Back when I was a full-time at-home mom, people would sometimes ask, “What do you do all day?” It was meant to be either innocently inquisitive or incredibly insulting, as though staying home with two children under three was some sort of vacation from “real jobs” involving unsticking the copier and raiding the leftover danishes in the conference room.
My answer was always the same: “I undo everything my kids have done.”
You know, putting away the 143 Matchbox cars snaked across the kitchen floor for a game called “Thanksgiving Traffic Jam.” Wiping peanut butter off the cat’s tail. Fishing the remote out of the toilet. Retrieving my bookmarks from behind the heaters.
Predictably, I was then warned to enjoy my kids while they were little, because, as conventional wisdom dictated, my little cherubs would soon enough turn to surly, sullen teens with chips on their shoulders and pot in their pockets. And then I’d be begging to go back to wrestling car seats and pulling what appears to be graham crackers out of the DVD player. Especially in the summertime.
Guess what though? They lied.
Or at least, they left out a part, because my kids not only aren’t surly, they’re actually helpful. That’s right: My middle schoolers have worked with me instead of against me ever since they got out of school three weeks ago.
There’s nothing to undo when they put away their own laundry and dishes. There’s nothing to fix when they make their own lunches. There’s nothing to lug, wrangle, scrub. And with no activities lined up for them until later this month, there’s nowhere to carpool either.
I was in the middle of producing a video on Tuesday when my office door swung open, and my soon-to-be sixth grader appeared with a grilled cheese sandwich — with ham — that he’d made for me, a glass of cold water and a brownie.
“Who are you, and what have you done with the little boy who used to stash Legos in his diaper?” I asked.
A few hours later, I emerged from my (air-conditionless) office to go check on the laundry, only to discover that my 13-year-old had put away the pile of clean clothes I’d left on his bed.
“Do I need to scan your brain for a computer chip? Are you one of those suburban spies?” I asked my elder child. But he was busy drawing quietly at his desk.
How come nobody told me about this? Why did no one ever say, “Hey, you might have holes in your pants from repeatedly dropping to your knees to retrieve crawling babies from under the couch now, but one day, your kids will be a joy to live with”?
Why didn’t anyone say, “Look, I know you’re exhausted from being on call every single second of the day now, but in 10 years, your children will help you carry the groceries in, sweep the floor and remind you when the next World Cup game kicks off”?
Why did they try to sell me on the idea that bigger kids are guaranteed bigger problems?
That’s not to say that there haven’t been wrestling matches over the Wii, located in the room over my head. Or that I haven’t yelled, “Knock it off!” at least once a day since school let out in June. Or that I didn’t just hear the soccer ball WHACK against my office window. Plus it’s true: I have gotten more stupid since my son turned 13 in March. It’s measured in his eye rolls.
But man, er, Mom, I’ll take that anyday over the daily deal with the Devil to get the kids to nap at the same time pleeeeeeease-just-for-a-half-hour-I-beg-you. Give me the “Your music is too loud, Mom” over “Veggie Tales again!” I’ll take yet another Mythbusters episode over anything with Elmo in it. I want the bounce-bounce-bounce of the soccer ball out back instead of the stop-dropping-your-bowl-no-bad-boy!
Give me middle school or give me, well, not death…but sometimes, it sure felt like a part of my soul was gasping for air back when my kids were little. And all the dire warnings of what was to come made me fear that it would shrivel up altogether as soon as puberty hit the house.
So here’s my new promise: I will enjoy my kids while they’re not little. In fact, that’s what I do all day.
SPEAK UP! I can’t hear you. Tell us what you love, hate, fear, look forward to about your kids at any age. We want to hear from you!
Even more, they are fantastic with a video camera, too: