Late August has always had a certain feel to it for me, but this year is different. Maybe it’s because we took an extra-long vacation in July, or because the weather has been really good, or maybe because we brought the dogs to the cottage so the place feels more like home now.
Or maybe it’s because instead of only worrying about two kids, we are now responsible for five teens for a couple of weeks!
Our kids have been curling for the past 3 winters, and last year we joined a new club. This got them to a more competitive level, which came with new teammates who have become good friends. Our cottage is within a 45-minute drive of one of the country’s top junior curling camps, featuring a couple of former world champions.
I thought it would be a great idea for our kids to attend the camp and take advantage of the opportunity to learn form some of the best. It seems some of the parents of their new friends also wanted to take advantage of that opportunity, and since we have a place not far away, of course they were all welcome to stay here with us.
I guess the one thing that I had not been mentally prepared for was now being the temporary “father” to 5 teenagers, rather that just our 2. My wife has been handling the “Mom” role in exemplary fashion, to no one’s surprise.
We geared up for the arrival of the extra bodies by adding a camper where the three girls sleep, and the two boys are in the kids’ room. The kitchen, living and dining rooms are just big enough to handle the load. The fridge and pantry are well stocked, the WiFi works pretty well, and I can easily control access to it by shutting the unit down at night.
But the parenting is exhausting. They are not bad kids, they are actually very good kids, all of them. But they are all so different. And so each one of them needs to be handled in their own special way. Handling them one-on-one and as a group is completely different too.
But as mentally draining as it is, I love the experience because there is so much to learn, and along with that, so much to teach too.
I love to take the time to explain things to my kids, on whatever subject comes up on any given day. It could be something we see on TV, something one of us comes across on the internet, or something that happened at school that day. I often start with “Do you understand why such-and-such is that way?” or “Do you understand what so-and-so meant when they said that?”
With three extra people around the opportunities to explain things multiplies.
Probably the best part of the arrangement is that our kids are learning how other kids don’t have it quite so easy as they do in life. I like to think that they appreciate what we have and how their parents treat them. They are very lucky, and we are lucky to have them too.
I often preach about communication and how important it is to family relationships. I also like to think that I am a living, breathing example of what I preach. I hope my kids agree. Please don’t forget, it’s not just what you say, how you say it is usually more important.
After this, if they end up being better curlers, that will be a bonus.