Holidays With Young Adults – What Now?

Seed Cake - Yum!
Seed Cake – Yum!

It’s noon on Easter and my 17-year-old is still asleep. But she made a seed cake for us some time during the night. It was on the kitchen counter when I got up this morning. We’re not a formally religious family, so we don’t do the whole big church thing for Easter. Our tradition has been to decorate eggs the night before. Then I get up way too early for a non-work day and hide them in the yard for the kids to find. (Handy hint – make a written list of hiding places as you go.)

When my daughter was around seven, she said to me “You know, some people get candy on Easter.” After that, we added a few  candy-filled plastic eggs to the mix. Even though our holiday celebrations have never been elaborate, they’ve been fun and have brought me great joy as a mother. One of the best perks of being a parent is having a reason to do again all of the fun things you did as a kid – play at the park, blow bubbles, decorate Easter eggs, re-read all of the “Little House” books.

But now my kids are big. They’re 17 and 14 years old respectively, coming right up on 18 and 15 in a few weeks. So much of how I mother is no longer relevant. I’m grasping around for new ways to connect, and the holidays seem to bring this dilemma to the fore. As recently as last year, we did an egg hunt. A few days ago, we discussed whether they wanted to do one this year. Everyone was ambivalent. It’s been fun, but they are kind of old for it. And this is our ninth Easter in the same house. All of the hiding places are well-known. A day of rain yesterday, resulting in mud and more mud made the decision for us. We’d still decorate eggs – of course you have to do that! – but no morning hunt.

The kids’ egg creations have grown funnier and more imaginative with each year, so I thought we’d have a great time just dying and decorating, but reality didn’t match my vision. I was tired after a long day at work.  My daughter’s feelings got hurt when I thought she was about to knock over the dye cups through her exuberant hand gestures while telling a story. My son, who is recovering from a cold, wanted nothing more than to be left in peace to play a computer game. And I was annoyed that people couldn’t just enjoy this cheerful family tradition dammit! By the end of the evening, I’m pretty sure my husband was the only one who had not shed tears. While the kids retreated to their rooms, he and I dyed all of the eggs ourselves, because I had gone to the trouble of cooking them and setting everything up after working all day. I wasn’t about to put 18 plain white eggs back in the fridge.

But later in the evening my daughter invited me to watch Doctor Who with her. And sometime during the night she made us a cake. I’ll take some to my mom later today. My son seemed happy enough to have candy with breakfast.  So maybe all is not lost. As my kids become young adults, we need to develop new family traditions to replace the old. We just need to get past the hurdle of figuring out what those are going to be.

The Day the Music Changed

I’m in a period of transition. There seem to be a lot of endings in my life right now, including an emotional one today. When you have a baby, you have years full of firsts – first tooth, first step, first day of school. Then, after a while, you start to realize there are lasts coming along.

This afternoon saw my 14-year-old son’s last piano lesson with the teacher who has guided him through half a lifetime of musical growth. The phrase “piano lessons” doesn’t convey what a gift our household has received from his weekly sessions with a wonderful mentor. I remember his very first time at the piano, with his little legs swinging from the bench, feet far from reaching the floor, as he learned to pick out a short tune on a few of the black keys only. Week by week, his knowledge and love of music grew, until he was composing his own pieces.

A few months ago, my son told me he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do in life, but he knew it had to involve music. I know little about music, but he’s getting deep into music theory and explaining things to me that have been over my head. He saved his money and bought software that will allow him to work with composing and mixing on the computer. Last summer, when he was out of school, it wasn’t unusual for him to spend four or five hours in a day on his music.

Today, he told me that music has filled a gap in his life. He said he knows he’s never been good at carrying on conversations (he has auditory processing difficulties, so conversation is often difficult for him), but he can use music as a second language to express himself. I know it’s helped him through some rough patches and helped his confidence.

But with this growth has come an interest in expanding his skill set. One of his cousins gifted him a used guitar a while back, and he wants to learn to play that now. Neither time nor money will permit two sets of concurrent music lessons. So he’s switching to guitar for now. He promises me he’ll still play piano at home.

I sat in on his last lesson. He’s progressed from a small, round-faced child plunking out the 15-second song a key at a time to a deep-voiced young man with a newly noticeable shadow on his upper lip, who towers over both his teacher and me. He agreed to play Metamorphosis II by Philip Glass one last time for his teacher before he left. It was beautiful.