I don’t know when my kids became low-maintenance. Children start out, by nature, high maintenance.
Parents, can you even remember that first night you took your precious newborn home from the hospital? Let’s face it, no matter how many times you read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” we did NOT expect what followed. We had gone through life so well rested, sleeping 6 – 8 hours per night. And just like that, BAM, you are a deliriously-happy-sleep-deprived-kinda-punchy new parent. Of course, the joy of that sweet new baby is all worth it.
Then there was the dilemma of how to take a shower. Think about it, parents of teenagers, there was a time when we had to put toys in the bathroom with our baby so we could take a shower.
Let’s not forget how we needed a diaper bag, car seat, 8 changes of clothing, blankets, toys, wipes, individual packs of food (preferably organic so those Cold Spring Moms didn’t roll their eyes at us again), DVD player, and everything but the kitchen sink, just to go to the park for 2 hours. Because Lord knows, your kid couldn’t just play in the backyard, you had to meet all those moms in the park to socialize your child.
Then the second child was born, and for some people a third, fourth, or more. And we learned to tamp that whole scene down a little bit for each new addition. Until, as the parent of four kids once said to me, of their youngest, “Alex is basically raising himself at this point.”
That was all so long ago. Christian, my oldest, is now finishing up 8th grade and Michael, my youngest, is finishing up 4th grade. They have had two totally different parenting experiences. For one thing, when Christian was in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade, I was sitting down monitoring and reviewing his homework like white on rice. I never look at his homework now. At most, he will ask us to help him study for midterms and finals but he does his homework, studies for tests, and budgets his time between academics and sports. His current sport is AAU basketball, and as of the time this is published, he will be up in Saratoga with Mr. Lo for a basketball tournament. And Michael and I will have lots of quality time together: except that I will be spending all weekend working on the Corsairs Cup, a huge endeavor that our Committee works on for a full year, yes, a year. Michael’s quality time will involve tagging auction items, organizing food for 100, and putting together a glossy Dinner Journal.
I don’t want to say I never helped Michael with his homework but truth be told, I almost never help him. If he asks for help, of course, we are there. Mostly, he needs me to type things for him, or assist with long-term projects. But, the 3-4 hours per night I used to spend with Christian during this grade (same material, same teacher) are gone. Common Core? I have no clue what it is. My kids manage to do their homework and do it well without me messing it up for them.
There is no way I could put the time into my charities and not-for-profits, and drive them to their sports activities if I had to babysit my kids as they do their homework. They needed to learn to budget their time themselves and work independently. We are all much happier this way. I can’t really say I miss the hours I used to spend helping Christian with his 4th grade homework because it was not quality time. It was a grind. And I am now freed up to do things like write press releases, manage the Newburgh Rowing Club behind the scenes and plan fundraisers, including my newest endeavor, the “Touchdown Club,” or the Don Bosco Prep Football Booster Club.
In an ideal rendering of this family yarn, I would have re-invested my time into my children by reading Shakespeare with them, teaching them a foreign language, or taking up Impressionist painting with them. Alas, that’s not that case, I didn’t use the “extra hours” in my day to enrich my kids. Nor did I make the house any cleaner, get the laundry done any quicker, or decorate the house or garden. I am pursuing things I love, and am therefore a Happier Mommy. I am free now to use my time for recreational rowing, cooking, community service, writing and photography, and fundraising. And I am indulging in the ultimate luxury: reading. Yes, I read books -- not law books or kids’ textbooks -- real books that I actually enjoy.
So are my kids practically raising themselves? Well, just the other day, Michael handed me a list he had written in pencil.
“What’s this?” I said.
“That’s your To Do list,” said Michael. “Tomorrow, you need to hand in my Race For Education money, fill out my Class pictures form and don’t forget tomorrow is Staff payroll.”
Jiminy Christmas, why don’t I just make my 10-year-old my office manager? Feeling like I wasn’t spending enough quality time with my youngest, I said, “Michael, is there anything you’d like to do with Mommy, maybe after school tomorrow?”
“Well,” said Michael, “we have rowing tomorrow,” – side note – Michael and I both go to recreational rowing Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Newburgh Rowing Club – “and if I were you, I would work on squaring up my blade a little better.”
Yup, he’s practically raising himself. But there are definitely worse things in life. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to settle into my comfy chair with my newest library book. You can hashtag this one #LifeIsGood.
Have a great day, everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo (The Boys in 2004)