July 9, 2015 by Julia
I haven’t been writing much so far this summer, and though I miss it, I wouldn’t say I’ve been overly anxious about it. I’ve been immersed in busy life stuff – the usual mom and household duties, trying to make it THE BEST SUMMER EVER for the kids while also trying to relax and soak up the extra time with them.
It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It is, and I am grateful.
There have been challenges as we ease into the summer break, for sure. Fiona’s expectations for that aforementioned BEST SUMMER EVER have been sky-high, and our first week back from vacation it seemed I could not do enough to relieve her boredom or meet those expectations. Disillusionment is a painful thing to witness in a child, and on those nights when I was especially tired from the day’s activities, and she would anxiously complain in bed that she didn’t have a fun day, I would take it harder than a mature adult should.
I’ve felt bitter, resentful, and like a failure of a mother…even though I take the kids on plenty of fun outings, schedule play dates, and present them with a smorgasbord of activities at home. At times, it never seems to be enough. I worried last week that I had set the bar too high already in Fiona’s seven years, and spoiled my child into expecting amusement park-level events every day, to the point that she had no appreciation for how awesome she has it, and no ability to enjoy the small pleasures of life. So I cried that night and thought this is going to be the whole summer: Me exhausting myself, trying to please the kids – and them whining anyway, like ungrateful royalty.
Which of course isn’t entirely fair. I love doing this stuff with them all summer; I love the planning and the playing and the quality time with each of them. And they do show appreciation and gratitude, in all of the ways that most seven-year-olds and almost-four-year-olds know how to.
And deeper down, I knew it wasn’t necessarily that Fiona was acting spoiled. I knew that she was just excited for summer, so much so that any little challenge or disappointment that presented itself felt like the end of the world.
Um, I do that. Don’t we all, to some extent? And then it turns into a despairing “So this is basically what the rest of my life will be!” moment.
I wish she didn’t have to experience those feelings the same way I do.
I wish I could make a summer for her that felt naturally fun, laid-back, exciting, and memorable. I wish I could teach them appreciation and gratitude without going into lecture mode or “Frazzled Mommy is Yelling Again Mode,” which shuts down their ability to hear me.
The truth is, I am doing the best I can on all fronts, and I believe, I hope that Fiona will remember all of the wonderful things we have done and will do in her seventh summer. She might look back on her childhood and see the adventures and traditions in the foreground, with maybe some of the boredom and and annoyance with her mom and fighting with her little brother in the background. And I hope that she can cherish all of it, the delightful and the painful, because the struggles teach her, and the delight does, too. These are the experiences that will make her more and more herself over the years, like a gem tumbler knocking away at the dirt and dust.
(Side note: Isn’t she gorgeous? I could look at these photos all day.)
I am no different than Fiona. I’ve already had several “So THIS is going to be our summer!?!” moments and we are only a few weeks into it. When the kids bicker all day and can’t seem to stand each other, but also won’t give each other space, I throw my hands in the air and forget that this is just today. When we spend an afternoon in front of various screens and I start to feel guilty, I forget that we spent the previous few days in a whirlwind of physical and social activity, and it’s okay to take a break for today. When I am so tired I can’t see straight, I forget that sleep heals, and tomorrow is new day.
Even after thirty-six years on this earth, I still forget that things will change – they always do. I also forget that all of this stuff is necessary. The boredom, the disappointment, the frustration, the insecurity, the loneliness. I was explaining yesterday to the kids that we need physical pain to keep our bodies safe – otherwise we wouldn’t even know if we were sick or hurt, and we wouldn’t seek medical attention, and we might never heal. If we love life, we have to accept all of it, and try to find the value in even the pain.
I will say, though, for the record – so far I am feeling better this summer than I did last summer. I remember feeling isolated last summer, and both exhausted and bored, which is a terrible combination. (So unlike the happy exhaustion you feel after a well-spent day at the beach or Disney World, for example.) I am glad for the vacation we took the week after school was out. And I think we are better prepared this year to combat the listlessness.
I also just adore the kids, simple as that. I am inspired by them, and challenged by them in ways that I find fulfilling. That is one of the reasons parenthood can be a wondrous thing.
I guess the point is: keep your hope alive. This day is not your entire life.
If you are in pain, follow it to your wound, and get wiser. If you are in joy, bask in it, and humbly know that challenges will come in due time. As I just read over at Momastery this morning, There is no before and after. That’s how books, films and pictures might work at times, but not life. I find that very, very encouraging.
I hope your summer is filled with challenges, love and beauty, like ours has been so far.
May I post my vacation pictures now? Keep in mind that just this morning I woke up to both kids fighting on top of me over the iPad (a common occurrence) and I did not want to face the day. But now I am feeling just fine. Also keep in mind that the kids’ bathroom floor is sticky with urine as I write this, because I have a three-year-old boy. And keep in mind that I’ve had a raging ear infection the past few weeks and I’m seeing an ENT today, while trying to keep my son entertained in the doctor’s office.
I just don’t want you to think that because there is so much goofy fun, beauty, and joy in these photos, that they are my “after” pictures.