One of my favorite memories growing up was playing house with my little brother and little sister. “Our House” consisted of a few blankets, old milk crates, inoperable lamps and the last and most important ingredient — a vivid imagination. This kept us busy for hours. No one explained how to play this child version of charades. My mom didn’t buy an instruction manual on how to teach us to play this game or take a class on what to do if it rains while playing this game. Besides mom checking to make sure we weren’t tormenting my little brother, we were on our own.
Times are different now. Our kids enter the competitive world of “growing up” as soon as they exit the womb. Shortly after my oldest was born I was bombarded by questions from a more experienced set of mothers.
“How much did he weigh?”
“Are you nursing?”
“How long will you nurse?”
“When did he start sleeping through the night?”
“Is he crawling yet?”
“What about his teeth?”
“How many does he have?”
“Are you breastfeeding?”
“What kind of classes are you taking him to? Mommy and me? Gymboree?”
“Have you tried baby sign language?”
By the time this shotgun session of questions ended I worried that I was raising a toothless insomniac whose only sign language skill was chewing on his fist. I could not wait for the next step, tooth, and smile.
Around the age of 3 the next set of worries began. Preschool meant letters, numbers, manners, new friends and lest we forget … parents of new friends. I couldn’t wait for the big boy bed, big boy room, first night sleeping in that big boy bed.
Grade school means bigger backpacks, cursive handwriting, checking out library books, sleepovers, paying for overdue library books, more new friends. I couldn’t wait for the next perfectly planned birthday party, perfect hit in baseball, photo with Santa.
Middle school brings with it harder math, trying out for sports, baby teeth replaced by those awkward big teeth, cliques, independence struggles, disappointment over not making a team. I couldn’t wait until he started cleaning his room, flushing the toilet without being threatened, wearing deodorant, caring about his appearance or for him to lose that last baby tooth so he could finally get braces.
The cliques in junior high can be brutal making this one of the most trying times in a person’s life, especially mine! I couldn’t wait until he stopped wanting a girlfriend.
By high school most are in a good routine. They have friends, extracurricular activities, and THANK GOD, he cares what he looks and smells like. Everything seems to be working like a well-oiled machine. Good friends, good grades, good spot on the cross-country team. The only problem? I couldn’t look at one of his baby pictures without getting that sinking feeling. The kind that lets me know this boy is going to grow up and I CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.
The oldest is getting ready to graduate from college in a few months and in a few short months, the youngest will begin his last year of high school. I won’t bore you with my current worries. However, I will tell you, when it comes to our children, the worry never stops. It may change, but it never really goes away. And something else. It’s not helpful.
Since becoming a mom more than 21 year ago, I rarely venture out into the unknown when it comes to anything that involves kids’ activities without doing a risk assessment. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid the risk and all the emotions that are part of growing up. So, I’ll do what I should have done years ago when anxiously waiting for his next big milestone … I’ll shut up for a minute and watch these boys grow up.
Telling Tales is written by Wilson County’s Becky Andrews and Angel Kane. This column is Becky’s.