You may have noticed that there’s been sort of a theme running on RRG lately: the boys are growing older. We’re having to expand everyone’s horizons and ways of doing things. We’re figuring out where to give them more independence, and where to hold our boundaries firm. And I’m thinking, more than ever, about what happens next. Not the immediate “nexts” of tomorrow’s football practice or this week’s rehearsal and concert schedules, and not even the farther-off “nexts” of 4th and 2nd grades (coming sooner than I think).
I’m wondering what happens next, when they stop being kids and they start being men. When they move on to college and then adulthood. When they have to look after themselves.
I think about this a surprising amount, actually, and I don’t know if it’s just that I consider these questions more than I thought I would when I became a parent, or if I really ponder their adulthood more at this age than the parents of their peers. But raising them to be independent, capable people who go out into the world with a certain amount of confidence and a defined set of skills has always been in the complicated calculus of my day-to-day parenting. J. and I are people who parent not for the moment, but for the long term, and that far-off future informs every choice we make.
It also may be that I worry more about their independence than I might if I had two neurotypical kids. But I don’t. L. has NVLD. It’s a fact of our lives that has to be dealt with, and it means that I have to constantly stay a couple of steps ahead of what I think he will need to be able to do at a given age. It means that if I want him to be able to handle his own schedule and calendar in middle school, I have to start him on that NOW, in third grade, so he has the time he needs to build the skill and find the systems that work for him. If I want him to be able to do his own laundry and stay on top of the task on a regular basis when he goes to college, I have to start asking him to be in charge of much of the laundry process NOW, at age 9, so it’s ingrained routine in 10 years’ time. We structure our lives around structuring his.
So if I want him (and P., to a lesser extent — but P. is not only just 7 years old, he’s also a highly capable 7) to be able to feed themselves when they leave the nest, I need to start thinking about what that means. Now. When he’s 9. And there’s a lot more to that skill set than just being able to cook a few simple meals; there’s planning, shopping, budgeting….
Now feels like the right time. So this month, we’re starting on the baby steps to building these skills. I’ve begun by asking both boys to sit down with pencil and paper and write out four or five meals that they want me to cook this month. I showed them how I do our plan each month, and I asked them to be in charge of some of that, stressing the importance of deciding not just a main meal but what we’d serve with it. They both contributed their preferred dinners. In time, as we get used to the basic function of just thinking about what to eat, we’ll move on to how to break that down into a grocery list; how to shop for it; and how to cook it. But right now it’s baby steps. Just being responsible for the decisions, right now, is enough.
Sunday, 5/1: Out to dinner with family
Monday, 5/2: L’s Choice. Spaghetti and meatballs, salad
Tuesday, 5/3: Quiche and roasted vegetables
Wednesday, 5/4: Fried rice
Thursday, 5/5: Chicken fajitas
Friday, 5/6: Hot turkey sandwiches, corn, salad
Saturday, 5/7: Garlic chicken pasta salad, cucumber and tomato salad
Sunday, 5/8: Mother’s Day! I’m off duty. 🙂
Monday, 5/9: Mac and cheese with broccoli and tomatoes, baked ham
Tuesday, 5/10: Sesame chicken, rice and green beans
Wednesday, 5/11: L.’s Choice. Schnitzel, egg noodles and pickled red cabbage
Thursday, 5/12: Freezer meal — Meatball subs
Friday, 5/13: P.’s Choice. Miso soup and dumplings
Saturday, 5/14: Farmer’s market season begins! Fresh seafood!
Sunday, 5/15: Illegal lamb, potatoes and vegetables
Monday, 5/16: Everything-crusted chicken, wild rice and salad
Tuesday, 5/17: Using the leftover lamb — Gyros on sourdough pita
Wednesday, 5/18: L.’s Choice. “Deli night” with make-your-own subs, veggies and dip, and fruit
Thursday, 5/19: Buffalo style lettuce wraps
Friday, 5/20: Spanikopita casserole and roasted vegetables
Saturday, 5/21: L.’s Choice. Braciole, fettucine and salad
Sunday, 5/22: Sunday roast chicken, mashed potatoes and vegetables
Monday, 5/23: Pasta with creamy wild mushroom sauce, salad
Tuesday, 5/24: Using the leftover chicken – Greek-style Chicken and Quinoa Salad
Wednesday, 5/25: I’ll be at a work event, so the guys are on their own
Thursday, 5/26: P.’s Choice. Chicken Teriyaki, rice and vegetable stir-fry
Friday, 5/27: P.’s Choice. Homemade pizzas and salad
Saturday, 5/28: Fresh seafood
Sunday, 5/29: P.’s Choice. Burgers and veggies with dip
Monday, 5/30: Memorial Day. We’ll probably pack a picnic, but not sure what goes in it yet!
Tuesday, 5/31: Turkey and rice burritos