Life with Liz: Sit back and enjoy the ride
The other night I had to pick A up after play practice. It was the week before the spring musical production and, of course, practice was going late. A joined the stage crew this year. And the marching band. And the jazz band. And student council. And the Math Counts team. And the track team.
As I sat in the car, enjoying a few quiet moments to myself, I saw him emerge from practice with a group of his friends. It was obvious they were all tired, but at the same time, there was an air of satisfaction and confidence about the group.
It struck me in that moment how mature A has become this past year. Sure, he went to middle school last year, but something about this year has changed him. He is starting to spend more hours away from his family and the activities that we do together and has become more a part of his school family.
He’s started to step outside of his comfort zone and challenge himself to try new things. I had one of those quiet moments of parental pride seeing him so clearly happy.
For me, high school was one of the best times of my life. I know I’m lucky to be able to say that. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it my glory days, but I don’t feel the need to block most of those years out. I had a solid group of friends, was active in many school activities, and once the braces came off and I got contacts, I even had a little bit of self-confidence. I was sad to leave my high school friends, but more than ready to move on to college when the time came.
As I see A flourishing in his academics and his many extracurriculars, he reminds me so much of myself. He, too, has been lucky to find a solid group of friends. Many of them have been friends since they were toddlers and we overanxious moms enrolled them in every story time and swim class and any other activity we could find.
We were all worried how middle school would change that dynamic, and so far, it seems that their circle has only grown larger as they find new friends and new interests but keep their old bonds alive.
I know that belonging to clubs and organizations is an important part of surviving middle school, because of the support that like-minded kids can provide for each other. I’m so glad that I haven’t had to force A to become a joiner. In fact, the other day, I suggested to him that as his academic load increases over the next few years, he may need to step back from being involved in so much.
He just looked at me and said, “I know I’ve heard some saying about a pot and a kettle, and I’m not really sure what it means, but I feel like it might apply here.”
Touché. It seems that he may have also inherited my sense of sarcasm.
Right now, he seems to be managing the delicate balance of all this very well. But I am all too aware that this could change at any moment. Just the other day, he asked me if he could open a Snapchat account. That warm fuzzy feeling I’d been having about his middle school life immediately turned into an icy ball of angst.
I’ve heard so many horror stories from other parents about the online bullying that takes place, and I just didn’t even want to go there. At the same time, I know that much like we stretched the phone cord to the bathroom and delighted in the advent of three-way calling, this is how the kids these days are communicating.
A’s done well so far with his cellphone and text messaging. He knows that at any point in time I can demand the phone and scroll through whatever I want. The oversight seems to be working well, and he hasn’t fought me or the Wonderful Husband on any random checks. Between the two of us, we think we have enough internet savvy to keep up with a 12-year-old.
So back to the Snapchat request. My first line of defense is to ask him to think about it for a week. Unfortunately, I know that this isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to fade to the back of his mind in a week. My next line of defense will be to say yes, but only under the condition that I get an account and can view his at any time. Because I have plenty of time to monitor yet another social media platform.
My final line of defense will be to decide if this is the time to cut the cord a little more and let him get it at his own risk. I’m also playing out how I’m going to handle these situations in another year or two with his more precocious little brother, G. I already know that G is a much different animal and he’s going to be a little disappointed that some of the liberties that his brother has been granted may not apply to his free spirit.
Parenting has always felt like a roller coaster. These preteen years though, they are taking it to a new level. Now we’re riding without a safety harness and the loops are getting bigger and it feels like we might be over a moat full of hungry alligators and the coasting moments of calm are farther and farther apart.
As I picked A up from his cast party, at 1 o’clock in the morning, and he announced that next year, he’s thinking about trying out for a speaking part, as well as continuing with the stage crew.
“They’re called ‘cr-actors,’ Mom.” I just enjoyed the fact that he’s still happy to share his plans with me. It feels like I’ve at least been granted a seat belt on this wild ride.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.