June 26, 2014

Long (but not lazy) Days of Summer

I am determined to continue blogging even if I only post once each week.  What I can't understand is how this was easier (I wrote two or three posts each week) when my children were much younger.  How did I have time to think and write when they were 1,2,3,4 years old and yet now at ages five and seven, I can barely find time to switch on my laptop much less compose thoughtful paragraphs.

I am constantly questioning myself this summer.  Are we spending too much time together?  What is the alternative?  Am I too hands-on and involved in their lives to the extent that they can't (won't) entertain themselves outside my presence for longer than five minutes, ten if I'm really, really  fortunate.  They're past the demanding stages,  the ages where they must be watched every moment for safety's sake...so why do I have absolutely no time to myself?

I'm sure with a few minutes of quiet time, I could analyze the facts:  I'm a single mom by choice who is not utilizing childcare (also by choice) this summer.  I'm blessed with a vocation that operates on the same yearly calendar as my children's school schedule.  How many working moms envy that?  I know I'm very fortunate.  But then again, there can be too much of a good thing.

We are in each others' spaces and faces all day long.  Then at night, I send the boys to bed and within 30 minutes, one or both are asking to sleep in my room.  We're not just together every waking hour--we are in the same room 24/7, it seems. And even spending all this time together, I don't accomplish my parenting goals.  (Case in point, today's goal was to read four picture books to Liam who is lagging behind in the library's summer reading challenge.  Thirteen hour day--zero books read.  Fabulous.  Just fabulous.

Don't get me wrong, we get out and do things.  We had a wonderful visit with close friends who came to visit the big city last week.  We spent almost twelve hours with them in Chicago.  I was beside myself to have a grown up to talk to while the boys showed off their best behavior for my friend's daughters.  The next day we traveled 100 miles north to an art festival.  Liam spent at least thirty minutes on one painting.  He had an air of complete concentration as he worked on that canvas.  A few days later, Henry had archery class and a swim lesson.  The following day we joined good friends at the neighborhood pool where Henry and Liam went down a giant slide and played for hours, rarely checking in with me.  (When they did, I sprayed them with more SPF.)  Being at the pool, seeing my children play with kids they know well and having another mom to talk to... well, it was the first time I've really relaxed this summer.

If I could step back and give myself advice, I'd tell myself to notice how relaxed the boys are when I'm relaxed.  I'd tell myself that often, if not always, my mood and reactions set the tone for this family.  I'd remind myself that Henry and Liam are smart, healthy, typical boys.  But they are young--they can only hold it together for so long.  They get tired but they don't want to rest.  Both  are very observant, sensitive at times and often brutally honest.  We converse at a fairly sophisticated level BUT that doesn't mean they are miniature adults.  And they certainly can't read my mind.

Step back, look at the big picture, are they having a happy childhood?  Get in close, notice the details...take a moment to be present.  

Yes, that would be my advice.  Now if only I'd listen instead of questioning and criticizing we'd all be a lot happier this summer.


  1. When I was losing my mind last fall (with the flood and job woes) I literally wasn't functioning very well as a parent for a few weekends. I recall just picking up a book and telling the girls "I am reading here on the couch for a half hour, don't disturb me." And you know what, they took me seriously and entertained themselves. I set the expectation and they met it. I figured it wasn't a bad thing for them to see me reading for pleasure (I rarely if ever do, when pre-kid I read a lot). So now I'm more ok with (still rarely!) telling them "this is mommy time" and having them wait to be the center for attention. Or I also sometimes tell them "we are going for a hike because I want to." Sometimes Fiona protests but so be it!

  2. I agree with Claire^^ I think it's healthy for kids to see their parents enjoying their lives child-free or child-bothering-me-free. You already know I send Tate downstairs to play by himself on weekend mornings while I sleep an extra 60-90 minutes. (not watch tv, but actually play) But I must say you're a rock star mom! They're having a fabulous childhood. I often wonder back to my summers as a child; we didn't do camps etc...we stayed home with my mom. And played and played and played. No structure. No experiments. No book logs. We just had fun. You're giving your kids plenty of that kind of time...they will appreciate more than any of y'all will ever know!!!