Photo: I realized I never showed ya’ll how the fairy garden turned out. Pretty good for a first try, no? Now the question is: what the heck do I do with this thing when winter returns? These guys aren’t gonna live in the house, are they? Some of ya’ll Dear Readers are botanists, so give your favorite writer some tips, please!
The quote of the day came from Ursa Major: “Those wood chips on the floor over there? There are a lot of them. They came from our shoes because we got them at the park. We took them out and now they are on the floor.”
He said this to me as he walked out the door toward another adventure. This time a little muddy. Ok, a lot muddy.
It’s the first Friday in August and, yeah, I’m counting down the days until the first day of school. I couldn’t help but notice that the annual Mommy Proxy War has started anew. My Facebook feed seems to be full of moms looking for strategies for how to survive these last few weeks of summer while others are lamenting about the emergence of back-to-school aisles and commercials. An article ran on one of the Mom networks, with a headline along the lines of “put away your back-to-school lists, I’m just not ready yet!” The comment section was full of motherly judgments: “the children won’t be small forever! Enjoy it more!” “Why do we rush from thing to thing? Why can’t summer just be summer?” “I refuse to think about back-to-school until September! It’s not ok that we rush our kids back!”
Ok, ok… wow… breathe. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why does everything require frothing at the mouth?
These unhurried, unscheduled days have their benefits. We’ve been able to visit with friends and spend time in the yard. My boys had a 4-hour playground playdate today (seriously. We got there at 10 and didn’t leave until 2), and then they came back and climbed all over the play fort and in the dusty dirt. Ursa Major is covered with dirt from head to toe as I type. I want them to have days like this. I know that the busy days will return and the daily schedule will be just as brutal as ever.
But it’s taxing. Summer is taxing. Especially for we mamas who need a little bit of quiet time to recharge. Dear Reader, do you know how much energy it takes to be an attentive conversationalist for 4 hours? I really like this other mom a lot, but I was exhausted when I got home! You know when my next person-free hour will be? 5am tomorrow morning.
And it’s expensive. Summer is expensive. I’m grateful for the single week of summer camp I was able to provide the boys, and the wonderful trip away that I was able to make happen. I think about the Mamas who work real day jobs all summer long, who are juggling expensive childcare costs plus camps or whatever… these long days of steady, quality childcare come at a cost. And the trips? Sure, you can get free or discounted tickets to stuff (but not all stuff and not always when you want or need). But then you gotta get gas. You gotta park. You gotta eat (yes, packing a lunch is cheaper and we do that, but there is always something). You gotta not do something else, like write, in my case. And then, when you get back, you’ve gotta do the housekeeping things that must be done instead of working, which comes with a cost. Those costs add up eventually. They matter a lot. They get compounded when you’re far from the free labor of local family members who can pick up your kids or keep them for a few hours. It’s just not easy, is what I’m trying to say. We’re all making choices and not all of those choices are easy or comfortable, none of them are fully right or fully wrong.
We are doing fine. I shouldn’t complain. I’m mighty grateful that the boys are at an age where they want to be outside the entire day and they can be that way without too much of my intervention. It feels like it’s been a long road to get to this point. These are the summers of parenting magic. But there are still down times, and those down times are high-drama as boys continue to learn how to negotiate between themselves over what they want to do next. They are still working on how best to communicate their needs, pushing the boundaries on what is acceptable (and what is tolerable). These are still the years of norm-setting, of lesson learning… it’s work, Dear Reader. Good work, but work. And when you add the other work of motherhood: the housekeeping, the meal preparation, and the work for money (little as it seems to be), well… summer is a time of tension. It isn’t a Parenting Magazine photoshoot… it ain’t even an idealistic Instagram feed.
So yeah, I’m counting down the days until back-to-school. Not because I don’t love or enjoy my children. Matter of fact, I love them so much that I need them to be in school. Their being in school preserves the peace and allows for a steadier function of this little home of ours. These are important, necessary things in our lives. This is a home that cannot sustain spontaneity for extended periods of time. And you know what? These back-to-school sales have been awesome.
It is a Friday night with a sky that is clear and a breeze that is cool. Promised storms have seemed to miss us. Cicadas lay down a background beat while crickets and birds offer up melodies for the enjoyment of all who would stop and listen. I’m eagerly anticipating the waxing moon, which I’ve been enjoying all week and cannot wait to see. Have you had a chance to see the moon, Dear Reader? Take the time to look up this weekend and behold its beauty.
Dear Reader, as ever, I have wishes for you. I wish you mail: something lovely and beautiful. A card or a package. I wish you the wonderful pleasure that comes from opening the mailbox and seeing handwriting on an envelope and knowing that someone thought of you and sent something to you from far away. I wish you something fresh and newly harvested: blackberries or summer greens. Have you visited a local Farmer’s Market lately, Dear Reader? Take a stroll, meet a local farmer, and purchase something this weekend. I wish you the pleasant lullaby of a passing summer storm and a little time to cozy up next to a window to listen to it. Let mother nature give you direction this weekend, Dear Reader, if only for a little while. I wish you the cheerful laughter of a dear friend, a story shared and a joy remembered. In a world that is evermore chaotic, hold fast to the stability of friendship, the reassurance of history, growth, care and sharing. Remember that you are important to the people in your life and that you are loved, profoundly. Simply continue to do what you do and be who you are. You are enough. What you give is enough.
Until Monday, breathe, rest, sing, reach out, speak up and take care.