The boys (grandsons Tyler and Bryce, that is) are a month away from summer vacation and eagerly anticipating shedding the shackles of the school regimen for a couple of months and re-entering paradise. I envy them that bliss, though the thought of going back to the world of an 8-year-old makes me want to lie down and take a nap. So much growth going on, so much still to come, so much to navigate.

Nonetheless, I re-enter the world of 8-year-olds for a few hours each week when it’s my turn to meet them as they descend from the school bus, a full day of emotionality and intellectual stimulation trailing in their wake. Sometimes they’re energized, sometimes drained. One may be up, the other down. You never know what to expect, though you can read the emotional landscape as they walk (or run) toward me (or past me) up the driveway.

I try to squeeze precious bits and bytes of information from them as they shed their backpacks and coats and empty their lunch boxes and folders. There is dinner to negotiate (always a negotiation with fussy eaters), and swimming lessons loom less than two hours hence, so quality time isn’t abundant. It depends whether they’re squabbling or in harmony with one another.

Mostly it’s been a good year. There was some bullying to contend with, requiring intervention. Fortunately, they have a mom who is quite capable of motivating lethargic school administrators to address issues they’d rather ignore.

Their winter vacation was extended a week thanks to COVID, so I got to experience one full day of home schooling, which was surprisingly fulfilling. They had their homework cut out for them via their school-loaned tablets and, after the usual caterwauling about whether they “have to,” they got down to the task while I moved back and forth answering questions and making suggestions. I was glad to see they’re actually studying citizenship, specifically the three branches of our federal government. In response to one question, Tyler said the executive branch makes the laws. Before I could weigh in, Bryce, who was working on something else, called out from the kitchen, “Legislative makes the laws. Executive makes sure the laws are followed.”

He’s already way ahead of so many know-nothings in Washington.

Later, working on a journal assignment, Tyler said, “This is nice. I have more time to work on it.”

It was nice. Don’t know if I would enjoy it five days a week for nine months, but I did enjoy that day.

They’re pretty good, numerically speaking. The other day in the car, Tyler reported he had gone 19 hours straight without a drink of water (not good). Bryce scolded, “That’s just five hours short of a day!” They definitely know how numbers apply in the real world.

In February, Mom and I took them down to Michigan Avenue to see the Chicago Symphony play Peter and the Wolf. I told them it was a good way to get introduced to the entire orchestra. Tyler, however, begged to differ. “There’s no piano … or harp!”

Before St. Patrick’s Day, we watched “Darby O’Gill & the Little People” with Sean Connery in a supporting role (might have been his first film). The boys were spooked by the Banshee, but in the end Darby outsmarts even death. Afterward, Tyler twirled in the kitchen, performing a passable imitation of an Irish jig. I think there’s a dancer inside that kid.

During spring break, I took them to Legoland. In the Tropics Room, we learned that hippos don’t actually swim. They walk on the bottom of the river. Amazing. Bryce said he already knew that. “I read a lot,” he explained.

Mostly, though, they channel their intellectual firepower into devising ways to catch leprechauns, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy, though they’re pretty laissez faire about the latter. They’ve reached the gap-toothed grin stage as baby teeth begin falling out, so it’s not in their economic self-interest to capture the cash dispenser. The going rate at their house is a dollar for the first tooth and a quarter for the rest.

They can get pretty competitive. After watching an episode of their favorite cartoon show, Phineas & Ferb, about the ongoing rivalry between Perry the pet platypus, who doubles as a secret agent (Duh!), and his arch-nemesis (a villainous oaf named Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirt), Bryce turned and said, “Tyler, you’re my archrival.” Tyler retorted, “No, you’re my archrival!” So it goes in the seesaw world of twins. I reminded them of the importance of also being arch-allies.

On the bright side, while waiting for the school bus to drop them off one day, I noticed a letter left on the kitchen table, which put the roller-coaster emotionality and stormy seas of 8-year-old-ism in perspective:

Dear Momma and Bryce,

You both are the best people in the wold. I love you too more than anything in the wold. I’m so happy you too are my family. I love you because you help me, love me, snugle with me, play with me and be my mom and brother. I love you,

Tyler

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