My kids are older than I think they are. Apparently, this has been happening for a while, and I’m only now jut starting to notice.
It really hit home for me last week, when my son turned 13. That’s definitely one of those pivotal ages. He’s now officially a teenager, with his own Facebook account and all.
I guess I’ve still been thinking of him as that 10-year-old kid, who was still into Star Wars and Legos. But he has moved on to more grown-up things, from his sense of humor to his taste in movies (we’re in the Adam Sandler phase; I think that’s about right for 13). I even think he’s starting to develop a fashion sense (he at least seems to care about which T-shirt he picks to wear with his jeans, and he occasionally combs his hair with minimal prodding).
And while we’ve tried to be good parents, and we’ve had all those uncomfortable conversations that it’s important to have with your kids, he still surprises me with what he’s picked up. Every now and then he’ll make a reference to something I didn’t think he knew quite so much about just yet. When I ask how he knows about those sorts of things, he rolls his eyes and replies, “Uh, Dad, I am in middle school.”
That answer certainly made me nervous, because it got me thinking about all the things I knew — or thought I knew — when I was 13 (they still called it junior high school back then). It’s probably time for another one of those uncomfortable talks.
My daughter, who is 11, is also growing up fast. When I pick her up at school, or at the pool after swim practice, I frequently am not able to spot her, usually until walks up to me and taps me on the shoulder. While I might blame it on leaving my glasses in the car (my near-sightedness is getting nearer and nearer), it more because I’m scanning the crowd for the little girl with the bob haircut, bright polka-dot jumper and striped tights, not the young lady with the long blonde hair standing in front of me. I think I have a little while before it’s time for one of those uncomfortable talks with her — but really, not too long. After all, she’ll be headed to the middle school next year, too. Oh boy.
The kids also keep surprising me with their physical abilities, too. They’ve been in karate for a couple of years. It seems like it was just recently, they’d come home and show me a move, and I would have to let them push me around for the move to work. Now, all they say is, “Hey Dad, grab my wrist,” and the next thing I know, I’m on my knees with my arm pinned behind me. I don’t think I could fight back if I wanted to. Glad to see we’re getting our money’s worth out of those classes.
In fact, I think we’re at the point where I’m no longer “letting” the kids win at anything. They’re pretty much beating me on their own. Just last week, I cajoled Billy into doing the Fuzzy Predator ski race over at Tsalteshi Trails with me. He’s been participating in the middle school ski program for the past two seasons, and apparently, he’s been picking up the skills. I can still climb a little better than he can, and that fact that the race organizer included the trails’ biggest hills in the race course was the only thing keeping me ahead. I made the mistake of waiting for him to catch up at the top of the last hill, and he repaid my kindness by sprinting past me and beating me to the finish line.
If I were to get into the pool for a race with my daughter, it wouldn’t even be that close. She swims like a dolphin, I’m more like a tug boat.
There is an upside to this realization that my kids are getting older: they’re ready to take on a little more responsibility. Maybe it’s time for them to help a little more with the dishes, learn how to use the vacuum cleaner and fold their own laundry. And clearly, they are bright enough to help sort the recycling and take trash to the transfer station — which is good, because I need the help. Trying to keep up with them otherwise is wearing me out.
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.