As this is/used to be/poses as a Mommy Blog, I thought I'd throw a bone to at least my mother and write about the kids. I have kids! Do we remember them? This used to be all about them! Now they are... big. They also have absolutely no idea that I write about them on the internet. I suspect all three would be pleased in some way, though the only one who would ACT pleased is the middle one and for sure the oldest one would have some sort of cheek-sucking, "Well, I don't know how I really FEEL about that..." comment. Though the cheek-sucking is there to contain the Secretly Pleased that he can't help but show whenever anyone is paying attention to him. And then the youngest, I mean, she's still trying to color her whole self with pink highlighter, so does her opinion matter much?
But I'm not sure how much longer the Pleased will continue. The oldest is eight. EIGHT. And now he is all tanned legs and knee-length baggy shorts and sports camp t-shirts and "Can I play the Xbox? Can I play the iPad? Okay then, can I play your PHONE? And can we get a new game?" This reveals poor parenting, I know, but I feel that I can blame this particular flaw on my husband, seeing as how HE is the one who had to have one each of the the Xbox, Wii, Apple TV, Roku, Newest Phone, Newest Laptop, ETC. How am I supposed to stem the tide of Screens when I am married to that?
I have my own screen habit btw, if you hadn't noticed.
Jackson is going into third grade and while second grade memories are, for me, spotty, THIRD grade is when my real life began. So I am tremendously excited and tremendously afraid. This is when all the reasons he'll have to go to therapy as an adult will start happening, am I right? Now he's going to REMEMBER all my parenting flaws. And these are numerous lately, as I contend with a Jackson who is also not being the best version of himself. This summer we've had conversations on what exactly denotes a dirty pair of shorts, how (and why) to not steamroll one's grandparents, how to move about the house your mother is losing her mind with you (pretend you do not exist), why Reading is Important, how much your mother does not care what state that license plate is from on that car up there (like, so so so does not care), and why saying "please" or a "no, thank you" to something you say does not automatically make it good manners. This is the summer that real and true Boredom has set in, meaning it is the summer I have started saying things like, "You could fold this laundry right here and put it away! You could sweep the deck! Do you want to do the dishes? I CAN THINK OF LOTS OF THINGS FOR YOU TO DO."
He is moody, whiny, and entirely self-absorbed which makes me tremble with fear for his future as a teenager living in my house. He is only eight. Why so much existential angst? How bad can it be when one lives on one's favorite orange processed noodle food, has built approximately thirteen million Minecraft cities, and is continually asked to play by the cute blond girl down the street? Is this such a rough life?
That said, the key to getting this kid to be a Good and Decent Human Being, one that does not walk about the house like a Freaking Martyr, is not taking away his beloved electronics or yelling or lectures or solitary confinement or early bedtimes. (Though none of those things are his favorite and can often serve to make his parents feel better.) No, it's actually putting absolutely everything else aside and sitting down with just Jackson in his own space and Asking Him How He's Doing. He will tell you (!) and usually at least half of it makes you want to explode with annoyance or resentment or frustration, but really he wants to be Heard and then loved on a little bit. Reading him a story (even though he's EIGHT and doesn't LIKE READING STOP MAKING HIM DO IT) or playing a game or watching him do his magic tricks or talking about what we'll do tomorrow or next weekend. A little one on one time, a little attention, and suddenly I have my sweet little boy back, the one who draws me get well cards and snuggles and cleans up the living room as a "surprise" for me. He beams with happiness, he gets the giggles, he wears what I tell him to wear, he is kind and loving to his sisters, he actually secretly does like reading.
Molly finds the entire world to be a delight and in doing so is a Delight herself. She has her occasional moments of Devastation, for example when Jackson throws a ball and it glances off her elbow, or when Jackson (again) says something less than completely complimentary about her French braid. We understand - after all, we live with Jackson too - but we can usually find a way to move on from these bits of Crushing Despair and move right back into out of control laughing and going along with whatever anyone else wants to do.
She's taken to sitting at the table and intently drawing girl upon girl upon girl upon girl, all with different styles and colors of hair and dresses. As I remember doing this exact same thing, I find it enchanting. She makes up stories and her response to Enforced Reading Time is generally happiness for twenty minutes or so, then, "Mommy, can I WRITE my own story?" To which Mommy always enthusiastically nods. (When she is not half asleep on the couch - HER response to Enforced Reading Time.)
Molly is all tanned legs, too-short skirts and dresses and shorts because DEAR GOD this child is a weed, and hair that WANTS to be Princess Elsa, but is more (and beautifully so), end-of-the-movie Mulan. She is up for anything at any time. As she kept telling me in Italy, "I want to do EVERYTHING!" A former nearly-seven-year-old girl myself, I know that this effervescent cheer does not last, that one day everything will be terrible, that no one will understand her, that her mother, especially, will not care one ounce about her emotional well being or fragile state of mind or the thousands of feelings she will have in the space of one fourteen-year-old hour - so I am VERY MUCH ENJOYING nearly-seven-year-old Molly who seems to have no clue about Mean Girls and cannot wait to go back to school and see all of her favorite people, which is all of the people.
I suspect she takes after her father, and not because she will often a choose a potato chip over a cookie (although this is because she knows her brother and sister will choose a cookie and then she can get them to share, thereby enjoying both a cookie AND a potato chip - smart). Like Phillip, Molly floats along, not really noticing the not so nice people or comments that could be taken a certain way or unpleasant dynamics. I think this will change as she gets older - she IS a girl - but for now I am in awe of this cheery oblivious-ish personality and the lack of drama compared to so many of my friends' girls of the same age. As long as we are wearing a cute skirt and braid and Mommy has allowed her to pick out her own snack, everything is very very good.
As for the youngest, she is... the youngest. As the oldest I vowed - V.O.W.E.D. - to treat all of my future children equally, to not lay more responsibility upon the oldest, to not baby the youngest, to not ignore the middle, and especially not to let the younger kids do things at an earlier age than I allowed the oldest. HEAVEN FORBID. While that hasn't been a problem yet (no one is quite asking to shave her legs), I have utterly failed at not babying my youngest. I coddle her, I expect less independence of her than I did with Jack when he was her age. I rarely say no to anything - treats, toys, anything that should be special tends to be the norm with Emma. The thing is, I'm not sure I can help it and (worse) I'm not sure I want to. I KNOW. I AM A TERRIBLE HORRIBLE UN-EQUAL MOTHER AND MY KID-SELF IS FURIOUS.
There is one thing about Emma that drives us positively INSANE and that is the fact that she will be wearing pull ups in college. Oh, also that if she happens to sleep during the day, even for five minutes, she'll be up until the wee hours in her bed, singing the Wicked soundtrack and/or Taylor Swift and annoying the entire house. Some people sleepwalk, Emma Cheung sleepsings. Whether or not Emma took a nap that day is a question the entire family asks, every day. We like to be prepared.
That said, I have been ridiculously attached to this kid from Day One and that combined with the fact that she is likely our last makes it very very hard to be Objective or Stern. About anything. We find her charming and endlessly entertaining. The other day I found a video on my phone of 1-year-old Emma doing something silly with a toy, and then continuing to do it because it made the rest of us laugh. I suppose that is quintessential youngest child as well? When she's not milking her Youngest Status (and we ALL get suckered by that, her siblings included), she's searching for the thing to say, the thing to do (or sing!) that will make us all laugh.
She loves Jack, but she wants to BE Molly. One day she'll hate that all of her clothes used to be Molly's, but right now it is the best! thing! ever! Did MOLLY wear this when SHE was three?! THAT IS JUST THE MOST AMAZING THING SHE'S EVER HEARD!!!!!
Emma had just started to bloom - happily leaving me for preschool, playing with other kids on her own - when we whisked her out of preschool and went to Europe for three weeks. Since then she's back to her clingy self, getting out of community center ballet class by whimpering, "I miss Mommy!" She's alternately terrified of and in love with other people's pets, glued to my leg while one hand gingerly pets a furry head. You ask her what she wants to do and nine times out of ten the answer is "Go shopping with Mommy." (I MEAN COME ON.) In the fall she goes back to school, now three days a week, and staying for lunch. It will be wonderful, and it will be sad. The only thing sadder will be kindergarten. Let's not think about it.
Together they are amazing. As one of five kids, all 1 year apart, I know from fighting and my kids don't do it. Not like we did. Jack and Molly will annoy each other, take each other's thing, accidentally poke or shove or hit, but most of the time they are super tight, two heads put together making up games or shows or the most amazing domino run in the world. They're almost always happy to let their little sister play too, and if Jack can find something better than Minecraft for ten minutes, he's motivating the others and I don't even care that they're destroying the house because ALL THREE ARE OCCUPYING THEMSELVES AND HAVING A GOOD TIME AND I CAN READ THE INTERNET IN PEACE.
The little blond girl down the street is absolutely devastated every time she rings the doorbell and Jack and Molly aren't home - they're at camp, or out at the pool with their dad, or something like that - and she is SO. VERY. SAD. And my kids aren't ever like that because they have each other and I'm just amazed and thrilled that it turned out the way it did. It is my deepest dearest hope that they are friends when they grow up - good, close friends like they are now. At swim lessons, Jack and Molly are in different classes, but if they bump up against each other in the water, they're like OH LOOK, IT'S MY SIBLING WHO I HAVEN'T SEEN IN FOUR WHOLE MINUTES HEY HEY HIIIII THIS IS SO COOL! And at school when their classes are passing by in the hallway, they throw out a secret sibling wave that everyone can see. And then Emma is on the sidelines with me, not quite old enough to have her own class yet, and shouting, "HEY I SEE MY SISTER!" and that sister will hear and throw a wave to the other one. I could not love it more.
Still need school to start soon. I'm not THAT in love with these kids that they don't need to spend copious amounts of time away from me each day. LET'S NOT GET CARRIED AWAY HERE.