How many plastic spider rings does it take to raise a child from toddler to teenager? In our case, 500.
I invested in a whopping bag of plastic spider rings, when my oldest son was about three. Five hundred of them. “These will come in handy to top cupcakes, to add to goody bags, and to play jokes on people,” I had thought. Whoa! So many fun times ahead!
Well. My oldest son just turned 14 years old this week. When it was time to decorate his cake, I rummaged through the bin where I keep cupcake papers, food coloring, sprinkles, birthday candles, and plastic spider rings.
There was only one spider ring left. What?!
We had finally exhausted our supply. I had baked an abundance of cupcakes over the years to deliver to school functions, added the rings to birthday goody bags, and distributed them at Halloween.
The rings marked milestones in my son’s life. They took him from toddler to teen. And now, the spiders are gone.
But the other day, as my son stood there in the kitchen–standing 6 ft. 1 in. tall–he tasted his mud pie birthday cake and giddily shrieked, “This is your best cake yet, Mom!”
His enthusiasm and kindness are reminders that despite age (and height), he is still the same on the inside.
Would your child handle being home alone, like Kevin McCallister?
Kevin in Home Alone was amazing. Sure, he fought off bad guys. And did so with such cleverness: using a hot iron, broken Christmas tree ornaments, tar, a BB gun, a tarantula, pulleys. You name it.
But, as a mother, I was most impressed with his other life skills.
He took a shower and washed his hair.
He made himself breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.
He called for pizza delivery.
He did the laundry.
He bought himself a toothbrush. And probably even used it.
Would my child–who is Kevin’s age–handle being home alone? Two words: Uh, yikes.
I found out that my seven-year-old son has been washing his hair with only conditioner. He has the softest–but dirtiest–hair in town. But would he run a Spiderman bubble bath and drop in the Sesame Street color tablets that make the water turn turquoise? To quote Kevin, “I don’t think so.”
He knows how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Oh and yogurt. That’s about it. The milk jug is too heavy for him to pour without spilling.
Doing laundry? I’m not sure if he even knows where the laundry room is. He wads up his dirty socks and leaves dirty sock balls throughout his room. Kinda like a treasure hunt.
He does brush his teeth. He recently lost his two front teeth, so two less teeth to brush.
And he know how to turn on the TV and put it in video game mode. Whew. He’ll be fine.
So the next time I banish my son to the attic and leave him home alone as I fly off to Paris, I will be reassured that he will fill his belly with peanut butter and jelly and play Xbox 360, with his dirty hair and toothless grin.
I do not own a Goofy t-shirt. I am not a wearer of Disney pins. My vehicle does not sport a sticker with our family members in Mickey Mouse ears.
Yet I know the songs to The Nightmare Before Christmas. I own the majority of Disney movies on DVD. Even Blu-ray. Watching Cinderella with with my daughter makes me happy. On Sunday nights as a child, I watched The Wonderful World of Disney, cuddled in my jammies. I rode It’s a Small World 30 years ago. And again last week.
See? I’ve been drinking the Disney Kool-Aid since I was a child.
How can you NOT? In our culture, it’s almost force-fed.
As an American family, you “go to Disneyland.” This part was sorta nagging at me since my two youngest kids, aged seven and 10, are the perfect age and we hadn’t been in five years. Down the line, my daughter may not want to go. Or, she may not want to go with me. The time was NOW.
It was my Mom duty to go to Disneyland.
So, I planned a surprise trip, with my husband’s stealth encouragement. The suspense of keeping this secret for two months! On my daughter’s 10th birthday, we sent her to school and promised we’d pick her up a little early to do “something fun.” Maybe a frozen yogurt treat? She’d like that. That’s the kind of girl she is.
On the way to the airport, I nearly peed my pants, I was so excited. Excited to head to sunny California for a few days. But mostly, excited to share the magic with my children. This video shows my daughter’s I-don’t-believe-you reaction, as we announced the Disneyland plans while pulling up curbside at the airport, with her bags secretly packed in the back. You can hear the giddiness (Kool-Aid) in my voice. I don’t think it quite sank in with her until we were actually walking through airport security.
And here we are spazzing out on the airplane. Giddy with excitement! I was extra giddy. I was about to be a kid again and see “the magic of Disney” through their child eyes.
And when the flight attendant asked what we would like to drink, we answered:
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.
Mixes paint colors and demonstrates brush techniques with his daughter, while she sits wide-eyed with awe and follows his lead–turning blank canvases into works of art.
Watches old war movies with his son, late into the night.
Loves his children.
Plants apple trees and hardy perennials and Douglas Firs, transforming the yard into an oasis. He buys the spindly Charlie-Brown-trees at the nursery and nurtures them until they are full and tall and lush.
Kisses his children to sleep and makes up a new kiss each week: angel (soft as a whisper), bird (pecks your neck), and puppy (nibbles your ear)–causing the children to giggle and wonder what will next week’s kiss bring?
Demonstrates the work ethic and provides for his family. Every day.
Removes splinters with his special X-Acto knife, squeezes blisters on soccer toes, and pulls baby teeth, that are hanging-by-a-thread, with a washcloth. He is not squeamish.
Talks Star Wars trivia with his son. For hours.
Gives prep talks and pep talks before soccer, football, and baseball games, reinforcing the importance of playing your best.
Buries pets who were dearly loved.
Compliments and supports his children’s projects with genuinity: Lego creations of hovercrafts-with-shooting-missiles; portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in watercolor; B+ math tests; diagrams depicting the life cycle of water; drawings of super heroes with stick bodies.
Cooks with heat, introducing his children to spice and zest.
Puts his family first. Always.
Lays down ground rules for his children about how to act–and about how not to act–in the family, in school, in society.
Queues up the children’s DVDs first in the Netflix queue, so they arrive the day they are released.
Treats his dogs with compassion, love-and-tough-love, and mutual respect.
Turns any weekday into a family party night, with Indiana Jones and popcorn.
Teaches his children the importance of being kind to each other, others, animals–and most importantly, their mother.
This Dad I know is the father of our three children.
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.