Third grade has begun, and suddenly you’re a big kid (a “tween,” some might say). This is the designation at your school: you have certain new privileges, like checking out five library books at a time and being allowed to walk to and from school on your own (we haven’t let you do precisely that yet; more on that later). I’ve noticed changes in your demeanor, too. The most obvious is your wild hair. You have avoided haircuts all summer, and your dad and I decided you should get a cut before school started. We got busy and it didn’t happen, so we adjusted the deadline to before school pictures. A couple of days before school pictures, we mentioned it to you, and you were so firm in your disinclination to get it cut that we decided to let you keep it crazy.
A high school teacher of mine once said that for her kids, she let them do whatever they wanted with their hair. Hair choices are always temporary, and they allow a person a sense of self-determination without any long-term consequences. I thought that was a pretty smart attitude, so I decided to adopt it with you too. Honestly, in my opinion, your hair would look a lot better if you got the sides trimmed up. I tried combing it into a reasonable style after you shower the other night, and it looked even worse. You’re just going to rock the untamed mop, I guess.
You’ve also taken on some big-kid affectations, like saying “Whazzup?” I don’t know where you heard that, but it might have been from an older friend you made during your summer classes. Andrew is a sixth grader at a different elementary school, and you’ve been psyched about texting with him. He also enjoys Harry Potter and Pokemon Go, so you have plenty to discuss.
At dropoff outside your classroom on the first day of school, I got the sense for the first time that you’d rather I didn’t hug and kiss you goodbye. We did a high five and I hugged and kissed you extra when you got home from school that afternoon.
We were at the library a couple of weeks ago, and you saw a poster advertising an upcoming program. It was an interactive screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, complete with prop bags and prompts to chant along with spells, boo Malfoy, and cheer during Quiddich. You got really, really excited, and my first instinct was that I was going to have to disappoint you, because it was part of the “Totally Tweens” series. Then I read the details and learned that “tweens” refers to third- through sixth-graders. Lo and behold, you qualified. It’s hard for me to fathom that you’re a tween (for one thing, it’s a fake word, but I guess it’s useful), but I’m glad you got to go. You met your friend Esmé there, and Andrew showed up as well. It was pretty much the highlight of your life.
We’ve done some good outdoor adventuring over the last month, including trips to Maquoketa Caves and Wilson’s Orchard. I was really excited to take you to Maquoketa Caves, because I went there as a kid during my Cousins’ Week time in eastern Iowa, and I remember thinking it was about the coolest place on earth. It was pretty crowded when we went, so we had to do a lot of yielding to oncoming fellow cave explorers as we wound our way through the caves. It was still fun, though. You and Tobin and I ventured past the main, easily-accessible cave and tried out some of the slightly more remote ones. We didn’t do any full-on spelunking, but it was exciting nonetheless. Next time we’ll bring our head lamps.
Wilson’s was a good time as usual. I was looking through my old photos, and we’ve been taking you there since you were just a little guy, just Callum’s age. You don’t need a boost to pick the apples anymore, and you’re much more discerning about which ones you pick. I had to convince you that an apple doesn’t have to be 100% pristine to be a good choice. It was a beautiful day out in the orchard, and we enjoyed some local cider and wildlife too.
It’s harder and harder for me to see glimpses of the baby I fell in love with, though I love the big guy you’re becoming just as much. Sometimes I see that baby in the way you still hold your pinky up when you eat and drink. It’s easy to see your baby face in Callum, who looks so much like you. But you’d rather read comic books in bed than have me read you bedtime stories, and you think I’m hopelessly out of the loop for not installing Pokemon Go on my phone. You’re taking a 3D printing class in the afternoon once a week about a block away from your school. You loved your first class last week, and you’re really motivated to continue. Fortunately, two of your 3D printing classmates are also students at your regular school, so we’ve arranged it so you’ll walk together. That will save me the hassle of waking Callum up early from his nap, walking to pick you up, taking you there, walking home, and doing it all again an hour and a half later. I think you can handle it. I admit it’s a little scary for me to let you do it, but you’re a smart kid, as are your walking partners.
You’re turning out pretty well, Miles. I don’t know if I’m emotionally ready to be the mom of a tween, but since I don’t have a choice, I’m glad that tween is you.
Photo by Denny