Thursday, August 24, 2017

A year without parenting milestones

As the 2017-18 academic year gets underway, my wife Terry and I find ourselves very much "in process" when it comes to being the parents of five children.

What I mean is, we've got kids going every which direction, but no one is graduating or necessarily reaching any sort of academic or vocational landmark in the coming year. Yes, one kid is starting college, but compared with graduation, that's a relatively tame thing, if only because we've been through it before at different levels.

We stand thusly in the Tennant household as summer 2017 wanes and the first signs of autumn make themselves evident:


My 23-year-old eldest child has earned her bachelor's degree in marketing from Cleveland State University. She works for a great little strategic branding agency called Hey Now! Media as a digital strategist/social media manager. That's a very Millennial job title, and come to think of it, that exclamation point in the name of the agency is pretty darn Millennial, too. Elissa has officially moved out, though she lives only 5 minutes or so away in a rented house with one of her longtime friends.

She is, by almost any standard you care to name, an adult. I'm good with this, but I'm also not. She was ready to be on her own and all, but I miss having her around. I will always miss having her around. That's the way this game is played. (And hey, you can see my pretty little girl here and read her very professional sounding bio while you're at it.)


Little Chloe is nearly 21 years old, which makes me think I probably shouldn't refer to her as "Little Chloe" so much anymore. She is a junior biomedical engineering major at the University of Akron who has designs on attending medical school and becoming some sort of doctor, possibly a pediatrician (though she also talks on occasion about becoming an eye doc...I think she would be good at either). She is at the point of her engineering studies where everything gets pretty intense and serious, and as a result she is no longer a member of the Akron marching band, which is sad but also necessary. Engineering students, I'm told, regularly drop out of band at Akron once they hit that third year. She is in the process of moving into a just-off-campus apartment as I type, and will be officially gone as of Sunday evening. She's a hard worker, that one is.


The Boy begins his college career next week as a freshman at THE Cleveland State University. OK, CSU doesn't use the "THE" like Ohio State does, but it just sounded good so I went with it. Anyway, I've only seen him for short stretches throughout this summer because he spends a lot of time working at the Cleveland Indians team shop. And hanging out with his girlfriend. This is what happens when you have an 18-year-old son. By all accounts, though, he's ready to start this college thing and plow ahead with his intended major in business administration. I have no idea what he's going to do with his life, and maybe he doesn't, either, which is just fine. I never understand why we push 18-year-old kids to make decisions that could affect the course of their professional lives for the next three or four decades. Jared will find his way. He always does. Let's give him a few years to sort things out.


Mel grew up suddenly  jarringly even  in the last couple of years. She's a junior at Wickliffe High School, a class officer, a soccer player, and so far a straight-A student. This year she is spending half of each school day out at Mentor High School taking a few general classes and participating in Mentor's business/marketing program, then the second half of the day back at Wickliffe. I can't keep up with her. Next thing I know, she'll be graduating. I would rather not talk about it, but between you and me, I'm super impressed with this one.


Ah, Jackie. My Other Boy. My 11-year-old, thin-as-a-rail, cross country-running, class clown. Yes, apparently he's the class clown, at least according to his seventh-grade math teacher Danna Huested. I've known Danna since 1975, when we both started kindergarten at the old Mapledale Elementary School, and she is among the best teachers my kids have had. So I found it part amusing and part alarming when I attended middle school open house the other day, and with a smile she said to me, "So you saved the class clown for your last kid? He doesn't fit the (Tennant) mold!" A month or so earlier, Jack's cross country coach (another Wickliffe classmate, the awesome Todd Calic) said something similar: "Everyone on the team loves him. He cracks everybody up."

And it all makes sense to me. Jack is the youngest of five kids, which in itself means he has always had to work to carve out his own identity in the chaos of our house. But when you consider that he skipped a grade back in elementary school, it gets even tougher for him. He's an 11-year-old in a class full of 12- and soon-to-be-13-year-olds. This is a funny age to begin with, and being the youngest one in the class has to make it even trickier. So Jack copes by being the funny guy. I'm OK with that as long as he doesn't become disruptive in class or during team cross country activities. And I think he knows that. He's doing fine, but I'll admit I worry about him a lot.

So anyway, that's where things stand for us. We're just going about the business of living life and continuing to raise a family. With each passing year, thoughts of what happens once we reach The Other Side (i.e., the empty nest) creep into my head, but they're no more than thoughts. We still have a long way to go, with plenty of homework, school projects, sports practices and games, band concerts, and yes, graduations and big milestones to go.

For now, that's good enough. Exhausting, but good enough.


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