My son is about to graduate from the eighth grade. There is to be a graduation ceremony at school.
My husband and I joked that we’re not really celebrating the academic accomplishments of his completing the 8th grade. Indeed, we are awfully proud of our son, but we sort of have higher academic aspirations for him that go beyond the eighth grade. We’re not exactly living in Little House on the Prairie times. It’s almost a redneck joke, “I’m so proud of you son! You’re an Eighth Grade Graduate!”
No, not that.
Regardless. I know I will cry when Pomp and Circumstance starts playing.
I will cry because I know that this is a milestone in my son’s young adulthood. The letter from the principal summed it up: “this marks the end of your child’s elementary education.” My son will soon close his elementary chapter, and will start the next chapter in his life: high school. That’s it. Tears are hitting already.
Graduations always get me. I can’t help it. They are both endings and beginnings.
But I know that while I will be tearing up, I will also be bursting with pride, and looking forward–supporting my son–as he makes his way ahead.
As if it’s not enough to raise our children to be kind and confident, smart and self-sufficient, and resilient and resourceful, we also need to teach them to cook.
A panic washed over me last Summer when I realized that my (newly teen) son did not know how to make anything. Other. Than. A. Sandwich.
I felt that he was well on the road to being kind, confident, smart, resilient, and resourceful…but might be lacking in the self-sufficient department.
Resourceful in the kitchen? Yeah, kinda. My son was a pro at microwaving soup, frozen burritos and instant oatmeal. He also used the can opener like a whiz! Opening fruit cocktail like nobody’s business.
Frozen burritos and instant oatmeal will only get you so far.
But could he create something from scratch? Not so much.
I knew what I had to do. Teach that young man to cook!
Cooking 101: creating self-sufficient young adults. (Also known as: creating patient parents who lack proper cooking skills themselves.)
We began with simple items. Grilled-cheese sandwiches. Scrambled eggs. Quesadillas with refried beans.
We also learned:
How to cut up vegetables and serve with Ranch dip.
How to cut an orange into slices.
How to hardboil an egg. And then proceed to peel and slice it.
This progressed into:
How to make a smoothie in the blender out of yogurt, juice, frozen fruit, and protein powder.
Ta da! He now knows how to make a few well-rounded meals.
Slowly but surely, my son is expanding his food-making repertoire. I am convinced that he will be self-sufficient in the kitchen someday, and be happy as a result.
Sometimes I think I know my kids so well. What they are thinking. What they will choose.
I sometimes think they’ll follow a certain path that I have “envisioned” for them. Then when they choose something different, I think to myself, wow. I’m not really in charge anymore.
My children are becoming independent.
And then I’m sorta proud.
Take my son for example. He’s 6 feet tall and he’s 13 years old. Yeah, he’s a natural fit for basketball. I assumed he would play it all through high school. And get a scholarship. I was envisioning Hoosiers.
Yet, this son of mine has no interest in basketball. Just because he’s tall, doesn’t mean he wants to play. And just because I thought he should try basketball, doesn’t mean he wants to.
He told me the other day he wants to try wrestling.
Wrestling??! My first thought was Nacho Libre.
The Mexican wrestling masks. The unitards.
My second thought was this is SO not Hoosiers.
But my son’s football coach encouraged him.
After I thought about it and rewatched Vision Quest, I’m totally supportive of my son’s choices.
They say a tween is the age between middle childhood and adolescence, usually between eight and 12 years old. I have one of those. She turns 10 today.
She is full of life. She is radiant. She is blooming.
In her room, you’ll find her surrounded with 52 stuffed animals that smile down on her. Bunnies, a leopard, dogs, elephants, owls, an alligator, monkeys, bears, dragons, even a sloth. An “animals of the world” wall poster takes up half her room. Where do pygmy marmosets live? Ah, now I know.
A bookshelf with Dork Diaries, Judy Moody, Judy Bloom, A Secret Garden, and old favorites Pinkalicious, Fancy Nancy, The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, and Curious George. Dusty soccer trophies since she was four.
Posters with horses galloping in snow, in water. One white horse smiles with a pink rose in her mouth.
A red horse stable in the corner with Breyer horses of all sizes sits next to her cash register for playing store.
On her desk is a bin with 200 markers and thick drawing pads, Origami papers for new birds to form, and a sewing machine waiting for new creations. She has mastered purses and animal tails. Tails? To pin on her skirts, of course.
Her dresser spills over with earrings. Her ears were pierced on her ninth birthday. Cute penguins, hearts, butterfly earrings. Trendy dangly feather earrings.
Her iPod is docked by her bed. My alarm skills are no longer required. Adele songs fill her playlist. She knows all of the words.
Drawers are filled with cheetah-print leggings, polka-dot miniskirts, and t-shirts with puppies. She is a colorful being with her own sense of style.
She plays with her puppy every chance she gets. She shops for new earrings. She jumps rope at recess. She draws fanciful dragons. She wears adult-sized shoes; we are nearly the same size. She bakes cookies with me. She likes to cuddle up by her Dad to watch volleyball. She dresses up in capes, wings, and tails and flies through the house with her little brother. She watches The Simpsons with her big brother. She could easily stay up past midnight on weekends if we let her. She plays an aggressive game of soccer. She makes fairy houses out of twigs.
My girl-child-tween-tween is 10 today. This is just the beginning of her blooming.
At the hospital, the nurses told me to hold my newborn like a football when I fed him.
Now this six-foot-tall young man plays football. With swarms of teenager girls watching.
I was not prepared for this.
I have mothered this boy-man for 13 years. As the years and milestones pass, I try to support his independence, steer his choices, but ultimately let go.And it’s difficult.
One of my favorite parenting mantras is:
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give to our children. One of them is roots. The other is wings.”
I’m better at the roots part. You know, the love and nurturing part?
I am trying to be better at the wings part.
Take for example, football. Do I want my son playing a sport where his body is jostled around and he is required to wear a mouth guard–not only to protect his pretty teeth but to prevent jaw injuries at mega impact? It’s nerve-racking signing all of the concussion waivers. It’s also kinda awesome seeing him in his full gear–with helmet and pads–looking like a man.
He really really wants to play. And he is committed to doing his best.
I am proud of his dedication and enthusiasm. And because of this, I must let go and let him grow. And be his cheerleader.
I can’t help but think of the children’s song, Eagles, which sums up my belief in raising children: letting go.
May this big boy of mine fly down that football field with his mouth guard and his budding wings. I will be watching with love, support, and faith in him. And I may also be sporting a tear or two.
I energetically mother three children: 14, 10, and 8, am married to my college sweetheart, and have two dogs. My life is full of laughs. eye rolls, love, and laundry. I'm friendly and genuine and blog about my bumbling life.