Little things make us aware that the kids are growing up.
This summer, my kids turn 9 and 11. They're going into fourth and fifth grades. It's starting to hit home for my wife and me: We don't have little ones anymore.
But it's not really the new ages or grades or the ever-growing Years Since Diapers (YSD) figure that has made us hyperaware of this reality lately. It's the little things.
On Friday nights, my son sometimes eats more pizza than I do, and he always eats more waffles on Sunday mornings. On movie nights, I can't remember the last time we watched an animated feature together. Marvel movies are the new thing (as long as they aren't too stabby).
It seems like just the other day I was unsuccessfully trying to hide my disdain for that bald-headed whiner with the dying-chipmunk voice—I'm speaking of the animated scourge that is “Caillou,” of course—but PBS Kids shows haven't surfaced in a long while. Instead, on a recent string of consecutive sick days, my daughter discovered HGTV, particularly “Fixer Upper.” This led her to a home-design app that lets her redecorate rooms and compete against other designers. (The other day she proudly showed me her “NYC Brownstone” that got 4.3 out of 5 stars.)
I also routinely find myself thinking of a funny scene from bygone TV shows or movies, and instead of keeping them to myself, I often get on YouTube to show the kids old Saturday Night Live and David Letterman sketches or clips of Tom Green being an idiot (these require more careful curation). Same goes for movies of my youth, including “The Sandlot” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
Long gone are the days of Sorry and Trouble's Pop-O-Matic bubble. Family game night now consists of Boggle, Stratego and, with some minor editing of the playing cards, games such as Taboo, Guesstures and Codenames, which I highly recommend. The kids also play all sorts of card games with their grandma (peanuts is a favorite), and my son is a real-deal Texas Hold'em contender at extended-family poker games, which makes me proud, but also a little nervous that we'll one day see him on ESPN in sunglasses and a hoodie.
And thanks to some awesome elementary school teachers, the books my kids are reading have elevated the level of sophistication in our family conversations. They're better at understanding context, drawing connections between things and using metaphors and analogies. They ask big-picture questions about the world and their place in it.
I shouldn't overstate the sophistication thing, though. Vegetables are still a challenge at the dinner table, and I don't know if my children would ever shower unless we told them to. And my daughter still likes to sit on my lap. They're still kids. For now.
Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer and associate editor of Columbus Alive. He and his family think the “Neature Walk” YouTube series is pretty neat.