Schroeder's eleventh year of life overlapped almost exactly with the coronavirus pandemic. School was cancelled just two weeks before he turned 11. He will finally go back to school full time on April 5th as a twelve year old.
Last year, we had a zoom party. This year, we had a handful of his masked buddies over in the backyard for snacks, video games, sardines, and other general nonsense.
We scootered over to Dairy Queen for some dessert. Schroeder was showing his friends how fast he could ride his scooter, how he could lead the pack. Then he hit a bump, flipped off and rolled his wrist. I thought it would derail his party. He wasn't crying, but he was clearly in his head with discomfort. After some ibuprofen, he rebounded but two days later we are looking at taking him in for an x-ray to see if he has a fracture.
He has really sweet friends. Friends who will say hello to me, will let his little sisters play sardines, and will notice he isn't recovering from his spill and sit with him and ask him questions about how it's feeling. I always feel really grateful that my kids have peers to connect with.
This year, most of that connection has come through screens. It makes it even more challenging to limit screen time because I'm essentially saying "stop playing with your friends who you never get to see in person".
For his birthday, we repaired his Nintendo switch. In December, I found him crying on the couch. I sat down beside him with a whole helping of concern and empathy. What happened? Did a friend hurt your feelings? I soon discovered he was crying because, in a fit of anger over his video game, he smacked the screen with his controller and busted it. All my concern and empathy dissolved. A busted switch screen was a pretty perfect natural consequence.
Schroeder entered middle school in August without much fanfare. Middle school paired with virtual learning created the perfect practice ground for time management. I try to check in with him at lunchtime. I have him write down his open assignments in his planner for us both to see. Then I ask him what his goals are for the day. "What will you get accomplished before 3:30pm?" At 3:30, I'll ask, "How did it go?" Childhood is for practicing.
He always prioritizes his math first and leaves art for last. Math is easy, but he says he's no good at art. I'm trying to help him reframe his words. "Maybe you aren't good at it because you don't enjoy practicing drawing. It's okay to not prefer an activity." But also, "Just finish your damn art assignment."
Schroeder is a beautiful kid. Quick to smile and laugh. Quick to give me a hug. Quick to be excited about an adventure. Quick to tear up when he's feeling tired or overwhelmed.
I'm realizing this is his last year, really, as a little boy. Next year, on his birthday, he'll likely be taller than me. I can already see the baby skin on his face becoming less smooth. Motherhood is constant mourning and gratefulness and dreaming of the future.
On his actual birthday, we played a game as a family. He and Maggie were giving clues. These babies of mine, just 17 months apart whispering to each other and giggling and strategizing. I wanted to bottle it up.