As a kid, I knew some families that had two sets of kids. For example, I had a friend that I thought had a brother, and that was it. Come to find out, she had several siblings much older that I didn’t even know about because they had already left for college when we were in elementary school. I wasn’t going to have kids that far apart.
But, of course, it’s easier to choose when not to have kids than when to have them (for most of us, I think), and it turns out that I’ve got three boys, a six year gap, and then two girls. Looking back, it’s a good thing in many ways, but regardless, it’s what I’ve got.
One of the challenges of having teenagers and toddlers is having family activities that everyone enjoys. Either the teenagers are rolling their eyes, can’t take their eyes off their personal electronic devices (that we did not buy them), or begging to be released, or the little ones are needing to get to bed, making too much noise, and needing candy bribes (which triggers only slightly less guilt than it used to).
So it was truly a rare moment of joy when we pulled off our end-of-the-summer activity recently. We had come into possession of several fancy kites that my oldest son had mentioned he would like to try flying before the summer officially ended. Being the hardest to draw into family activities at this point, I went with it. I had recently been introduced to a new park that had a very large lawn as well as a splash park and some play equipment that seemed enjoyable for active adults, as well as the kids. So we decided to clear a couple of hours before the school calendar took over and go for it.
Of course, you never know when you plan a family activity how it’s really going to turn out. Son #1 declared as he was leaving for work that morning that he didn’t know we had something planned and he would try to be home in time. He later pointed out that I shouldn’t have planned to fly kites unless there was going to be good wind for it. (I actually thought I remembered him, as the computer’s most constant companion when he’s home, checking the weather for me earlier that week, but apparently that wasn’t memorable for him.)
But we got there just an hour after we had hoped (that’s pretty good), and soon Son #1 effortlessly had his kite up and flying. Gradually Son #2 got up the kite I put together, and the girls ran around with Dad checking out the playground and fountains and occasionally coming back to ooh and aah with the kite flyers. Son #3 wanted to succeed without parental assistance and was assembling a particularly ambitious kite that he was determined to fly. He’d only attempted to fly a kite a few times, and each experience was the kind where the only sustaining wind was that created by sustained running. He was actually satisfied with that, but I knew that the beautiful location and breeze we were currently enjoying would, if he let it, give him a kite flying experience like he’d never had before.
Finally he had his tri-wing plane kite assembled and ran with it into the wind. It crashed. He let me hold it for him, and it crashed again. I tried giving him a little advice, and his frustration was mounting. He tried the advice, and it did a little better before it crashed. Several times. The park we were in was new, and the trees were small and on the edge of the lawn, but his kite got caught in one.
Then Son #1 came over. Son #1 can sometimes be a bit domineering and insensitive towards his younger brothers, as I suppose big brothers tend to be (I myself have two), and I instinctively cringe sometimes when he comes to “help.” But it turned out this time that he spoke as if his brother was an actual human being. He suggested that since the kite itself wasn’t caught, that they just cut the string and then re-tie it. We then decided there was too much wind for three wings, and tried flying it as just a bi-wing. It went up beautifully. For the first time in his life, Son #3 let out the entire string. #1 went and got the string from a kite that wasn’t being used, and tied it on to the handle. Son #3 let out the entire second string! It was glorious. My sons were cooperating and enjoying it!
We tied all three kites to a pole by the playground and played on the equipment together while they flew far overhead. I got to be the first one to say that it was time to go. It took a while to wind up the strings and put the kites away. Our two year old was cold and hungry. We all were. It was great.