Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Unscheduled Fun February 15, 2019

We have a lot of fun together as a family. We go to trampoline parks and to shows and museums. We plan beach vacations and camping trips and in the next couple of weeks we’ll be going to the circus. It seems though, that having unscheduled fun with the kids is getting rarer and rarer. You know what I mean by unscheduled? The times when you don’t have a plan but you end up building a fort out of sheets and pillows or making funny hats for stuffed animal toys. The regular – free – EVERY DAY fun.

Now that the boys are 11 and 12 (gasp!), our “at home” time often revolves around making sure that all the things that NEED to be done, get done. The dinner and the homework and the chores. Whatever extra time there is, gets used up with me binging Netflix and them playing video games.

I know that one reason for this is that building forts and making play-doh pies just doesn’t cut it for pre-teens. But I also think lazy parenting is another reason. I’ve been at this parenting thing for 12 years and I’m tired. Tired physically yes, but also tired of putting legos together and pushing trains on tracks.  You parents of older kids remember all the “floor time” you used to spend.

When you have a new baby, everything is so exciting. You want to spend every minute with them. Teaching them and watching them and exploring with them. You love going to the park and pushing them on swings and you love hearing them giggle when you play peek-a-boo. You’d do anything for that giggle. You absolutely love feeding them pureed green peas and seeing the mess they make and you marvel at the green poop that follows. After a while though, you begin to love getting back to yourself. You don’t love your children any less. Not one iota. But you love that your children can now entertain themselves and make themselves sandwiches. You love that you can roam the Target aisles in peace and don’t have to spend any time looking at stupid transformers that cost too much for the 10 minutes that your child will actually play with it even though they are telling you that they NEED it and will for sure this time play with it for eternity.

 

How much together time is the right amount? I want us to be close. I want our bond to be strong. I want the boys to have a joyful life full of sibling and parent interaction. I want ME time.

 

I don’t have the answers. I am playing this all by air. I will say though that last week, Shaunie and Jay baked some cinnamon rolls together. It was nice. Also one day last week, I put my phone down, my feet up and Ace read me a story. It too was nice.

 

Then this week, Shaunie had to go to New Jersey on some family business. On Wednesday evening, Jay and I sat together and assembled candy grams for his class for Valentines Day. While we were assembling, we talked. Just he and I. We don’t get that a lot. With one Mom gone, the remaining 3 of us ended up having a slumber party in my room. We are not a co-sleeping family so this was a real departure from the norm. Plus, it was a school night. (What?!?!) It was such a hit that we did it again last night.

 

I really hope that we’re getting it (mostly) right. I hope we’re not being too hard on them; but pushing them enough. I hope we give them enough of their own space; while not making them feel alienated. I hope we force them out of their comfort zones often enough to spark an adventurous spirit; while honouring their own, specific, interests. I hope we enforce necessary routines; while allowing for (and even encouraging) flexibility and spontaneity.

 

Do all parents feel this way? How do you guys manage it?

 

When the alarm went off this morning and Jay rolled over to me and snuggled for a couple of minutes, I knew I had made the right call in agreeing to the “sleepover”. It was just so delicious. But sometimes the answers are harder to decipher; especially when they tell you that all they want to do is have electronics time.

 

The Circle August 10, 2012

I went to live with my Grandparents when I was 4 years old.  I remember crying hysterically and kicking the back of his drivers seat as my Dad put me in his yellow and black car and drove me from my Moms house – the only place and people I had known – and delivered me to his parents.

They weren’t people I had spent much time with until then.  Everything about their life was different from what I had known.

I remember not talking much in the early days.  I remember tugging on my Grandads sleeve to get his attention instead of saying his name.  I remember he used to look hurt by that but I just couldn’t talk to him.  I remember thinking that my Grandma was a nice lady even though she kept telling me to chew with my mouth closed.  I remember Mills and Angel trying to get me to smile.  They wanted me to be happy there.  I am told I was coaxed out of my shyness/fear with the offer of dumplings.  That, and by Angel telling me that she knew all about me already and (on purpose) wrongly described my school uniform.  I told her she was wrong and so the ice was broken.

 

Four months later, by the time I was 5 years old, it felt like home.  I had friends and cousins as neighbours, I had a new school that I loved, I was teasing Mills and listening to her tell stories about my Dad and my Uncle when they were children and my Grandparents were begging for me to stop the talking.  I was learning to swim and to ride a bike and to braid hair.  I was known by all the workers at our family’s Hardware Store and I was allowed to play on the typewriter and would eventually learn how to measure out rope, mix paint and make extension cords.  We went to Church every other Sunday and had meals together as a family.

I was happy and would be happy there for many years to come.

 

Of course, back then I didn’t think about how hard it may have been for my Grandparents to take on the responsibility of raising me.  When I got to be an adult, I did tell them how much I appreciated them.  Multiple times.

Still, it wasn’t until I had my own children that the fullness of what they did hit me.   Mostly when I think back to those days, it’s the little things that I remember.  I remember my Grandad helping me to make huge posters for a classroom project.  I remember my Grandma showing me how to graph flowers and to make a new one grow out of the stem of an existing one.  I remember my Grandad letting me drink the last bit of his whiskey and soda and teaching me to tie a tie.  I remember my Grandma jogging along next to me as I rode my bike and practised my times tables.  I remember dancing to Frank Sinatra in the living room with my Grandad and him telling me that was REAL music.  I remember my Grandma playing board games with me and letting me help her to make home-made granola and bread crumbs.  I remember my Grandad shining my school shoes and cleaning my glasses for me every morning.  I remember my Grandma putting me to sit on her lap and “drive” the 1/4 mile that was our driveway.

…..

 

Last night Ace was having trouble falling asleep.  I think he was excited about this weekends camping trip.  I eventually climbed up into his bed and began rubbing his back.  It struck me as strange that I had never done that before.  That’s what my Grandparents and Mills did for me when I had a hard time settling down.
I remember they would stay there until I fell asleep even though I’m sure they would have preferred to be doing something else.  Sometimes they would think I had fallen asleep and would make a move to leave so I would wiggle or open my eyes so they would know I was still awake – and they would stay and keep rubbing.

 

Last night as I lay next to my son, rubbing his back, and thinking about my own childhood, I wondered what kinds of things my Grandparents used to think about when they were rubbing my back.  I wondered if they got their backs rubbed when they were children.

 

My sons are growing up in a very different place and under very different circumstances than I did but I imagine that as my boys grow into bigger boys and then into teenagers my mind will keep going back to the 1980’s and 1990’s and it will make me love and appreciate my pre-adult days so much more than I think I could have were it not for them.