11 October, 2016

Some observations about how life is changing for us

The rhythms of life are gradually changing for us. In our early to mid 40s we now have boys who are in middle and high school. When I wrote back here about giving a house key to our youngest son I knew it was happening. It's a little different living it.

The changes are gradual, but worth noting. Here are some things that have been changing gradually or more suddenly over the last few years:
Our boys are getting big. I've only got about 2 inches
over our youngest son now!

Of course this is obvious, but it does effect the flow of life at home. We used to have a great rhythm of getting the boys into their bedrooms soon after dinner and then had an hour or more to ourselves. That has definitely changed. The youngest still goes to his bedroom after dinner (though not straight after dinner), but his light is often not out till 9pm. The other two are often in bed after us, though we try to get them to come upstairs by about 10pm if they don't have school work that they need to get finished that night. The key being that we only allow them to have computers and electronic devices downstairs in the shared spaces of our dining room and lounge room. 

David and I still take time out from parenting most nights and watch a 45-minute episode of something like CSI in the lounge room on our own. But the boys are still there when we're done. Parenting is a much longer affair these days. Dealing with homework issues at 10pm makes me very tired. Once or twice a week I also read the Bible with one or two boys at this time of night. The bonus is that I often get a back rub out of that plus good talking time, but it really wears me out.

Time without them in the house
Yes, this has changed too, currently we have no boys home three afternoons a week until after 5pm. That's a big change to overseeing homework and music practise. One I'm trying to utilise by planning things myself at that time, like visiting a new friend whose little kids are resting at that time or going to the gym. Today I'm at a coffee shop working instead of staying at home on this gray, dismal afternoon.

They're also involved in other things like youth group, playing games at friends' houses, sports events etc. that take them away at various times when usually they would have been with me. 

They're more self-sufficient at home
That means we can leave them alone at home at times. That means things like yesterday, a CAJ and public holiday, when four of us went across Tokyo to an OMF event and left our eldest at home to work and rest. I don't know that he got a lot of the former done, but it is good for him to be learning to manage his own time when there's no one home to oversee this.

This point and the one before means that at times David and I have gone out for longer than 30 minutes on various errands or even dates without the boys, leaving them all at home. That is relatively new. Some families manage this earlier, but our combination of boys, ages, and personalities have meant that we've waited until relatively recently to indulge in this.

That means also that they're doing more chores around the house. So I rarely wash up or hang up washing. I don't clear the dining table. I don't make their beds and some meals they are making themselves. I don't take out rubbish or tidy their rooms. I don't pack their bags for overnights and try not to double check that they have sorted those details (more so for the older one than the youngest ones). I don't supervise showers or toilets (though I do still tell them to get out of the shower at times and are still at times reminding boys to go to the shower). I don't cut finger or toe-nails, and a myriad of other details that used to take up my mental space. All of that means that I have more time.

Emotional changes
It's hard to compare this now to before. They're a lot bigger, so I can't physically force things to happen. They've always been very self-willed, so I can't say that it is particularly easier now, although they're gradually learning some things aren't worth fighting over. Now I can, mostly, reason with them, which wasn't the case when they were little. Communication has gotten more complex, as has strategies for dealing with them. One has to be even more clever these days than I used to have to be (see this post about the challenges of parenting smart kids that I wrote three years ago).

There's more at stake in as they go up in school. This we've noticed in high school especially. Failing to complete an assignment has more riding on it than it used to, which raises the emotional stakes for all involved. We're also getting closer to releasing a boy to live independently, that's scary, there's not much time left and it's hard to not get worried about that.

It's interesting to see them gradually figure more complex things out, especially about themselves. One of our boys discovered some years ago (because we told him) that he was an introvert. That colours how he views the world now, but especially helps him to control himself and be more understanding.

Moving beyond being a family-with-children-at-home is getting closer and that colours our thoughts of the future. We're now dreaming of things we'll do once they all leave home (I turn 50 a couple of months before, Lord willing, our last child graduates from high school).

This, I guess, is middle-age! It's good to reflect now and not be bowled over suddenly later on when we realise that all these gradual changes have snuck by and all of a sudden our kids are all grown up and our daily lives are irrevocably changed.

PS. There are more I haven't included here, after I put this online I kept thinking of more I could have added, like how celebrations have changed and how spontaneity has become easier in some ways. All you middle-aged mums and older, feel free to add more in comments!

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