With Max starting a new school this year, Rachel and I were understandably nervous. The first few weeks were not easy. Max seemed overwhelmed by some of the work, and dreaded doing his homework because it was so hard and took him so long to complete. We started to think maybe we made the wrong choice for Max. The struggles at school, seemed to be affecting him in all aspects of life. He was grumpy and irritable, he seemed to lack focus, and even struggled with baseball. He was striking out, making errors. September was not a good month for Max.
But then something weird happened. Everything just sort of started to click for him. Homework that was taking him 20 minutes to do, he was now finishing in 5 minutes. Papers he was getting minuses on, he was not getting pluses on. He got his first math test back and he got a 100. And his whole demeanor changed. He seemed happy again. He started to look forward to going to school. He started hitting the ball again, and his fielding improved. We got his first interim report last week, and his teacher noted that she was very encouraged by the improvements she’s seen Max make. He gets his first report card in two weeks, so I’m anxious to see what his grades are like. I’m hoping that the grades he got early on, don’t bring his marks down too much. I think getting a good 1st report card will help Max’s confidence. But even if the 1st report card isn’t great, I’m encouraged that he has done so well the 2nd half of the grading period.
So we were lucky enough to get Max into a new school. He did well at his old school, but the old school had it’s share of problems. There seemed to be a lot of teachers leaving each year. Which is never a good sign, and Rachel and I always felt like communication was lacking a bit and that academically, they weren’t really doing anything extra. They were basically just doing the bare minimum. So there were times when Max seemed bored and disinterested.
So the summer is about half way done. Max starts school in about 4 weeks. I thought it would be a good time to write. So far the summer has been great. It’s nice not having a rigid schedule like we do during the school year. Max enjoys staying up later. And it’s nice not running from ball field to ball field for games and practices. Although fall baseball starts up in just a few weeks.
Staying up later, and late sunsets have allowed us to do some late night swimming, toad/frog hunting, and firefly catching. Thankfully, Max hasn’t been as adiment this year about catching slugs. Last summer he was obsessed with slugs and snails. They are so gross and slimy, I really don’t like them at all. I have to admit that catching the toads has been kind of fun. We wait till about 9PM and we head out with flashlights and headlamps and a small plastic habitat. There have been nights where we searched for an hour and found nothing. There have been nights when we find 2 toads in the first 5 minutes. We usually catch them, Max observes them, we take photos, and then the next morning we release them.
We’ve also done a bit of stargazing. Last week, a co-worker mentioned the International Space Station. And I remembered that I had an app on my phone that tracks the ISS, and alerts when it is nearby and visable. So I re-enabled the alarms. Sure enought around 9PM on Friday night, I got an alert that the ISS would be passing by in 5 minutes. Rachel, Max and I headed out to take a look. About 9:05, we saw a small dot in the distance. In a few minutes the dot became bigger and easier to see. It was the ISS! That same night, we also saw a shooting star and the awesomely bright “blue moon”.
Max and I have gotten really close this summer. Sometimes with school, and sports, it seems like all we do is run around. It’s been nice, spending quality time with him this whole summer. Instead of running around from place to place, we have been leisurely doing different things. Like neighborhood bike rides, swimming, playing with water balloons, and gardening. In the spring, I saw a cool YouTube video about “earth buckets”. They are 5 gallon buckets that you use to grow vegetables. You drill a series of small holes and put a net pot on the bottom. The water wicks up through the holes and into the wicking cup which provides the perfect amount of water to the roots. I watched a few videos and kind of pieced the best aspects of each together and we built 5 of these buckets. We used 5 gallon buckets from Home Depot. We planted two types of tomatoes (roma and grape), two buckets with cucumbers, and 1 with bell peppers. We’ve had varying rates of success. The cucumbers have grown a little too well. They have gotten so large, that they are hard to manage. The roma tomatoes looked promising. The plant grew very full and had lots of flowers. However, as the tomatoes formed and then ripened, most of them got a dark black spot on them like they rotted. We’ve been picking them before they fully ripen, and that seems to help. So far we’ve gotten about 2 dozen roma tomatoes. About 15 cucumbers, and about 10 peppers. The grape tomatoes have grown amazingly well. We’ve probably gotten close to 100 tomatoes from that plant. The plant is huge and has dozens of flowers still. It’s been producing fruit for 6 weeks now. It’s been a fun project to do with Max. He enjoys watering the plants and checking for new vegetables each day. And since he loved cucumbers, he has enjoyed eating the “fruits” of his labor. Next year, I plan on doing these again. Maybe try some other fruits and vegetables.
Max has also had some fun playdates with some of his friends from his baseball team, and school, and he even got together with his friend Brody that he went to pre-school with. Max and I have always been close. But sometimes when we are super busy, we focus more on the activities and less on each other. It’s nice that he is now at the age where we can have conversations, and I can teach him things, and we can share laughs together. I love the way he giggles when I chase him in the pool when we play “water tag”, and when I make “monster waves” in the pool. It’s also funny watching as his sense of humor develops.
Max has also taken a real liking to skating. He goes roller skating almost every week. The local roller rink has fun summer events for the kids, so he got to skate with the Minions, did a “super hero skate”, and some other cool open skate events. He also tried ice skating again when we were on vacation. He’s definitely better and more comfortable on roller skates, but seems to enjoy doing both. The local ice rink has open skating, so I would like to take him a few times so he can continue to practice and get better. Max and I also tried rock climbing for the first time at this cool indoor facility. Max took a real liking to this as well. Rachel’s brother used to rock climb, so the next time we go, we will take him along so he can give us some pointers. It’s fun watching Max try things, and of course, it’s fun when I can try them along with him. I’m enjoying all of this immensely. The time will come, when Max doesn’t want to do things with Dad anymore, and will want to do more with his friends. So I’m happy that he still likes doing stuff with me and has fun while doing it. And we live in an amazing time, where we have cameras and social media to capture and share it all.
Parenting these days seems a lot different than when I was a kid. Not to say that my parents and the other parents of our generation didn’t care, it just seems like parents these days are much more involved than our parents were. I guess the verdict is out on whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I tend to think it’s good, but I’m sure there will be naysayers who say it creates co-dependency and we will have a generation that can’t function independently.
Maybe it’s because I was the youngest, and because there is a gap of 10 and 13 years between me and my two sisters, but there wasn’t a lot of one on one fun time with my parents when I was a kid. I don’t remember my Mom or Dad ever reading me bedtime stories, we only went on one family vacation together, and I don’t remember my Mom or Dad every sitting down to play with me like I do with Max. My Mom was always super serious. The one on one time her and I shared was usually doing homework and studying. It was usually not very fun. Again, maybe it was just the way things were back then, or maybe it was because my parents were both older in life when they had me.
My dad took me to the park, and I loved playing baseball with him and having him push me on the swings. But my dad was 51 when I was born. He would wake up at 4:30 to go to work, and was on his feet most of the day. So when he got home, a lot of the time, he just wanted to sit on the couch, smoke his pipe and watch Walter Cronkite. But he did try to find time to do things with me. But it was usually 1 or 2 nights a week. I had a lot more fun, one on one time with him then I ever did with my Mom. Don’t get me wrong, my mom’s helping me study was a huge plus, and it helped me a lot in school. It was just never fun. My mom wasn’t the type of person to dump out a pile of legos on the floor and say “lets build a castle”. We never sat at the kitchen table and colored in a coloring book together. When I fell and scraped my knee, she would clean the wound and put a band aid on my knee, but she wouldn’t kiss it to make it feel better. She would tell me I was acting too wild and to slow down. That’s just who she is.
Max and I play together all the time. We go to the park, we build forts out of blankets, we laugh together as we watch silly YouTube videos, we play catch in the front yard. I cherish all the time we have together. Thankfully, the company I work for encourages flex scheduling and telecommuting. So I’m able to work from home two days a week. On those days, I take Max to school in the morning and pick him up afterwards. We usually have about 2 hours together in the morning. And then when he gets home in the afternoon, we have about 90 minutes or so together, before Mom gets home. That one on one time is fantastic, and I enjoy it so much. Truly some of the best times of my life. Probably because I get to act like a kid again. But also because I get to watch Max grow and develop. Riding his bike without training wheels, climbing a tree all by himself, making it across the monkey bars without any help. All these little milestone in his life, that serve as a reminder of how much he’s grown and for how special these times are.
A few months back, Max asked why one of his cousins didn’t live at home with her mother and father any more. We explained that she was going to college and moved away so she could live on campus. Max looked sad and said “I never want to move out”. It made Rachel and I feel good that he is so happy and likes living with us so much. Of course, when he’s 18, he probably won’t feel exactly the same way, but for now, it gives us comfort.