This is my first time around as the parent of a teenager, though, and it's a whole different ballgame.
In a lot of ways, more than I realized until I was here, parenting teenagers isn't actually all that different than dealing with much younger kids.
They get whiny when they are tired.
They will eat you out of house and home.
They have wicked growth spurts.
They absolutely still play with their friends.
They need naps and snacks.
They aren't always able to tell you what they need.
Communication can be difficult.
There are tantrums.
Sometimes they want you to go away, but most of the time they want you around. Just not right there. Like, over there. Far enough away that you aren't harshing their vibe, but close enough that they can holler and you'll come.
The Oldest just wrapped up his first year as a member of the drumline. He's not even in high school yet, but joined this year, mostly because he's wanted to be on the drumline since he could walk. Some kids dream of the day they'll run out onto a field under the lights. Some kids can't wait to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Some just want to make music and wave jazz hands.
It was a steep learning curve for us all this year. I know that I wasn't really sure what we signed on for back in the Fall when we walked into that first meeting. For anyone out there who has kids approaching high school, particularly those who will be participating in band (or, really, any activity for that matter), I wanted to share the things I learned this year.
- Someone always needs money. Every time you turn around, someone needs money. Whether it is for uniforms or fees or practice time or instruments or shoes or travel or lunch...someone always needs money. There is likely going to be some dollar figure attached to the activity that they are open about, the amount that you will inevitably panic about, then go home and run the numbers and try to figure out how you'll make it work. You'll set up payment plans and cringe a little bit every time you write a check...but then you'll realize it isn't just that money you'll need to come up with. There are always other things. Always. I can't emphasize this one enough. Don't sign up for this stuff without realizing it, trust me.
- There are likely ways to help offset at least some of those expenses. There might be scholarships or used uniforms or shoes you can borrow or open practices. There might be discounts for siblings or costs waived in exchange for volunteer commitments. One thing I can guarantee...if you don't ask and aren't looking for these opportunities, you won't find them. Ask. The scholarships especially exist to help make sure that all the kids who want to participate can do so. It's hard to ask for help, but if you need it, ask.
- Your life will revolve around this for weeks or months. You will feel like this is all you are doing, because it likely is. You'll give up sleep and weekends and lazy afternoons to sit on bleachers, to sit out in the sun for hours. You'll show up even if it is raining or snowing. You will.
- If they love it, they probably won't be complaining about all the time they are putting in. Unless they are. And they might. A lot of these activities are so intense, so time consuming, that it becomes quickly overwhelming. All those hours of practice aren't for nothing, though, and the benefits show up. They do.
- Pack chairs and snacks for yourself. You're going to be doing so much sitting around and waiting. Bring a book. Bring things for your other kids to stay busy. Just about any activity brings with it a whole lot of down time. Just leave sunscreen and water in the car all the time. Trust.
- You will meet so many new parents. Almost all of them will be amazing. Most of them will raise their hands and volunteer to help out. You're going to spend a lot of time together. You'll get to talking to some of them and realize that there really are other people out there who understand the madness you live with for the things your kids love. You will trust them. They will become like another family to you, because they are.
- You will cry. You're going to cry a lot. Those tears will be big sloppy crocodile tears of joy when you see your kid falling in love with this thing that they do. You will be so proud of them, more because of how proud they are of themselves than anything else.
- They will blossom. They will find a connection with people, likely in a way they haven't ever had before. They will fit in with a group, maybe for the first time ever. They will have nicknames for each other and speak in a bizarre language you hardly understand.
- When it ends, and it will do it abruptly, you will feel relief initially. You will get your evenings and weekends back. Your budget will loosen up a little bit. You will regain lazy afternoons. And then you will miss it. You will absolutely miss it. They will miss it a whole lot more, and there will be a period of withdrawal they go through when it ends.
- Next year will be here before you know it.
- For band parents, there are a few things in particular I need to warn you about.
- The songs they perform will create permanent earworms in your brain. You will hear them almost constantly.
- They will likely switch instruments, pick up new ones, and do it faster and faster.
- Every surface in your home/car/life will become a drum.
- You'll never look at parades the same way again.
- They'll all look the same, but you'll know which one is yours immediately.
- They will tap their feet constantly.
- They will walk in step even when not doing anything related to band.
- Their taste in music will likely change and they'll constantly ask you to listen to something. When they play Pink Floyd for you, your heart will swell with pride. Stay cool.