So I just got back from a weeklong cruise with two t/w/een minions. They are twelve and fifteen. You know the emoji with the big unblinking freaked out eyes? That was me—just trying to imagine the craziness that would ensue on our trip with these two. In other words, I wouldn’t call my boys easy. I literally told them that if they misbehaved too badly we could end up in a foreign prison.
No one went to jail but I learned a lot about my kids on this trip. For example, I learned it is possible for a twelve-year-old boy to eat 70 ice cream cones in seven days (in the hot tub with the old folks was his favorite place to enjoy said cones). I learned teen boys will sell their souls for crappy sunglasses that make them look like mini frat boys. And I learned that we should spend more time practicing our formal dinner skills (oh boy).
I learned some pretty valuable stuff too. The most obvious was that I still have a lot to learn, mainly about my boys. I thought I knew them and knew them well. But I know the 17-acre version of them—the version of them that plays basketball in our driveway and walks to the creek for a good time. I didn’t know that another version even existed.
I learned that KG (the youngest) likes girls. I already knew that of course. He has been checking them out for a while. On the cruise, he held a girl’s hand. And danced with her. He mentioned it as if it were no big deal. He just recently started brushing his teeth without threats, so this is a pretty big bump up. I hope she noticed how sparkly his braces were.
I also learned that KG is quite good at making friends. There aren’t a lot of kids near us, and he has always been awkward in the eyes of others (I think he is amazing!). Due to mild autism, he struggles to make friends at school, but on the cruise, he had a full-time posse. He brought about seven of them back to the cabin one day. He gave them a full tour, “this is where I sleep…” (which pretty much concluded the tour).
I learned that JC prefers the company of adults at times. He played soccer, basketball and even dodgeball with the adults. He sometimes came back, ordered room service and went to bed early, while KG was literally swimming in sweatpants because wasting a trip back to change into swim shorts was just crazy talk. JC is the social one back home, but our youngest was the social butterfly at sea.
I learned that JC feels a lot of responsibility towards KG and it was affirmed to me that KG wants no part of that. He is his own man you know (he proved it by sitting as far from us on the plane as possible.)
I also learned that sleeping is not easy for me if my children are not tucked in tightly and that I have a lot of growing up to do before my children drive a car, and stay out past dark.
I learned that parenting is hard and it’s only going to get harder.
I also learned that my kids are normal. I always see the “character award” kids on my friends’ Facebook pages, and the honor roll stickers on everyone else’s minivans. Meanwhile I spend a lot of time saying things like: Chew with your mouth closed. Your shirt is inside out. Don’t throw food at your brother.
I spend so much time prepping and polishing my kids that sometimes I forget to enjoy them. I spend so much time telling them NO that I forget to sometimes let them throw caution to the wind and just be kids and to relish in being themselves.
My kids loved this vacation. And I did too. It was my favorite family vacation ever because I got to see my kids in an unnatural habitat that shined perspective on who they really are when algebra and laundry are not looming—when their minds are free from report cards and behavior goals.
Someday they will be men, but for now they are kids. And it was truly amazing and exhilarating to see them just laugh, play, eat their weight in ice cream and fall down surfing for the first time.
I know them better now. But I don’t know them completely. There is a whole lot of who they are, waiting to break through and waiting to become. I hope I am mom enough to get out of their way and let them be. They are among my greatest gifts, and my cup runs over but they aren’t mine to hold tightly forever.
I can’t take credit for creating them, but I sure do plan to enjoy them—brave, shy, creative, sporty, contemplative and even a little awkward.
Oh, and here’s something for you. KG’s principal called me today just to tell me that he has been taking initiative to do his schoolwork. It might not be a character award, but it is a super proud moment in our house, and completely worth celebrating!
Maybe I’ll get my own bumper sticker:
My kids aren’t on the honor roll
But they’re learning to be great men
Kris Wolfe is a Christian, wife and mother. She is a freelance writer who focuses on spiritual and practical encouragement, writes lessons for small group purposes for churches, and is also a small group coach. Kris has a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Luther Rice University and Seminary and is a listed TN Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.
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