Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Our Four Pack

We’re covering new ground these days. We knew it was coming, we just didn’t realize it would happen so gradually and yet so quickly. Our oldest leaves for college this summer. Her brother will start his senior year of high school. He’s still ‘here’ but most of the time, not really. He has track practice and friends to hang out with and movie nights and rock band dates. He’s not around that much anymore.

So it is suddenly down to just Jeff and me and two kids. Isaac will begin high school as a lowly freshman this fall, although fully encouraged and supported in those scary hallways by the many track team friends he’s made through big brother. Our youngest will start fourth grade. Our life has been so much about teenagers for several years now and it seems surreal some days, that we still have one in elementary school.

A few days ago Jeff and I loaded up the bikes and headed to NYC for a ride through Central Park. Our oldest was out of town with friends and we let soon to be senior decide for himself if he wanted to go with us or stay home alone. He chose solitude over family time. He’s not a fan of the chaos of the City and I have to respect that. So it came down to the two old people, the 13 year old and the nine year old.

It was a fun day. Logistics are so much easier when you just have two children. When four people ride together down the sidewalk you look like a family. When there are six in the group you resemble a circus act.

Trust me, we’ve done it in D.C. and we got more than a few second glances. (“there’s one more…oh, and another one… oh, and another one… oh, and another one…”) Lunch is a lot cheaper. Taking two teen appetites out of the picture can really help the bottom line.

I wasn’t the only one feeling the changes. I guess Isaac’s heard us talking about our changing family a lot lately and he’s internalized some of it. I really had no idea he’d even thought about it until he made some random comments to me during our long bike ride.

At one stop, while his little brother and dad scampered over some huge rocks that were just begging to be climbed, Isaac and I were left alone. “I’m trying really hard to have fun,” he suddenly announced.

This surprised me because this is the boy who wears his heart on his sleeve and I was pretty sure that I’d have known it if he was not having fun. He’d been pleasant and agreeable all day, a smile rarely left his face.

“Oh, well, I’m glad,” I answered. “But it seems like you are having fun, right?”

“Yeah,” he said, gazing off in the distance, “But ya know, I’m a teenager now and I don’t necessarily like the stuff that little kids like anymore. I mean this is fun and all, but I might not like it as much as I get older so I’m just doing my best to enjoy it.”

Then a little later, in our quest to sample all the playgrounds Central Park has to offer, we parked our bikes once again and the boys ran off to try out the new equipment. Isaac was back in just minutes.

“Everything okay?” I asked.

“Oh yeah!” he said, his face lighting up. “It’s great! And just so ya know, I’m trying my best to be Michael. Since he’s not here I’m going to be the big brother and do the big, exciting things.”

I had never realized that my oldest son played differently on a playground than his younger brothers, so Isaac’s comments confused me again.

“Oh yeah? Like what” I asked him.

“Ya know, like over there I jumped this huge gap between the rocks and it was scary but it was really cool!”

I guess all these years Isaac has been letting Michael try out the big stuff and then following his lead when it all checked out. My second boy was sensing his new place in the family, as big brother makes plans outside our family, and doing his best to fill some pretty big shoes.

I know this trend will continue. We will all twist and turn and try out new muscles, as our family does a seventh inning stretch. Some of the changes I could see coming and some are unveiling themselves as we go. I count myself lucky that my second son is a verbal kid, and shares his thoughts with me. There is shifting going on in the ranks of our children and I love being a spectator as it all plays out.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss my two big kids on the days they are not with us. There is a definite hole in our clan where those two should be. Our whole family dynamic changes. But it’s inevitable and I can’t fight it, so for now I sit back and watch it with curious eyes.

Our ‘new’ family, slowly unfolding and turning into something we’ve never experienced before.

Just the four of us, forging a new path.


goofdad said...

I can't wait. My oldest two are talking about moving out and into an apartment together next year sometime, and I have to admit being excited! It will just be the 9 of us! LOL!

Unless I take in more fosters, that is ;-)

I love the comments from Isaac, though. Absolutely precious!

theelfqueen said...

My kids are all spread out -- 14 down to 4. And I'm a little awed at the changing dynamics of our family as they move along. I mentioned to our youngest (about-to-be-five) the other day that his brother would go off to college one day (Thank you Blues clues for laying out the concept of going off to college)... he FLIPPED out. Where will he sleep? Where will he sleep when he comes home?