It’s here. ‘Back to school’ season. Screeching into my neighborhood Fred Meyer, not to mention the foothold it’s had on Target for the last two weeks. Last summer I could. not. wait. for school to start again. My girls were driving me nuts and they were driving each other nuts. Even our lazy cats were on edge and ready for the tornadoes to disappear.
But not this time. I’m not ready. I don’t think they’re quite ready either. Certainly my kindergartner is facing the change with equal parts trepidation, excitement, and a nervous tummy. My fourth grader is already mourning the loss of sleeping in and reading in her bed. Also, the kids are not ready for the more rigorous grooming, you know, regular bathing and hair brushing, and shoes other than flip flops.
I am super stoked to visit IKEA all by myself and grocery shop without having to say 743 times that we are not getting fruit loops, jelly bellies, or powdered donuts and because I’m extra mean, we are also not getting the Pokemon cards at the check out aisle. These things I’m looking forward to, but I have enjoyed this summer with my sweet babies. I know, I can’t believe it either! It’s taken me three years of summers with school-aged children to sort it out. To find the balance. But I did it.
Or maybe the kids are just old enough that they are not horrible beasts any longer. Actually, I doubt it. They are still horrible beasts. But they are also awesome and I figured out how to tap into the awesome part more than the horrible beast part. I guess that’s the trick, isn’t it? More awesome, less horrible. Easy.
Or not easy at all. It’s very tricky. Anyone who has actually parented for a nanosecond knows that this, the parenting of small
wild beasts, ahem, children is a complicated and trying business. I did my share of embarrassing yelling, mama time outs, and bribing them with sugar, but sometimes I was definitely winning at the mama-ing game. And those days? They were gold. They were the days I imagined as I sat in ignorance and imagined having children.
Here are five ways I found the awesome in my children:
We were consciously gentle with each other
This sounds hokey, I know, but it made a difference. At the start of summer we talked about the fact that it was mostly going to be the three of us together. Just us. All summer. We needed to be nice or it was going to be hellish. I reminded them and myself about this often. Sometimes we were accidentally jerks, and then we’d solve it by apologizing and going outside.
Obnoxious play happened only in the bedroom with the door closed
This may not seem like it deserves it’s own subheading, but I assure you, it does. You know the kind of play I’m talking about, right? You can’t tell if it’s play or fighting (it’s probably both) but whatever it is it grates on your nerves. A lot. This play happens behind a closed door and they are only allowed to seek me out if someone needs actual medical attention.
We got outside
Big adventures and small. On big adventure days, we went to the beach, the river, hiked in the gorge, took the streetcar to Powell’s, etc. On smaller adventure days we still went outside. Lazy breakfasts, arts and crafts, reading and then the park, or pogo sticking in the driveway, chalk art, whatever, just do it outside.
We didn’t burn ourselves out with one giant adventure after the next. We’d go to the river and the next day we’d be lazy. I also balanced the girls’ time together. We’d have a week of togetherness, and then a week of camp. A play date for one and one-on-one mama time for the other. Balance, mamas, balance.
We left town almost every weekend
We spent high quality family time every weekend instead of washing the car, cleaning the bathroom, or repairing the broken cabinet. Admittedly, our home has looked better. I will not win an award for tidiness, though I’ve done enough cleaning and the girls have done enough chores that we aren’t living in squalor. At least not exactly squalor, I mean it’s kind of a subjective term.
This summer was well-played. We camped, hiked, and kayaked with just the right amount of lazy at-home mornings. We enjoyed each other’s company. Sometimes we did these fun things with friends, and that was awesome too. Maybe this summer was just the right length. We’ll go out on a high note and be able to look forward to next June with excitement rather than nervous anxiety.