer that Thursday morning as I wish her a wonderful first day of school. I will try not to cry. Or to take it personally when she rolls her eyes and tells me to get a grip.

I will worry all day long about her classes and her friends and her future.

Then, before I know it, they will all be home with stories and songs and smiles. And another first day of school will be in the books.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sports Mom Meets Stage Mom

This summer's The Wizard of Oz marked the ninth time one of our kids has been a cast member of a local high school or community theatre performance. Being a stage mom is so much fun. It reminds me a lot of being a sports mom. In fact, there are more similarities than the two camps sometimes realize.

Sports Mom makes multiple trips to the store throughout the season to purchase the correct shoes, mouth/shin/eye guards, special undershirts, snazzy socks, and anything else the superstar needs to play safely and play well. Stage Mom also makes multiple trips to the store. Most of the costuming is up to the actors (and their parents) and we have searched high and low for comfortable, yet pointy, black boots; era-appropriate suspenders and dress slacks; a flapper dress that stays on through a fight scene; an authentic, size XS Charlie Brown T-shirt; and enough undergarments (for quick backstage costume changes) to supply the lingerie section of Target.

Sports Mom buys squeeze yogurts by the case, oranges by the dozen, juice boxes or Gatorade or water bottles as needed and stands ready to supply her player and all the others when it is her turn. Stage Mom bakes brownies, picks up the deli trays, buys mini bagels or Oreos or Cheez-Its by the case, and delivers it all backstage just in time for the rehearsal break on her appointed day.

Sports Mom clears the family schedule for scheduled practices, re-scheduled practices, regular season games and tournaments. Stage Mom clears it for rehearsals, re-scheduled rehearsals, get the idea.

We have encouraged our kids to be involved in both athletics and the arts. We like the idea of them being well-rounded even as we face the probability of no one being an all-star in either field since sometimes one requires a temporary sacrifice of the other. One of the things we love about our school is that our students do not have to specialize in one particular sport or discipline. Arts or athletics, take your pick at any time. We have found over the years that both teach identical skills.

If you choose not to show up or give your best at practice (rehearsal), you are letting down your team (cast). When you have the ball (spotlight), it is all in your hands and you’ll be glad you practiced (rehearsed) over and over. There is a reason the coach (director) chose you for that position (role). It could be inherent skill, a work ethic second to none, or just dumb luck on your part. It doesn’t matter how you got there, but it certainly matters how you carry the ball (scene).

Sometimes rehearsals (practices) are inconvenient, seem pointless, or drive you to the point of exhaustion. Just do your job. Sometimes the decisions of the director (coach) puzzle, disappoint, or anger you. Just do what you’re told. Sometimes you feel ill, exhausted, irritated or misunderstood. Just show up when you are expected.

You want to be the star (starter)? Work harder, smile brighter, show up earlier and stay later than everyone else. Leave it all on the stage (field or court) and then see what happens. You might get put at the head of the lineup or the playbill. You might have that shining and glorious moment that you’ll recognize from every Disney Channel movie ever produced.

You might also remain part of the chorus (backup). But that’s where the greatest lessons are learned. And that, my dear athletes and actors, is why I keep buying shoes, brownies, fundraiser trinkets, and all the other stuff you need to carry on. Every moment we spend being part of something bigger than ourselves is a moment well spent. Bravo to all of you!

On another note, to all the little Bartees, it would be great if next Halloween you would choose to dress up as a football player, a soldier, a flapper, or a witch. Sports/Stage Mom has you covered!