July 3, 2017 by Julia
It’s been a good summer so far, three weeks in. Fantastic, actually! You heard me. Yes, I’m still me.
Sorry, but this summer I am one of those moms you secretly hate, making declarations like, “It’s so good to have the kids home – I missed them when they were at school!” or saying “Yes, let’s do it, kids!” to every cockamamie scheme they come up with, including starting a slime collection, building a box fort, and having a lemonade stand. Oh, there was a slime bath, and catching frogs in a muddy marsh, too.
And I am loving it. And I am still writing at least three hundred words every day, as per Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird recommendation to writers who are struggling. I was partly struggling, and partly just unable to concentrate due to requests for snacks and snuggles and refereeing. But the three hundred words is just enough to not worry about, while keeping the writing flame alive over the summer. I wouldn’t want to miss any of this time with the kids because I was scheming about how to get more writing on my next novel done. See, don’t you hate me? It’s a good thing I am not especially thin – my existence would be nearly inexcusable.
And if it makes you feel better, today sucks! A pipe is slowly overflowing in our closet and we hate being homeowners. We don’t handle disruptions well, and we are not “handy.” I was grumpy all day, before I even discovered the pipe issue. The Fourth of July is looming, and slow dread is building in me, thinking of the crowds we’ll encounter tomorrow night if we want to see fireworks. A week ago, I was totes fine with the idea of crowds and heat and traffic. But as it gets closer, the less okay I am with it. But to stay home, to not celebrate with our five-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter, feels like the wrong move, too – and so I feel like I’m in that scene in the original first Star Wars movie where the walls are closing in and there is some tentacled creature threatening to pull me under…we must make a decision, or we will get squished!
(I’m not a superfan, so I’m fairly sure I’ve pissed off someone with the vagueness or inaccuracy of this metaphor; apologies.) We can’t stay home! We can’t face the crowds! Where do we go? What about the possibility that the fireworks will be canceled due to thunderstorms – so much unpredictability! And this damn pipe! We still have near-PTSD from when a pipe exploded above our small main living space and it took two months to recover.
I’m not saying that we should definitely go out to fireworks – especially if thunderstorms are still in the forecast, or if our pipe issue hasn’t yet been resolved – but one thing I notice this summer is that going out every single day with the kids has been good for me.
It’s like stretching out my worried brain muscles. That thing I was obsessing over all morning at home no longer seems so big once we get outside and see some people – even if the outing doesn’t go perfectly. It restores perspective. It makes home nice to return to. Things work themselves out. I see that it doesn’t all have to rest on my shoulders. Things will happen, and with the right mix of structure and flexibility, I will deal with those things, and hopefully I will do well enough to reassure my kids that they can deal with things, too – because their parents did, and do. I can also reassure my kids that happiness is attainable, and that ideas are worth pursuing.
I like to let them be kids, lately – to see how their messes are investigations, to admire how they can be in the moment, how they can fall into play or story.
Taking care of them reminds me how to take care of myself better – something I may have forgotten how to do when they were in school. I need down time and active time, every day, too. Vegetables in my lunch and ice cream after a hike. Free play. Projects. Cuddles. Time-outs.
Oh, one other thing I wanted to tell you: the answer is usually both. We don’t have to pick just one thing. Not only can we make both work, in most cases, but we probably should, if we want to live well. Contrast and flexibility are necessary to life. So is structure. I want to play with my kids. I also want to write. I also want to do about twelve other non-negotiable things. Living well means welcoming the challenge of working it all out, of believing it will be okay, even when we stop doing everything and just be in life for a while.
So, listen to your insides and pay attention to the outside, and try just hanging out. It’s summer, and I kind of love it this time around, despite being more of an autumn person.