CANDY ALLAN: Halfway is a long way from finished

Ahhh, fall. The air is crisp, the leaves turn bright colors, and the sunshine is warmly welcoming and not overbearingly oppressively hot. The first official day of fall will be next Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Fall has always been my favorite season. When I was little, I said it was because my birthday is in the fall. Later, I decided it was because you bring in the harvest in the fall — crisp apples right from the tree and all kinds of other yummy goodness just waiting to be eaten.

Fall is still my favorite season, and now the reasons include watching the kids go back to school. Sure, there’s some of every parent’s clichéd relief the kids have something to do all day, but it’s an interesting time to watch, too.

At the back-to-school event, it’s generally the first time in several months you see them next to large groups of their peers. Suddenly, you realize it’s not your imagination — they DID get so much taller over the summer. You look at the faces of children you’ve known for years and realize they don’t look the same anymore — the round baby faces have been replaced with more angular lines; their personalities, more than their parents’, now show in their clothes.

And while you’re looking at them and noting how big they’re getting … you also realize there’s a long way yet to go.

I know I’ve lamented how quickly the time is passing in this column (and to anyone who would listen) many times before, but this fall it struck me that while it feels like the blink of an eye since they were born, I’m nowhere near the finish line.

Eyes on the prize and all that, but we’re still only halfway there. That’s a mildly comforting thought, honestly — I’ve still got some time to try and influence who they become, though it’s admittedly a harder task now. Both kids have pretty much determined their personalities, though there is still room for adjustment.

As school starts, we still have our daily walk with the dog when we get home (when after-school events aren’t in the way). I still get to hear about what they did that day, and there’s still a GREAT deal of time spent describing what was for lunch and what happened in the free time after they finished eating.

I’m hoping the walks last all through high school, though it won’t surprise me if they don’t. Nobody climbs up into my lap anymore, but they’ll both come over to my chair and lean against me with an arm draped around my neck before saying, “Mom, can I talk to you a minute?”

It’s usually something incredibly important, like whether a new top goes with a favorite skirt or if, since their homework is done, video games are an option until dinnertime. Every so often, however, it’s a topic with a little more weight to it — how to respond to a situation at school or deal with a friend who suddenly is more interested in a girl than in sports. That’s when I realize we still have a long way to go and I suspect the first half of school may have been the easier half. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Let’s be honest, I’ve been making up this parenting thing as I go along ever since my son was born. I know there’s more experienced parents out there and folks with different ideas. Respond to my column by emailing me atcallan@pioneergroup.com, and you might see your thoughts in print in an upcoming issue of the Pioneer.