Friday, February 15, 2013

Big Kids in the House

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So here's a parenting item I hadn't thought about much. Until the last couple of years.

I have some adult kiddos living in my house now.

And it changes the dynamic. And the chore list. And the usual household hours.

And it's a blast. And sometimes a challenge.

We've got eight kids to college educate and we really want to be able to do that without them taking on education debt ~~or us taking on education debt. Our agreement is that we will take care of in-state tuition but that they will need to work to earn spending money. And if they want to have a nest of their own, we're happy for them. And they'll need to figure out how to pay for that.

1 of 8 did an amazing job doing just that when she flew the coop for Paris and worked as a nanny to take care of her housing while taking classes at the Sorbonne.

When she came back to the States, she kicked around the idea of moving out. But ultimately she decided that she would rather not work as many hours and put her focus on wrapping up her two degrees. We were fine with that idea and she's now in the final couple of semesters of her degrees. It has a been a joy to have her back in the house. I love that her younger siblings have experienced her being at home with us.

2 of 8 is working like a fiend directing 2dance2dream. As the program continues to expand (our third campus is just about to come online!), her hours are crazy. She is also teaching a variety of dance classes across the city and is in demand as a choreographer. She is also a full time college student. While she could probably swing living on her own, she's choosing to be here with us for a while longer as she continues to adjust her work and student life.

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3 of 8 has now clicked past the mid-point of his teens. He'll be starting dual credit college classes in the fall. When he hits 18 in a little over a year, it will be interesting to see what he chooses to do next~~continue to hang out here with us for a while longer or take on the responsibility of rent and groceries and utilities.

There are times I glance up at 1, 2, 3 and 4 of 8 standing in the kitchen chatting. To see them all standing there at their adult heights, having adult conversations about work and classes and decisions is just....just....incredible. What is the word? They're grown up. I won't bore you with cliches of 'it happens so fast' and 'just yesterday they were babies'. It is fast but at the same time, it's a long process. It's an amazing season, having these kids in your home, hoping you're infusing them with skill and character and heart.

Household routines are definitely different with adult children in the mix. The kitchen stays in total disarray as it is in constant use between five cooks. The washing machine is running constantly and even though there are theoretical schedules about who should be doing laundry on which days, a last minute date with a cute guy in an Advanced Statistics class necessitates a last minute spin cycle for a favorite shirt and the whole laundry routine gets bumped. And why wash and reuse a cookie sheet when there are eight more in the cabinet? I literally washed our entire collection of cookie sheets the other night...all the other chefs in the house had used them all and then scattered for classes and work and volunteer projects.

It's an area of continued parenting that we haven't figured out yet. We want our big kids to have freedom. We want them to pursue interests and friends. We want their lives to be full and busy. And just like times when my schedule and business and commitments take me to the wire time wise and I leave a dish to wash later and I leave a load sitting in the dryer and I scatter paperwork as I cyclone out the door, so do they. They come in late. They leave early. It's as busy a house as you can imagine. It's messy, noisy, scattered and full. It's wonderful. And it's a challenge.

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I don't have a well-honed coping directive at the moment. We're just laughing a lot and trying to give a lot of grace, each to the other. I did figure out a couple of things though. I'll pass them along, for those of you who have kids coming home from college for the summer or for those of you looking into the distant future as you imaging your toddlers becoming big kids.

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This past Christmas, each of the big kids received a kitchen 'kit'. It has a skillet, spatula, coffee mugs and plates, all of the same color for each kid. 1 of 8 has red, 2 of 8 purple, 3 of 8 blue, 4 of 8 orange and 5 of 8 green. There is no question anymore as to who got out which pan or mug or cooking utensil. It's solved and resolved a little bit of our kitchen chaos.

And after this week's monster cookie sheet clean up, I've arrived at this...I'm hiding all the cookie sheets but one. Yep. One cookie sheet to rule them all.

That's all I've got for now, folks. Just an elementary intro to this unique season. But never fear. I'm paying attention. I'm learning. And I love that there is always something new to learn, something new discover in this amazing calling called parenting....

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