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August 20, 2011

The kids are growing up faster than we can keep up

My husband and I just celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. If you add to that the number of years we spent either dating or living in sin, our relationship is now old enough to drink.

We've missed a few anniversaries. At least two of those neglected were the result of having a new baby in the house. Our wedding and the kids' births fall in the summer months, which is a hazard of being in the education field. It's best to cram everything into the middle of the year.

For this anniversary, we celebrated by going to the Farmhouse at Emmons, because I have a problem with its Turkey Grand Hotel, which has nearly everything I like about Thanksgiving all on one plate. Once the chef can squeeze some pumpkin pie onto the dish, I will need to seek out a 12-step program and larger pants.

But this isn't a restaurant review. (Still, try the turkey. It's crunchy and delightful.)

This is about the conversation my husband and I had before the entrees arrived. "In three years," I said, "we should do something really big. The kids can go up to your parents' for a weekend and we can go somewhere fabulous and kid-unfriendly."

"By then they'll be, what, 12 and 9?" my husband said. Then paused. "That can't be right. Twelve? Nine?"

There was a long pause, filled with the two of us looking at each other with complete disbelief.

"He'll be going into fourth grade; she'll be about to start junior high ..."

"That can't be right," I said, knowing full well that it is right.

My mind remains boggled by the very idea, even though it makes perfect sense that the kids will be three years older in three years, mostly because it feels like my husband and I haven't aged that much at all, really.

But the kids keep changing faster than we can keep up. The Boy has finally reached the height where I knock him in the head with my elbow, just like I used to with his sister a few years back. As I did with her, I keep explaining to him that it might not be a great idea to hang out in that particular blind spot unless you like catching an elbow in the head.

He listens about as well as she did.

He's also caught on to my tendency to not give a "yes" answer to any request that I'm not positive I can deliver on.

I have a whole series of hedges that I use to avoid committing to a trip to the pool or buying a new "Wimpy Kid" book.

His sister has pointed out to him that I say those sorts of things when the answer is maybe.

He's finally old enough to know what that means and to store it away for later.

Now, when I launch into a saying like, "if the creek don't rise," the Boy now responds with "I'll take that as a 'yes.'" Which makes me miss the kindergartner who I could baffle with nonsense.

Soon, too, I suspect he'll lose the way that he asks for favors. Rather than simply ask, "Please bring me my 'Wimpy Kid' books," he phrases it as "May you please bring me my books."

This warms my heart every single time he says it, even though it means that I'll be fetching something for the Boy.

The Diva, if she keeps growing at the same rate as the last two months, will be 6 feet, 5 inches, by the time she's 12 and about to start (really?) junior high.

Her new height is causing problems now, however. She pitched a big old hairy cat fit the other day _ the origin of which has been lost to time. I told her to go to her room until she calmed down. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "No."

Normally, I'd just pick her up and take her to her room. But this time, as I sized up her long, strong limbs (which I marvel at, because I remember when they were so small and so weak), I realized that there was no way that I could fold her into a small enough package to carry. I also realized that I had no Plan B.

The playing field shifted, then.

I relied on the old standby of threatening to take away privileges like watching "iCarly" and playing online unless she moves her behind to her room and adjusts her attitude right quick.

Which she did, then slammed her door as hard as she could, then opened it again so that she could slam it again, just in case I missed it the first time.

This isn't a new phenomenon nor a sign of how quickly she's growing. It's just annoying.

I suspect she'll still be slamming her door in three years _ but only if we let her keep it. Who knows what the playing field will look like by then?

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest." Her columns can be found at parentingimperfect.

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