Teenager in the house

“Keep true to the dreams of your youth.”   ~Friedrich Schiller

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Yesterday my son stepped over from being a tween, solidly joining the ranks of teens. So far so good. It has only been a day. But we have been watching him change over the months and years. There have been little signs and clues. Nothing is happening in the flash of a birthday passing by the calendar.

The articles on the internet, (probably a bad place to look for information on this topic), describe a list of horrors which await parents. Luckily life doesn’t unfold for one person in the same manner as another. We don’t know the trials waiting for our family as our son grows into a man, but something about his character will be at his core to guide him.

I am looking at a document I wrote 12 1/2 years ago. It was titled – “Long term vision”, where I detailed hopes and dreams for my family, 10 years hence. I wrote an interesting paragraph about my son. Keeping in mind he was only 6 months old at the time, I was seriously projected my wishes, rather than having knowledge of him.

he is 10 now….11 in August he keeps reminding me whenever he asks to do something I think he isn’t ready for yet. He is so confident and big for his age. Sometimes he bites off more than he can chew and no-one is the wiser because he has the stride of someone who knows what he is doing. Under it all though, he has a lot of fun. He understands very clearly, at the end of the day, you only live once. He is content to still play and enjoy the age he is at.

Of course, not every detail of this vision is accurate. But the essence is spot on. Maybe that is what I find interesting as I review this and compare to the young man he is becoming. He is confident and self-assured. He still enjoys life.

Maybe all that will change as he wades deeper into adolescence. The hormones will rage and cause all number of problems and confusion for him, I’m sure of that. What I think will help unravel the confusion for him is at his very core – his dreams. From the beginning he had an active imagination, something which has served him well. He speaks of his dreams, he plans for the future.

Now I think it is our job, as his parents to help keep these dreams alive. Prop him up and remind him when life seems overwhelming. And maybe we need to lead by example. It might be time to reach back into our young minds and remember. Sort though what is there and act on the good stuff we find.

Personal Space

How much space do we really need anyway? We packed everything we need, (and probably more), for 5 days of vacation. All that gear, stuffed into the Honda Pilot. Then we unloaded it all into a little cottage. Gradually we found all the little nooks and crannies where things could be stored away for our visit. Yet, stuff is strewn around, taking up most available surfaces. The treasures of comfort we brought from home.

It makes me wonder if it would be possible to reduce our possessions and square feet of living space down into a much smaller footprint. There is a movement towards these tiny houses, which accomplish that. But as I sent the kids out to the patio to eat their breakfast this morning, they insisted it was too cold. They did not think to throw on warmer clothes and enjoy the amazing view of the water. They huddled over the sink instead.

I can’t blame them. My children have grown accustomed to a certain level of comfort, which requires space. But I wonder if we would be better off as a family to live with a little less? Be a little closer together. Evidently it fosters a sense of politeness that is not so common in North America today. When you live in close quarters you are brushing past each other, touching and being close, which forces you to respond in kindness and mutual respect.

On the other hand, after this 5 day experiment, my family will be extremely glad to be home. Privacy will be restored. Personal space expanded back up to normal.

The upside is that when my children complain about the small size of our house back home, I can now talk about a cottage – and they will be aware that we could live in an even smaller space. Grateful they will be! (I’m not so sure).

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Technology break

My kids balked at the thought. They were filled with panic….and then questions. How does one go without technology for a whole long weekend? And, why?

I think my kids are like most of their age. Access to computers at home, and in the case of my son, takes one to school. They both have iPhones, sans SIM cards, so basically iPods. But they run IOS version 4, which allows for robust parental controls. Yet, still – they manage to navigate into territory we had not imagined or intended.

But that is not the reason for the ban, I mean break. I have been wanting to do this for a long time. Give it a try before our children became so entrenched that a weekend break would not be possible.

For two and a half weeks in Mexico last year, we had no computers for the kids. The compromise was iPhones. They stared at those little blue screens everywhere but the beach. The devices are like pacifiers. In an effort to well-behaved children, the technology is a big help. But I miss something about spending time together. The interaction is not the same.

For this weekend, I asked the kids to imagine we were living in the 1980’s. The reaction to what life was like then is interesting.

  • They both had visions of Pac Man. Yeah, only if you got on your bike and rode to the arcade with a pocket full of quarters, which your parents likely wouldn’t allow.
  • How do they talk to their friends without texting? The telephone is not how kids communicate these days.
  • I allowed Netflix and movies from iTunes, (we don’t really have regular cable TV and video stores are not available anymore). Last night, we watched “Saving Mr. Banks” and my children are so fixed on knowing what happens next, (immediately), they drown out the onscreen action with – “what happens next?” Effectively, their attention span has dwindled with their increasing need for immediate gratification.
  • My husband loathes board games, but has agreed to play “21”, which is really blackjack, which is really endorsing poker. But, I was raised on this card game, it was a staple in my 1980’s home.
  • Settlers of CatanI agreed to purchase a new board game – Catan. That was the kind of thing that would have captured my imagination as a child, not surprising my Son is very interested. But, not until Saturday. No stores are open in our community on Good Friday!

 

We’ve got a break in the rain today, sunny skies and an adventure into the world before technology as my children have grown accustomed to.

Deluxe for dinner

My son claims to be a foodie. It is true that he loves to eat, at least whatever I make at home. But twelve years old is probably a little young to be trying to join the club of people who “live to eat”. Of course, for anyone that knows me, this situation does not sound strange at all. As soon as I’m done breakfast, (maybe even while still eating), it is time to plan lunch and for sure dinner.

My husband is not a foodie. He likes to eat certain things. While he is trying to expand his palette, (that involves forcing himself to eat things he does not like, over and over), he admits to food being mainly fuel for him. While he enjoys certain things, it is not going to make his day at breakfast to know what dinner will be.

Despite these differences, or maybe because of them, we have carved out a nice selection of restaurants in our local area where my husband will look forward to eating out. I get a full dose of well prepared dishes which always leave me feeling great that we went out. Portions need to be small and so tasty. This leaves you wanting more, but temporarily satisfied. There has to be some mystery. A reason to come back.

On our list and located at East Beach on Marine Drive is “Deluxe“. What a great name for a restaurant. Our time here has always been an adult affair. Lately we have thought our son would enjoy it, but could he handle the elevated level of manners required for fine dining?

Friday night we decided to give it a go. He did great and was such a pleasure to have with us. Great conversation, deep appreciation for the menu items, perfect manners. It was not a big deal at the time, but as I think back, another shift has occurred. He is not our little boy anymore. If we gave him a credit card, he could probably host a group, just like a pro.

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Speed

When did my little baby turn into the young man who could confidently launch himself into a 40 degree pitch of knee deep snow and accelerate to 70km per hour? Then sustain that intensity for the better part of 6 kilometers? And hike for 475 steps along a ridge to get there in the first place. Enjoying every bit of it.

As a parent it is amazing to watch how he has transformed. As predicted, it happened so fast. Like the speeds he was reaching in the Tayton Bowl, time has sped by just the same. We have these little snap shots to record the moments – the go pro video, some iPhone photo’s, the app which gives us the stats, the facts. It is the feeling of being there, present in the moment, burning it into my memory. The taste of poutine, classic rock and exposed wooden beams in the chalet will always be associated with skiing, my family, my children, the most important people in my life.

My son has years of skiing adventures ahead of him. His path will twist and turn along the highs and lows. His passion and dedication will carry him along. I’ll be waiting at the bottom of the run to hear the stories of adventure from his journey.

Secret Santa

My husband bought me a gift for Christmas that we have hidden from the kids. I know what you are thinking, and no – it is not x-rated.

It is very strange to be hiding presents from the children which are not meant for them. Usually we are waiting until the last-minute to buy, or hiding presents in cars, at work, wherever. My husband and I must have been devious children, because on many occasions we had discovered the hiding place of Santa. For anyone who has done this, you know what a huge let down that was. But it was an addiction and we kept on hunting each year. So we expect our children to be the same and strangely they are not.

It could be that our children are smarter than we were, (are). Why ruin the fun of Christmas morning by snooping around in closets when your parents will be furious if they found out what you had done or were trying to do? Or they are too lazy to bother. Or they have everything they could ever want.

In an effort to simplify our Christmas gift giving this year, I came up with a new scheme. We pick a mall, (Oakridge) we pick a day, (Saturday Dec 7) we have a limit, ($33 per person) we make a list. The idea is to enjoy a day shopping together, although we are all suspicious of what fun can be had in a mall fighting crowds. We only spend one day on shopping, which makes my life so much better. We have a low limit so we target less expensive gifts which foster creativity on the side of the list maker and the shopper, (kids are completely disappointed as the super expensive things they want are not getting bought. I guess that is like finding Santa’s stash and realizing not much of what you wanted was in there.)

The plan for this day sounded good, but my husband was dismayed. “What about my gift for you?” (I think he already bought it). Oh that is exempt from this scheme. We are teaching the kids a lesson. What we didn’t learn already is not going to be gleaned by this exercise. We are grown ups, do as I say, not as I do!

And that is how I come to be in possession of a new iPad. Can’t very well put it under the tree. The kids will immediately call us out. No, better to be a bit discreet. If they ask, this new one is a replacement for the old one that died. Which is partially true, old one is not dead yet, but on its last legs.

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Ultimately, we are the parents, making up our own rules as we go. Someday they can too!

The tree

I bought our first Christmas tree from The Bay in 1992. We were living in an apartment that didn’t allow real trees, something about a fire hazard. The model that adorns our living room now, was so popular, the floor display was available to staff in early December. 21 years on, this faux Douglas fir is looking a little worse for wear. She drops as many needles as if she were real.

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We had no money, so we made most of the decorations. The store-bought items still bear the markings of discounts in years gone by. I have not acquired anything new in a very long time. Unless you count the myriad of class-made presents my children have presented over the years. I can’t bear to throw them away. So my “style” of decoration has become home-made chic. The very thing I vowed never to accept in my life, back when I was younger and maybe more hip.

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I do have a few standards. The lights have to go on first and they need to be done in a certain way. Truth be told, I realized today, I have paid so little attention to decorations in recent years, I almost didn’t have enough lights for the whole tree. I remembered when I was running out, that I need to buy a new string every year to account for the one that dies. So I’m down at least one this year.

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As it turns out, my daughter doesn’t have the stamina for decorating a Christmas tree. She refused to put all the bows on. That was after I let her clump everything of the same style all in one spot. She begrudgingly put all the bows on after I had to start counting her. Really. That is not in the spirit, for either one of us.

However, my husband has carols playing in the kitchen and is making dinner. My son is greatly relieved after realizing that he did not mistakenly ruin his iPod. He is almost singing for joy! Not the most traditional way to start the season, but we walk to the beat of our own drum.