The past seven days or so, I've been helping the kids stay focused on their studies. Not studying with them (except for grammar with Lulu), but wrangling them into study mode. Semester exams began last Friday and ended at 11:20 this morning. As did the last day of school. Thus, begins summer.
Another milestone, too: Lulu turned thirteen this past Sunday. We are now a true teen household. It's becoming increasingly more difficult for me to remember what life was like before the teen years. Childhood and the peri-teen years. (And for the girl, the peri-peri-teens. An agonizingly extended period.) I genuinely welcomed my children's growing independence. Perhaps my failure to summon certain stages of their development stems from an established management strategy; a coping, or defense, mechanism—a survival tactic—the subconscious suppression, or repression, of those infant and toddler days.
There was a stretch of time, six years to be exact, after an ambivalent move to the burbs, when the kids were very small and when my husband traveled nearly every week, a time when this now thirteen-year-old sprite never slept and her older brother, the Nocturnal Knight, never stopped, when I was working full-time, three days in the office, two at home, a time of overwhelming single-mother type stress, when I felt desperate for help. And for sleep. Though I never would have admitted as much then. I barely remember that stretch now. This too shall pass was my mantra. And it did. Pass.
Last night I watched the now 6' 2" Max lift himself from his comfy, curled position on the couch and stride over to the kitchen with a very man-like gait. Shoulders broad, head up, confident, but still rail-thin. When did this happen? This man thing? He won't be fifteen for ten days.
* * *
On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Lu says, Ma, you know I'm happy you're an older mother. I think older mother's are wiser. They don't spoil their kids as much.
I consider this for a moment. But didn't you get everything you wanted for your birthday, Lu? (She didn't want much, really. Just a few clothing items and perfume from her favorite Pink and Hollister stores.)
True, but you don't spoil me like some kids are spoiled, and some kids are not so nice to their parents because of that. They know they can get away with things.
So, you're saying you don't mind that you don't always get what you want.
Yup, that's what I'm saying.
I punch my fists in the air, Yes!, and tell Lu that I wish I'd had her words recorded on tape. (There are many, many things I wish I had on tape. Or on notes. Or video, or any medium given to reproduction.) I try to expunge the thought that, at least in my mind, the essence of this conversation is that I am old. And Lu is anxious that I may not be around as long as some other moms. But that's another conversation. One that we've had. Fears.
* * *
I try to remember them as babies. I look at old photos lining the upstairs hall. I recall their smiles and laughs at various stages of their young years. (I heave aside the colic and tears.) Their pranks and late night prowls in their bedrooms and throughout the house. I almost remember the warm feel of them in my arms, but it is like the warmth of an an old friend who has moved to another country. And I don't have a passport. I want to go there. But I don't necessarily want my photo taken for the papers. What those days ultimately bring to mind, aside from some funny and absurd moments, is how well toned my arms were back then. I wonder if it would be any easier to get those back.
Tonight, I head back to my old high school with Lu. She will present a certificate to the girl who won a college scholarship in my father's name. (Father taught English at the high school.) Max and his cousin Emmie presented two years ago, and another cousin last year. Lu will be at a podium. She will speak. She has prepared notes. She is ready. She does not seem worried at all. It's her time.
June 8, 2012 Postscript:
This morning, I'm heading to the wilds of Maine with the kids to celebrate the end of the school year. We'll be at the family lake house (where internet service is taboo) for the next several days. I'll be catching up with all of you when I return next week. Have a wonderful weekend. :)