parenting

Mixing it up.

I did one of those things yesterday that on the surface seems fairly meaningless, but made me take pause and think.

I mixed together some crayons.

Now, my kids are 14 and 10, and while we still have crayons in the house, they’re rarely used. Michael needed to color in some maps for a school assignment over the weekend, and when I was putting them away, I wondered why we had one small container of crayons, as well as a larger bin that wasn’t full. So I poured the crayons from the small container into the larger one. And then I stopped.

crayons

You see, that smaller container held more than just a few crayons; it held memories.

When Matthew was four, his preschool teachers did a unit on the states. Something about it captivated him, and he wanted more. We read books (Scrambled States of America became a fast favorite), did puzzles and played with state flashcards. In the midst of this, we took a day trip to the Crayola Factory, and discovered that a few years before, Crayola had made a collection of state crayons (imagine – Cornhusker Yellow, Aloha Aquamarine, and Tennesienna!). Though they had been discontinued, we easily found a box on Ebay as a gift for Matthew. He spent hours with map coloring pages and his state crayons. He sorted them. He laid them out on the floor.

He used them for a while, then forgot about them, and they’d come out now and then when someone needed crayons for homework and didn’t want to pull out the bigger bin.

Fast forward to yesterday. I only paused briefly before dumping the state crayons into the container where they’d mingle with the rest of the regular Crayolas that had been collected from the big box of 64 crayons and leftovers from school pencil cases and the end of each year.

I was immediately hit with a pang of regret. Those crayons were more than just something my kids used to color. They were special. They were a part of who Matthew was at the time, and who he continues to become.

But I realized that just like the crayons, these experiences mix together to create who we are and what we love. Keeping them separate wouldn’t bring back that sweet time, or strengthen the memories. So I decided to let them go.

Sometimes, I find that it’s difficult to know what to hang onto, and what to let go. But yesterday, I think I learned that letting something go doesn’t mean that I’ve diminished its importance. I’m just going to take the memories and the crayons, put them all together, and move along with these wonderful people my children continue to become.

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End of an era.

My next-door neighbor just dismantled the trampoline they’ve had in their family’s backyard for nearly a decade. One daughter is in college, and the other will graduate from high school in the spring, so it’s not surprising. And yet, looking into their yard this afternoon, there is something missing from the landscape of our neighborhood, both literally and figuratively.

Our neighbors bought the trampoline for their younger daughter, who at the time loved gymnastics. My kids were still pretty young then, so the appeal of jumping on a brand-new, springy trampoline was strong. Our neighbors gave us permission to use the trampoline whenever we liked — a decision which I think they may have soon regretted, as I think my boys were probably on it more than their own kids.

Michael was a late walker, but loved to sit on the trampoline and bounce around while his brother jumped on it. And Matthew did his first solo back handspring there. They ran around and jumped, even when the black trampoline was fiery hot from the sun, and when the weather was icy and frigid.

But it was so much more than that.

Our youngest neighbor is nearly four years older than Matthew, but when they were younger, they bonded over gymnastics  tricks on the trampoline. As they got older, I’d peek outside and see the two of them sitting on the trampoline with an iPod, talking and bonding over their mutual love of music.

shoes

When we had our annual block party, an adult would usually keep an eye on the kids who went into the back to play on the trampoline. It was never really necessary, because this is where the kids all learned the neighborhood tradition: the big kids take care of the little kids. The biggest kids would always make sure that the littlest kids weren’t getting bounced around more than they wanted to. Kids would help each other on and off the trampoline, and tie their shoes for them when they located them in the big pile and put them back on.

And that rule the kids learned from each other on the trampoline — it extended beyond just the neighborhood kids. I still smile when I think of the time I saw Michael, in first grade, squatting down to tie the shoes of a classmate who came over the play, got off the trampoline, but hadn’t learned to tie his shoes yet.

If a neighborhood kid was walking or riding by on his bike, the bike would often be left on our neighbor’s driveway, and the kid would join whoever was already on the trampoline. Many of the kids in the neighborhood could probably still tell you where I keep the cups in my house that they’d drink water from when they got thirsty. Some kids, including mine, ruined countless pairs of socks trudging through muddy grass after a football that they were playing with on the trampoline, or just because they were too lazy to put their shoes right back on.

RIP, trampoline. Thanks for the bounces, the lessons you taught the kids, and helping to make our neighborhood the great place it is.

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