Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cherish Your Children

The fall that my oldest child entered middle school, I trotted off to my first parent-teacher conference anxious to find out how he was doing.  By this time, I was already somewhat shut off from his life.  The monthly publishing parties in kindergarten had gradually waned and now I was lucky if I ever saw any school work -- be it writing, artwork, or anything else.  He had breezed through elementary school -- despite warnings that 3rd grade was when the real work starts (when kids no longer learn to read, but rather read to learn), and then 4th grade (homework gets heavy and test prep becomes important), and then 5th grade (the struggle to get into a "good" middle school) -- never really working very hard to score excellent grades, although he was supposedly part of a "gifted" program.  I feared that the transition to middle school -- with different teachers and classrooms for every subject and the looming distractions of adolescence -- might have tarnished his sterling grades.  My first meeting with his humanities teacher put all of my fears to rest. 

"He's doing fine," she told me, "There's really nothing we need to discuss."

I pressed her to name some weakness that he should be working on, some tiny fault that needed fixing.

"He's fine," she insisted.  "What you really need to do is spend as much time enjoying his company as you can.  Kids grow up so fast..."

It was good advice.  His peer group has become increasingly important to him, his parents less so.  Most of his free time is now spent with his friends and I am happy just to have him in the house (even if he's in his room with the door closed) whenever possible.  Every now and then we'll have a long, philosophical discussion (most often on a school night when he is trying to stay up long past his bedtime).  But mostly, I have to accept that he is speeding toward adulthood and independence.

I was reminded of my occasional longing for his younger self as I read another woman's fantasy for one more day with her kids when they were young.  And yet, part of me revels in my kids' growing independence, not missing at all the diapers, the bottles, the temper tantrums and such that accompanied their youth.  They are so knowledgeable and so fun to be around now!

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