If You Take a Tween to the Ocean

Yeah, Nope.

“What was your favorite part of vacation?”

He shrugged his shoulders and looked away.

This is family vacation with a tween. The non-committal shrugging of shoulders beats white hot anger directed at everyone and no one. It beats apologizing for his disinterest, or rather, his feigned disinterest because I can see in his eyes that he still wants to play.

It also beats this.

Yeah, Nope. (2007)

I’ll take anger and stomping to his room and so-called boredom over limp-noodle toddler wailing any day of the week. Parenting at the beach in those earlier days felt like the opposite of vacation. Toddlers outside of their own home, eating completely off schedule, and crashing from repeated sugar highs always made me wonder why we drove ten hours to “relax.” Where was the relaxing part?

It’s not that the older of the two boys didn’t have fun on vacation. Occasionally he forgot himself, a smile spreading across his thinning face. He ran and jumped in the waves, crashed boogie boards on increasingly taller waves, and even dug holes and tunnels with his younger brother.

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But not before this exchange on the day they put up the red flags on the beach, signaling a strong rip current and to stay out of the water.

“I’m bored.”

Something inside of me snapped, but not in the angry way.

I didn’t get to go on vacation with the boys last summer. We sent them along with my parents as neither my husband nor I could get off work. I missed his last year of childhood joy without tween attitude, and I realized very quickly this year how the dynamic had shifted. Both boys still wanted to play, but only one was content to do so without looking around to see if anyone was watching.

I explained that it was practically impossible to be bored at the beach, listing off a never-ending list of things he could do. More shrugging of shoulders as he walked away, kicking sand. I watched him go, kicked sand myself.

The trip wasn’t all sullen looks and grumpiness though. I watched as something new emerged from our oldest son, especially when we did our day outings to places like the Maritime Museum, the book store, and more. He found lots of joy in these activities, ones that in previous years may have been met with the aforementioned boredom. He declared the museum trip the most fun ever even though we’ve been there about five times in ten years. He also won on the Go Kart track, but I maintainin that’s because I didn’t race this year.

By the end of the week, the red flags disappeared and we frolicked in the waves once more. By frolicked I mean that we got the living tar beat out of us by the waves as there were still storms off shore. The boys loved it. I watched him forget, again, to be a disinterested tween. I watched as he threw himself into the ocean, time and time again, with the pure glee only the ocean can bring.

I did the same. The ocean is the great equalizer, turning us all back into children if only for a few hours.

 

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Somewhere In Between

Somewhere In Between

We’re already a week and a half into our summer break. You know what that means? You know, beyond sibling bickering.

It means that our oldest son left elementary school behind a week and a half ago.

We attended the end-of-year Awards Ceremony and Fifth Grade Graduation. I knew the likelihood of bursting into tears was rather high, so I wore waterproof mascara. I should have gone for no makeup as I kept wiping the continuous leak from my left eye, thus wiping all makeup down to my eye cream off and leaving a giant red mark under my eye.

It’s not that I’m sad the kid is growing up.

But, approximately six blinks ago, he looked like this.

Somewhere In Between: First Day of Kindergarten

And now he looks like this.

Somewhere In Between: Last Day of 5th Grade

And somewhere in between, he looked like these versions of himself.

Somewhere In Between

It’s that somewhere in between that really gets you.

Somewhere in between, when you’re in the thick of constantly signing agendas and reading logs and permission slips, you finally miss the agenda one night. You know, the day after you ran a marathon, or something. And the look on their face lets you know one thing: They now know you can fail them… just in case they didn’t know yet.

Somewhere in between, when you’re making lunches and forgetting to send lunch money and fretting about their nutrition and making healthy after school snacks and letting finally them scavenge for themselves because they’ve got to learn how to eventually, right?

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Somewhere in between, when you’re helping them learn to sound out the -ed at the end of words so it doesn’t sound like ghost-Ed, a ghost named Ed; going over spelling and vocabulary words; helping them choose right verb tenses—and then suddenly they’re correcting your grammar and you’re all, “Wait. What?”

Somewhere in between, when you start out explaining that two plus two equals four BECAUSE IT DOES and holding them when they cry because they weren’t first to finished a timed math fact test and reassuring them that their worth is not defined by a state test and receiving a letter that your child is gifted in math and you cry a little because he worked so hard to get to that point and you had nothing to do with it other than making him believe in himself.

Somewhere in between, when they think the sun rises and sets on the heads of their first teacher to listening to a rant about why such-and-such teacher is so unfair to standing up for them when they need it to teaching them to stand up for themselves in the academic environment because you can’t fight all their battles to having a teacher tell you that they’re going to miss your kid the most.

Somewhere in between, when every kid is their friend to no one is their friend to situations that aren’t bullying but just kids being jerks because kids can be jerks to an incident that makes you want to punch another child in the face for hurting your baby to reassuring your kid that they’re cool and/or that cool is overrated to losing control over who they’re actually friends with to taking pictures of them with their best friends on that last day and realizing you knew these kiddos when they were that little too and it makes you want to cry again.

So you do.

Somewhere in between, when your kid loved school more than anything to when they hated it and didn’t want to go to the nervousness that accompanies leaving behind elementary school and heading to middle school which you know won’t be fully felt until the first day of school next year—for either of you.

Somewhere in between, he turned from a little boy into a tween. Somewhere in between, he learned a bunch of important lessons in everything from academics to life skills to relationships.

Somewhere in between, he stopped holding my hand in public. He recently refused to kiss me at bedtime. His attitude rivals that of my own at that age. He’s starting to play the trombone. His feet are bigger than mine.

Additionally, I have the honor of watching him play Little League this year in the Majors, comprised with 11- and 12-year-old boys. The difference between the end-of-fifth-graders and the end-of-sixth-graders is painfully visible, and so I am aware that even at the end, we remain somewhere in between as big things are about to happen.

I feel incredibly thankful for the experience he had in elementary school. I feel unprepared for what comes next, just like every other time he’s started in on something new.

On to the next somewhere in between which we got a preview of the day after fifth grade graduation at my cousin Hannah’s graduation party.

Somewhere In Between: A Preview

Well then. Okay.