I love having 8-year-olds. I mean, yes, the number itself sort of makes me cringe, because MY BABIES! Where have my babies gone?!! They’re about to move from the k-2 grouping, which still has a toe in little-kid-dom, to the 3-5 realm, which is solidly big-kid territory — and the last gasp of childhood before (gulp) adolescence.
But for the moment, they’re at an age that straddles the imaginative sweetness of early childhood and the feisty independence and intellectual blossoming of later childhood that totally rocks.
Case in point: Family Bear Night.
Clio came up with this idea a couple of months ago. I think maybe it was on a Taco Tuesday (or Wednesday or Thursday, as our taco nights tend not to stick to a certain night). Tacos are a new addition to our dinner meal rotation. The girls had them at a friend’s house a while back, and begged me to make them, so after hemming and hawing a bit, I did, and you know what? Tacos are awesome. Old school with the kit and those hard shells and everything, just like Mom used to buy, with the modern twist of grass-fed sustainable blah blah blah beef because the environment. (Don’t start telling me how great tofu and kale tacos are or whatever. Seriously. Give me this one thing.)
Back to family bear night. When Clio brought it up and we said, “huh?” she explained that Family Bear Night meant having gummi bears for dessert, and “other bear stuff.” Our endearment for Clio has always been “Clio-bear” or just “bear” so I think she feels a special bond with these animals. But this Bear Night concept was pretty hazy, and we thought it would kind of fizzle out.
It didn’t, though. Clio kept pushing us to set a date, we kept pushing for details, and eventually it all came together.
Elsa created the decor, and a game of Pin the Fish in the Bear’s Mouth, which was a big hit. (Note natural leaf-crafted holder for the paper fish.)
After that, we played the Bear Board Game Clio had made. We each chose a bear pawn — Joe Bear, Bob Bear, Fred Bear, or Steve Bear — and whoever’s bear got to its cave first won. The fact that each bear’s path had a slightly different number of spaces only added to the fun of this lively and unpredictable game.
The dinner menu, which I’d planned with Clio’s input, included salmon (Obviously), a salad with blueberries, and gnocchi on the side, because Clio says it’s the pasta that most resembles bears, since it’s round. I noted that gnocchi also look a little like Winnie the Pooh’s honey pots. (Work with us here, people.) There were gummi bears and Teddy Grahams for dessert.
Alastair had gotten some movies from the library that featured bears, and the girls chose the movie Bears, which we watched after dinner. Along with some bears from the girls’ overBEARingly large collections of stuffed animals.
I think it’s fair to say that a BEAR-y good time was had by all.
See, I don’t think Family Bear night would have happened when the girls were six or maybe not even seven, given the complexity and forethought it required — not to mention the energy and enthusiasm, which Clio was shorter on while she was in treatment. But I’m not sure it’s the kind of thing that will happen when they’re sophisticated, bear-weary ten-or-eleven-year-olds, either.
Meanwhile: There are kid-built fairy houses in the little strip of woods behind our house, occasional “restaurants” in service in the living room, serving plastic pretend food and accepting play credit cards or cash, and scenarios being played out in the dollhouse with squinkies and Littlest Pet Shop figures.
But there is also pop music on the radio in the car, middle-grade chapter books being devoured during reading time each day, Pokemon cards being compared, swardrobe preferences being expressed. When friends are over to play, I’m barely (Bearly) involved, except when I’m needed to supply snacks or hook up the sprinkler.
This is what it means to have eight-year-olds for us: A delightful mix of whimsy and imagination, ingenuity and creativity, and growing independence, with a touch of tween. There’s also still plenty of whining and talking back and intra-sibling-bickering and everything else that comes with having kids. But there are fewer headaches and hassles than there used to be, it seems. And a lot less stupid dumb cancer, too, which is a nice touch.
Here’s to a few more sweet years before they hit puberty and start hating me. (Sigh.)