Some folks live a few houses down from parents, others escape to the other side of the world.
I spent last weekend with most of my Orlando/Winter Park family.
My dad’s side.
It’s funny how the cousins I remember running around with on Christmas Eve as a child, are now older responsible folks.
Moms, dads, stockbrokers, pilots, doctors, business owners, lawyers, bankers, salesmen, CPAs, writers *me* — and the like.
We laughed. We shared. Well, I shared and listened. You see, these folks get to see each other all the time and I don’t. And for some of the time I was lost in the Land of How Did So Much Time Pass So Quickly?
At midnight this New Years when 2015 rang in, my immediate family made a toast. The new year is for Family.
In the midst of this selfie, constantly checking my emails culture, we — okay I — pledged to value our little unit in this vast swirling rock in the universe.
Yeah. My children thought my little toast lame but nothing is more important than supporting each other and loving each other — whether thick or thin.
And don’t get me started on how I died running in 80 degree Central Florida temps last weekend.
Pooh on this getting old thing.
Wish I had more photos to show but I was concentrating on concentrating on . . . family.
Those of you out there with little children, I see you. I know your struggles. Worrying about if they will fall in the swimming pool. Wander out of the yard. Barrel through an intersection on their bike.
Just wait. Till middle school. Then you will really have something to worry about.
* * *
Our house is still a construction zone.
I’m behind in some work, so to flee the buzzing saws and clanging hammers, I took up a spot in our library.
It’s a wonderful new space for which I am thankful.
While I was sitting here amongst the books and crying babies, a gaggle of younger looking adults filtered in the building.
They broke off into packs of two and one of these bitty groups approached me.
“Ma’am, we are students from the University of Georgia, would you mind answering a few questions?”
I used to hate it when I was “ma’amed” but now I know that children raised in the South can’t help it. Those who were raised right anyway.
Turns out they were student teachers who were going to be interning at the middle school.
They asked me how long we had been living here. And what I liked about living in a small town. What I didn’t like so much.
Then they asked me about the middle school. What did I think about it?
It’s funny. Well, not really funny how much your children change from 5th grade in the elementary school and their 6th grade year at in middle school.
It’s like they become 12 and flip the numbers around. They think they are 21.
And most 21 year olds don’t like being told what to do all the time by their parents.
That’s what most surprised me as a parent. How that one who used to look at you with adoring eyes now thinks you are the most unhip, uncool — the mom least liked by all their friends — on the planet.
And that’s on a good day.
Talking to these future middle school educators, I realized how tough it is to be a middle school parent — and a middle school educator. We are fighting a tidal wave of data these children receive from the online adult world.
A world they are in many ways not prepared for.
Check your child’s texts. What they are doing on social media sites. I knew my daughter was on Instagram. I didn’t know she had 2,000 followers and was following over 5,000 people.
That was a fun day my friends —
The day I told her we were shutting down that account and creating a private one.
Come to think of it, I need to check how many followers she’s up to and what she’s been posting.
My daughter is a great kid. A smart kid. And that is part of the problem. We as parents get busy with obligations of our own and there is all this secret squirrel data transferring back and forth between the younger crowd.
I don’t let her Facebook. Or Tweet. Or have a blog.
I know she will have a blog one day — so remember, whatever you read about me — there are two sides to every story.
That brief conversation today crystalized my thoughts about middle school. It is the toughest water to navigate — in my non-professional opinion. I’m thankful for the school we have in Morgan County and for the teachers that come to make a difference every day.
As parents, we have to stay vigilant. Just the thought of checking all the texts and emails and social networks can be exhausting.
Come to think of it, I haven’t looked at my daughter’s phone lately.
My husband if he reads this is asking himself, “She cleans up?’
Yes, silly I do.
And I hate every minute of it.
Now I love things neat and picked up. Just darn the time drain needed to pick up and put back.
Especially when you live with a bunch of use-it-and-drop-it-where-I-used-it people.
Dental floss, scissors, paper (cut with said scissors), graham cracker boxes.
The dirty dishes to make it to the kitchen sink but only so far. Dirty drinking glasses. For some odd reason, this subset of dirty dishes does not make it to the sink. The milk, lemonade, Gatorade is drained and there the glass sits.
Just stepped into the room my children were playing games on the telly late into the night.
It’s like I’ve got nothing better to do with my time than pick up.
I’ve got no one to blame but myself.
For all they know, drinking containers magically transport themselves to the shelves again. All clean and pretty and ready to fill with a drink and leave sitting on a table.
That little ESP where she can look about a room and size up any windfalls or downfalls her child will suffer through.
My youngest and I pulled up to the start of the Real Buckhead Road Race 5K on Saturday.
It soon became evident, there were more children his age than normal running a small race like this. Which was great. Or could be not so great.
Depending what scenario played out.
Scenario one: He races his young friends full speed till his breath fails then he good-naturedly walks and runs the rest of the race.
The second and more likely scenario: He races full speed till his breath fails and he stops right there — not moving another millimeter forward.
The competitive spirit that drove him to almost puke beating a 55-year-old woman to the finish last weekend will swamp him with anger at not keeping up with friends. Why is this the more likely scenario? Because it has happened. Leaving me stranded with an angry child who will not move. One. More. Inch.
But I’m an old pro at this mother biz. Let the slight prospect of a major meltdown bobbing on the horizon stop me?
Besides. We had already picked up our numbers.
Before the race. All was posey rosey.
The gun sounded — or maybe there was a nice man who said, “Go” — and we were off.
Sure enough. Soon enough my linebacker strained to keep up with the wideouts.
And before too long . . .
But we kept moving forward.
Until his side-stitch-of-a-cramp paralyzed him like Botox in a midlife furrow.
He wasn’t moving.
This is when I called on my decades of child psychology to keep that boy stepping forward.
“Mom. Mom. I don’t want to go anymore. My side hurts.”
“Just walk it off. Keep moving. It will get better,” I said a bit too peppy for me. I’m a positive sort but not rah-rah so this came out rather like telling all my friends “so glad you made cheerleading when I didn’t because really I only tried-out to watch your triple backflips up close.”
Smile. Smile. Ugh.
We had only gone one mile of three.
Double ugh. Smile. Smile. “You can do this Joe. You got to finish the race to wear the shirt right?”
“No,” was his reply.
And then a little Christmas miracle happened at the 1.34 mile point.
A wide receiver came back to play with my linebacker who had evolved into a lineman.
Skipping and walking and trying “not to step on the road.” Then “trying not to step on the yellow,” the wideout and the lineman forged ahead.
We all skipped along for the last few miles.
Finally, we saw the finish looming up there.
Afterwards, nothing like some pancakes to really work a cramp out of your side.
Yes, my running buddy and I hit the high school cafe for pancakes and all was better.
You know, it was a great morning.
A sweet wide receiver came back and helped his lumbering lineman friend (and the lineman’s mama who was running out of tricks) finish the race.
And my son didn’t meltdown with disappointment. He rose to the challenge and played the ball where it lay that morning.
A raging cramp-in-the-side was a crummy lie.
Like I told the boys. “We might have been one of the last ones to finish, but we beat everyone who stayed in bed that morning.”
Not that staying in bed on a Saturday is such a bad thing. But you didn’t hear it from me.
Have you ever had to coach a child through disappointment?
At the suggestion of The Bonny Bard, this week’s listicle is counting the 10 ways my partner’s awesome.
10. The way he smiles.
The first awesome thing I noticed about him.
9. He’s very patient with all my craziness.
He wasn’t that patient when I said I’d be training for a triathlon this summer, but he did agree to do a race with me this fall.
8. He works very, very hard and built up a thriving mediation business that started 12 years ago with him driving to judge’s offices in his car.
7. He’s my biggest cheerleader and support.
6. He calls me out when I need it.
5. He’s a great speaker and bible teacher.
Honestly, it first bugged the heck out of me when he started teaching and preaching. But people seemed to get so much out of it. It was just my selfishness at the perceived “preacher’s wife” role. I learned like most things in life — it really isn’t all about me.
4. He’s fun. And makes me laugh like no one else.
Which I think is why we ended up together all those years ago. And are still together.
3. He doesn’t mess around.
I met a married fellow and father the other day. It was evident that he was a heavy drinker and flirter. Made me once again thankful my husband gets his ego filled in other ways. I wouldn’t have much patience with that attitude.
2. He doesn’t nit-pick my physical appearance.
Again. That would get really, really old.
1. Because he really still seems to be crazy about me after almost 25 years.