Happy Father's Day to our hunter, our gatherer, our sunscreen slatherer. We love you!
Happy Father's Day to our hunter, our gatherer, our sunscreen slatherer. We love you!
Need I say more?
My friends and I are all riffing on the same theme today... Go visit their blogs and see what kind of brilliance and hilarity they found in hindsight.
My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
Well hey it’s back to school and I don’t know about you, but our first week lasted approximately 87 days. Or so it seems.
Every year the optimist in me approaches the new school year with enthusiasm, and by the first Friday I want to stab my eyes out with the kids’ freshly sharpened pencils. Transitions are fun like that.
That said, in my years of parenting school-age kids I have learned a few things about coping with the first weeks of school.
1. Don’t volunteer for anything at Parent Night. After hearing the presentations by the principal and teachers, you will be drunk with enthusiasm. Don’t volunteer while under the influence! Give yourself a grace period. Trust me, the teachers and PTA will still want your help after the first week.
2. Make more routines and fewer rules. Instead of hard-and-fast rules, such as no screen time during the school week, we try to focus on fluid, helpful routines. Every day when you get home, hang up your backpack, empty your lunchbox and wash your hands...pretty much exactly what you do when you walk in your classroom. Screens are a maybe...only after homework and only on non-activity days. Bedtime routines are fixed but times shift depending on the after school activities, with ultimate veto power held by parents.
3. Decline all but critical invitations. My kids have had so much unstructured time during the summer that school schedules completely drain them. We don’t add anything extra into the family mix at first. Sorry, early September birthdays...but we are probably going to pass. (Especially if it’s a party that ends in Cheeze. Who am I kidding? This is great year-round advice.)
4. Make lunches before dinner. I can’t actually vouch for this tip, but it’s one of our goals this year. The post-dinner cleaning and lunch-making is such a buzzkill in our house that it can turn a perfectly nice evening into a major grouchfest. The chore might still be a drag, but at least it won’t be a drag at the very end of the night.
5. Schedule the date nights immediately. Five days into our school year and suddenly 90 percent of our spousal conversations are centered around calendars and carpools. If I’m not careful, Thanksgiving will be here before we remember to enjoy each other.
6. Plan a weekday pizza night. This is a year-round thing for us. Once a week we order pizza and (this part is critical) always make sure there is enough for the next day’s school lunches. A win-win!
What helps you get through the back-to-school transition?
Vacation re-entry is a bitch. Especially when you leave the cool mountains of Colorado for the fiery urban sauna of home. Oh Austin, I'm trying to love you again but right now I'm deep in the stages of grief.
1. Denial. Noooo. This can't be that bad, can it? Sure vacation is over, but it's still summer. I like summer. I like home. I like real life. I like routines and chores. I like heat. Wait, what?
2. Anger. What in holy hell have I done? How did I get home and why is it 1,000 freaking degrees in the shade? Why are my kids asking me for meals or wanting to be taken to the pool? Why am I expected to open the bulging credit card bills that arrived while we were gone? Why do I feel so cramped? Are there suddenly more people in my family? We have spent two solid weeks together! How much more Together Time do they all expect?
3. Bargaining. Maybe if I don't unpack and don't do laundry we can just tack on another trip that leaves tomorrow. Maybe Hubs and I can alternate working while the other drives. We only saw a little snow in Colorado...we really should find some place colder this time. Alaska! Icebergs! I would cancel vacations for the next two years just to get a few more days of fun right now.
4. Depression. I will never be as happy as I was that one day last week, running down the mountain in long sleeves. Or that morning I drank 3 cups of coffee under a rainbow sunrise. Or that night of the outdoor concert when we stretched out at the base of a mountain, the sky changing colors every few minutes, the kids rolling down nearby hills, the wine and laughter with friends mingling into a perfect harmony.
5. Acceptance. If I can't be on vacation, I might as well be earning money toward the next one. School starts soon, and that means more hours in the day to work. Oh joy. But honestly, do I want to be the friend who complains about her vacation hangover? Don't we all hate that person? Ok fine. I'm home. I'm unpacked. I'm dealing. I'll just leave it at that.
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How are you surviving the last gasp of summer, my friends? I'm sending y'all strength and air-conditioned vibes!
The 6-year-old vs. The Black Bean
I had so much fun capturing bits and pieces of our mornings with my #aweekofmornings series that I've decided to tackle the flip side. The dark side, in my opinion. It's only Tuesday, and I'm already daunted by the task. With three kids ages 6, 10 and 12, our evenings are often a complicated test of logistics and endurance. Long gone are the days of scheduled toddlers and early bedtimes. (Longer gone are also the days of walking around with a wailing newborn in the witching hour, so let's keep some perspective.) For me, the glory days were a brief and perfect time when our family's evening routine consistently looked like this: Kid dinner promptly at 5:00, baths at 6:00, bedtime at 6:30, and adult-only dinner afterward, with no nuggets and ketchup in sight.
Now our routine changes daily depending on work responsibilities, kid schedules and carpool duties. When I have my act together and our schedules allow, I prep dinner in the morning and have it ready for all of us to enjoy together. Sounds lovely, but for us it's only a realistic goal maybe twice a week. Many other nights I'm throwing sandwiches in a bag, raiding the kids' lunch boxes for whatever they didn't eat earlier, and hustling everyone into the car for soccer/ballet/biking/etc.
Despite the full calendar, we carve out mini-routines where we can. Bedtime always involves books. It always involves rituals, no matter how small or strange. One kid wants hugs and kisses and movie-star air kisses in a very particular order. Another kid prefers a quick tuck-in, a special repeated phrase, and lights immediately out. The other wants the sheets and pillows just so and then a glass of water with ice and multiple check-ins just in case. If there's anything we've learned as parents, it's to not fight these evening rituals too much, no matter how exhausted we are, no matter that some feel like stalling techniques, and no matter that a kid was just screaming at us 10 minutes ago because they had the Worst Day Ever. Nobody likes to go to bed grumpy, and the rituals seem to settle us all down.
That said, there's no predicting how an evening will go. Someone can forget homework at the last minute, or fall apart because favorite jammies are dirty, or just be sick and tired of dealing all day. Other nights there is singing in the shower and relaxed chapters of Harry Potter. Your guess is as good as mine...Tune in to my Instagram feed this week, and we'll find out together.
Monday 8:30pm. Already well past his bedtime and he's asking for 5 more minutes.
Monday 8:45pm. Late dinner for our dedicated ballerina.
My #aweekofevenings project runs from April 6-12, and all the images can be found on Instagram @ewmcguire.
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In other news...
I was thrilled to have the story of our new mother/son running routine featured on Huffington Post last week.
I have a new professional Facebook page and would love to get your Like on it.
Thanks again for all your enthusiasm and support.
After last week's piece about my daughter's book club, I received numerous "What about the boys??" questions. Good questions with simple answers...
My 5-year-old is too young for a book club. When he thinks of reading it is all about snuggling and hearing a great story. This summer he has been devouring the Magic Treehouse series. Which means Hubs and I are "devouring" these stories right along with him. For the third time. (Will Jack and Annie make it back to the treehouse in time?? Let's find out! Really great stories, but yeah...third time, my friends.)
My 10-year-old son, a definite bookworm, is simply not interested in a book club. In fact, sitting down with a dozen buddies and talking about books just might fall into the Worst Idea Ever category. Even though he loves books and buddies. Just not his thing.
However...the great mother-child conversations that have grown out of my daughter's book club are pretty special, so of course I want to experience something like that with my boys. The connection is still the goal, but my approach is very different. Like so many things boy-related, my approach is deceptively casual and super stealthy.
We started by reading to him for years, even past the time he could handle a hefty book. Our favorites were always the books like Harry Potter and Peter and the Starcatchers, which combine adventure, suspense and (this is key!) humor.
I now try to keep up with what he's reading so I have at least a working knowledge of what he's enjoying. We go to the library regularly. We spend a small fortune at our favorite bookstore. We he finishes a book and stares at his bookshelf like an open fridge proclaiming he has NOTHING TO READ, I do some research and find a list of books to try. (As I mentioned in the other post: great resources include librarians, bookstores, online reading groups. Google is your BFF here.)
When he does find that cool/awesome/epic book, I ask questions. But only (and this is key too) only when we are doing something else like riding bikes or walking the dog, or shooting hoops in the driveway. If he's doing something else, it doesn't feel like homework...it feels like a casual conversation. And before we know it, he is relaying the cryptic plot of his latest Sci-Fi novel. Sometimes I have no idea what he's talking about. But he's talking! And he's so excited! And if I get lucky, I eventually catch on to a few basic details so I can ask relevant questions.
Sometimes I know the book well, and the conversation turns to wonderfully familiar ground. We fall back on inside jokes. He quizzes me on what kind of demigod I would be and why. He asks me for the thousandth time to name my favorite Harry Potter character. We agree that no matter your favorite character, we all pretty much want to be part of the Weasley clan.
And without even knowing it, without trying too too hard...we've suddenly had a really great, genuine mother-son moment. Very stealthy. Mrs. Weasley would be proud.
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Just as I did with my daughter's book club post, I've included some book ideas for boys. Some of the titles overlap, which is no surprise. Of course there's no such thing as Boy Books and Girl Books...but the following titles have been particularly popular with my son during his early elementary years.
1st/2nd Grade Dragonslayer’s Academy by Kate McMullan Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce Magic Tree House (series) by Mary Pope Osborne Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol Geronimo Stilton (series) by Geronimo Stilton Origami Yoda (series) by Tom Angleberger The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick Guardians of Ga’hoole (series) by Kathryn Lasky Anything by Road Dahl
3rd/4th Grade The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis Holes by Louis Sachar The Mysterious Benedict Society (series) by Trenton Lee Stewart Savvy by Ingrid Law Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (honestly, just go ahead and buy the boxed set because they will read them over and over again for years.) The Wonderful O by James Thurber Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise Peter and the Starcatchers (series) by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson Platypus Police Squad by Jarrett J. Krosoczka Wonder by R.J. Palacio Love from your friend, Hannah by Mindy Warshaw Skolsky The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate Wildwood by Colin Meloy A Series of Unfortunate Events (series) by Lemony Snicket Hoot by Carl Hiaasen Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper Anything by Rick Riordan
Must-Have Reference Books for Boys Defending Your Castle by William Gurstelle Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden The Boys’ Book: How to Be the Best at Everything by Dominique Enright Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun by Elizabeth Foy Larsen, Joshua Glenn, Heather Kasunick and Mister Reusch
A few months ago I wrote about the book club I share with my 11-year-old daughter and the countless gifts it has given back to both of us. The club keeps my daughter connected to friends who share her passion for stories, and it keeps me connected to my child and a wonderful group of tweens.
Since the essay ran, I was thrilled to see The Huffington Post pick up the story and even more flattered to receive emails from readers looking for suggestions on starting a club of their own. I’m happy to share what we have learned! Just as with any endeavor, there are a million ways to organize it, but the following path has worked for our club.
STARTING OUT Enlist a few leaders. We have three Book Moms who are the primary organizers. We rotate houses each month and share responsibilities for reading the books, planning discussion questions and bringing snacks. We also pick the books (more to come on that). Even though we welcome any of the moms to join us at meetings, typically it’s just the three of us. I’ve heard of other book clubs that are true mother-daughter activities (with every mom and daughter attending together), but our goal from the beginning was to focus on the girls and their relationships. As a result, it’s the girls’ book club, but we three leaders happen to reap some pretty great mother-daughter rewards with our own girls. We also decided that a full mother-daughter club would change the vibe significantly. It would be easy for the meeting to turn into a social hour with so many adult friends. We also know that some of our girls specifically request that their moms do not crash book club. It's their club, thankyouverymuch.
As for the club size, we try to keep the group no larger than about 12 girls. Any more and it gets unwieldy.
Our group began when the girls were in 2nd grade. I love that we started so early because it gave them a common thread of friends throughout their years at our large elementary school. At this age, you typically have a wide variety of readers (reading levels, stamina, attention span.) To address that, we picked two books a month: one easy and one challenge book. Everyone read at least one book; some read both. By 4th grade, we cut back to reading only one (longer) book each month.
Every August we set up the schedule and then meet monthly from September to May, usually making the December and May meetings half meeting and half party.
PICKING BOOKS The first year we asked the girls to vote each month on a new book, but we quickly found it hard for families to plan on such short notice. Now the three Book Moms decide the list for the entire year so families have time to borrow/buy the books and the girls have time to finish them.
We get our books ideas from all over: We take suggestions from the girls, poll our favorite librarians and booksellers, look at the Texas Bluebonnet Award list (an annual list of recommended books for Texas grade schoolers), scroll through Amazon and see what comes up as “related books,” browse sites like Goodreads, and visit Facebook groups devoted to reading recommendations.
We are fortunate that the moms in our club are wonderful and trusting of our book decisions. It helps that we are all friends, so there is a certain ease when talking about which books are appropriate for the club. So far this hasn’t been an issue, but as our girls enter middle school we know that the books will only get more mature and complex. For now, we have kept the controversial books out of the mix. (For example, we didn’t read The Hunger Games or the Divergent series for the club, although many of the girls read them on their own. Now some girls are stretching into true YA territory with books like The Fault in Our Stars, and we need to adapt our approach accordingly.)
STRUCTURING MEETINGS Usually all the Book Moms read the book, but the host is the one who also prepares the discussion questions. The discussion questions don’t need to be highbrow, academic efforts. In general, you can’t go wrong with: What did you like/dislike, what did you learn, what did you relate to? And this site is a great place to start for questions that fit almost any novel.
I also love to ask questions that tie back to the author. Questions that help the girls think like writers. What questions do you have for the author? Why did the author write it this way? What did the writer have to research before writing this book?
As a mother, you may need to learn to bite your tongue during some of the discussions. Of course the girls get off track, sometimes have lame answers, or maybe don’t get excited about a book. Follow their lead...Some books encourage lively conversation and some are a total bust. Don’t be afraid to say, “Wow, nobody LOVED this book. Why is that? How does it compare to others you loved? What would you have done differently if you were the author?
Our goal is to keep the vibe upbeat and casual, but still focused. This translates into a 90-minute meeting on a Sunday afternoon, with 30 minutes of book discussion and an hour of snack and backyard play.
We don’t keep a log or notes during the meetings, but at the end of the year we take a poll to ask which books they liked best and why.
At the close of every meeting we leave time for the girls to recommend any other books they are reading. This has turned into a favorite part of the meeting because the girls, avid readers every one of them, share books they adore. They gush. They try to summarize without spoiling. They draw comparisons to other books and try to wow the other girls with their descriptions. Basically they have time to geek out about something they really love. Can you ask for anything better in a club?
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If your daughter is in a book club now, or you start one with her, I would love to hear from you! What works for y'all? What books have you loved? Share any and all of it here!
P.S. Since writing this post, I added a boy-specific list here. Enjoy!
BOOK SUGGESTIONS As an inspiration or jumping off point, I've included our club's reading list from the past four years. Happy reading!
2nd Grade At this age, the girls read two books a month (one easy, one challenge book). Sometimes the parents read the challenge books to the girls.
Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett Fudge-a-Mania by Judy Bloom Judy Moody (series) Megan McDonald The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Di Camillo Happy New Year's Mallory by Laurie B. Friedman The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney Matilda by Roald Dahl Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye Black Beauty by Anna Sewell Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series) by Jeff Kinney Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery Little House on the Prairie (series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder Charlotte's Web by E.B. White A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis Ramona (series) by Beverly Cleary The Magic Treehouse (series) by Mary Pope Osborne
3rd Grade Again, we paired shorter books with longer books. Several of these books were on their school Bluebonnet list so they wanted to read them to earn the award.
The View from Saturday by E.L. Koningsburg Christopher Mouse by William Wise 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass Wild Times at the Bed and Biscuit by Joan Carris Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt Smarter Than Squirrels (Down Girl and Sit) by Lucy Nolan and Mike Reed The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Curtis The Book Store Mouse by Peggy Christian Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park Squirrels World by Lisa Moser Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer Love From Your Friend, Hannah by Mindy Warshaw Skolsky The Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett
4th Grade Small Persons with Wings by Ellen Booraem Escape Under the Forever Sky by Eve Yohalem Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume
5th Grade The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Lesley M.M. Blume Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass Wildwood by Colin Meloy Red Thread Sisters by Carol Peacock Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli Carly Keene, Literary Detective: Braving the Brontes by Katherine Rue The Egypt Game by Zilpha Snyder The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Other 4th/5th Grade suggestions from the girls (so many good books, so little time) Chains (Seeds of America) by Laurie Anderson Holes by Louis Sachar The Velvet Room by Zilpha Snyder Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Peterson Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise Cold Cereal by Adam Rex Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf The Changeling by Jenkins and Fabry Number the Stars by Lois Lowry Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary The Grace Mysteries by Lady Grace Cavendish Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
It's now half-way through summer and we've hit triple digits here in Austin. I don't even have to look at the thermometer to know for sure, because the clearest sign is that every little thing my family is doing has started to irritate me. Beginning with swiping my stuff every time I turn around. Which is how this came to be...
And then I realized that even though I'm always happier in the sunshine, I've been finding more and more reasons to stay indoors. Like when this 3-hour reorganizing emergency happened...
I know, I know....PUT THE LABEL MAKER DOWN AND BACK AWAY SLOWLY.
In between the obsessive-compulsiveness, we are tossing in some traditional summertime fun.
Lots of this...
And when I'm lucky, some of this...
But as we know, all play and no work makes for a boring household so I'm also trying to earn the Meanest Mom Ever badge. Exhibit A: insisting that my new 10-year-old finish his birthday thank-you notes while waiting at a doctor's appointment.
All in all, it's shaping up to be a great second half of summer. Starting tomorrow we are escaping the heat, heading to the mountains, and leaving the label maker and To-Do lists at home. I'm bringing the camera, of course, so follow me on Instagram and just dare me to come back home from paradise.
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He stole that one awesome LEGO piece that only came in that one awesome set.
She never has to shower first.
He's touching me!
Why won't he let me hug him?
He said he hates broccoli the most but only I do.
He's copying me!
She's ignoring me!
It's my turn to be It.
I always have to be It.
She harvested ALL of my Family Barn wheat and it takes 24 hours to regenerate.
He moved my pencil.
She sat in my chair.
He never walks the dog as often as I do.
He didn't let me find the farting cow on Pictureka.
He threw my favorite torpedo in the deep end.
She always guesses the trivia questions before me.
He smooshed all the silly putty into one big pile and now we can't tell whose is whose.
He keeps unplugging my Kindle from his charger.
She keeps using my Kindle charger and it's not my fault she lost hers.
He called me a brat.
She keeps calling it indigo but it's really blue.
He never gets in trouble.
She always gets her way.
They always, always think they're right.
# # #
Actually, you're not being annoying at all.
"Well then I will apologize for the future times when I'm annoying because usually when that happens I don't much feel like apologizing."
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The thing about a home improvement project is that it completely, unapologetically messes with your head. Creating mental whiplash, if you will. Big picture, little picture, big picture, little picture. My mind is constantly telescoping in and out, changing focus from one second to the next.
What’s our family’s mission statement and how can we honor that within the confines of four walls and one budget?...to...Do I prefer the toilet paper holder on my left or right side when I’m enjoying stolen moments from said family?
To keep me steady during this long and tedious process, I’m latching on to a few critical Before and After images.
Before: Three kids in one bathroom, performing the nightly ritual where one kid showers, another does his business on the toilet, and the other brushes his teeth...all within inches of each other. I call this charming part of our day “Worlds Colliding.”
After: A boy bathroom, complete with bleachable tiles and, as requested, not much else. A separate girl bathroom with room for all the disappearing/reappearing hairbands and pre-teen angst.
Before: One living room for adults, kids, dogs, friends, guests, toys, music, art, homework, TV and video games.
After: One living space for kids, friends and the Wii rage that often accompanies them. Another space for thick books, wine and Nashville.
Before: A master bath that doubles as Hubs’ closet, which doubles (triples??) as his home office.
After: Not ever having to say, “Sweetheart, can you go work in the other room? I need to poop.”
Really, it’s the small things in life. That is, when it’s not the big things.
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Speaking of makeovers, I’m also redesigning my blog and online presence. Equally exciting, but (thankfully) requiring far less bathroom talk! I'm really excited about the new changes and will have more to share in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
The 9-year-old: Well, I'm a realist.
The almost-5-year-old: I'm a CANDY-IST!
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Whatever your approach to the holidays, I hope you find what you need to have a season full of light. May you be surrounded by all the people who love you.
Cheers and thanks for reading this year! Liz
“Mom, did you know that I know what all the bleeped words are on the radio?" * “Mrs. McGuire, what does promiscuous mean?” * “Anachronistic?? No, I don’t know what it means but I love the word already!” * “What’s your definition of soon?” * “Ugh! We’ll see always means No.” * “Mama, you said I’m articulate? But I do NOT like being tickled.” * “Dad, there’s your funny and there’s our funny.” * “Do we still call it homework if we’re doing it on the bus and in the car?”
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Add your own in the comments!
Remember those several minutes at the party store? The ones in between choosing party favors and picking up balloons? Remember how we walked by the rows and rows of crazy hats and of course had to try on every last one? Remember how each hat solicited a ridiculous accent: an Arrghh matey or a Take me to your master or an I say ole chap? Remember how y’all skipped and sang and wanted to put on an impromptu play? Remember how I was right there with you, in the thick of it, ignoring both my lice phobia and the raised eyebrows of employees? Remember how much we laughed? Remember spinning and curtseying and doh-see-dohing? Remember how easy it was? Remember how it felt just like summer should feel and that we weren’t in a rush to do anything besides goof around in someone else’s air conditioning? I remember. I also remember what happened only minutes later, though honestly I’d rather forget it. Can we go ahead and forget about it? Let’s forget about the mother of all tantrums that happened in the balloon line. Let’s forget about standing in the SLOWEST BALLOON LINE IN THE HISTORY OF ALL BALLOON LINES with a 4-year-old at my ankles kicking and screaming like a lunatic while dozens of families try not to stare. Let’s forget about the sweat beading up on my forehead and dripping down my shirt as I tried to stand firm and not overreact to the animal-child clawing at my feet. Let's forget about how trapped I felt--wanting to bolt but knowing this was our last chance to buy Very Important Birthday Balloons. Let's forget how much I hated my life right then. Let’s forget about the obscenities I screamed in my head. Let’s forget that I was That Mom.
Let’s forget about exiting the store with a gnashing, thrashing child slung over my shoulder, the sun bright on the cheery bouquet of balloons dancing above our heads. Let’s forget about waiting in the car until the screaming stopped. Let’s forget it was 103 degrees and that half the air conditioner vents were inexplicably blowing hot air on us.
Can we agree to forget about it all? I didn’t think so. Because really, who are we kidding? It will go down in my memory with spectacular and horrifying detail. And honestly the only reason that’s fine is because I also remember, with equal clarity, a summer afternoon a mere six years ago, in a similar store with a similar 4-year-old throwing an eerily similar tantrum.
And that child outgrew the fits. That child learned to be mostly reasonable. That child was eventually allowed to return to shopping centers with me. And you, my little Tasmanian devil, will learn too. And some day, in the very, very distant future, I will take you back to the party store. And when I do, we will head straight for the crazy hat aisle.
Today I found this drawing during a marathon cleaning spree in which I sorted through mountains of kid artwork, school papers and various other junk that has been collecting for months. A year if I'm completely honest. And by "sorted" I mean actually removing rather than just moving the mountains. The marathon was made entirely possible by the fact that the kids are spending the week away with their grandparents. I love a good purge and am happy to report that a.) I can now see the entire floor of my office and b.) Nothing was living underneath the piles. A week ago I might have interpreted this little scrap of green paper with a raised eyebrow and a flash of concern. I might have tucked away the lightsabers (out of sight, out of mind) or accidentally broken the stick that has become The Best Shooter Gun ever. These weapons! I can't escape them. Yes, it's a natural phase for boys. And yes, we do our best to keep their play focused on imagination, not violence. But still, enough with all the blasting, shooting, killing and lasering. I cannot take another bit of it.
But that would have been me last week.
This week, I stumbled across the drawing and immediately thought, "Oh my sweet boy! Are you sending me a hug from afar? I miss and love you too!"
Sometimes a little distance is all we need.
The best part? When I subtract the refereeing, the negotiating, the juggling...I'm able to add more "Sure! Why not?" And suddenly the kid beside me, and the mother inside me, are completely and happily whole.
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