Six kids at home for summer break is unnerving. It’s loud as hell, crowded and altogether exasperating.
I took a dip in Lake Me just before school let out this year. I made a conscious decision to roll with the punches. To not sweat the small stuff. To let it be. To accept that there would be disordered, chaotic days and incredibly humdrum, boring days. To expect whining because it’s raining and we’re stuck inside and whining because it’s sunny and I’m making them go outside. To smile through the spills and messes and the spaghetti that exploded in the microwave at 7 a.m. because one of the kids tried to reheat it for 90 minutes. To grit my teeth but somehow retain my cool when the kids all agree that right now is a brilliant time to sing “Fancy” very loudly and on a continuous loop just as I’ve invested 45 minutes in getting the baby down for a nap. To deep-breathe through the madness and savor the very brief moments of quiet.
I let them sleep until noon and stay up until 2 a.m., if they wanted — as long as they didn’t stomp around or catch anything on fire. I wasn’t militant about their nutrition. You want to eat tortilla chips for breakfast, kid? Sure — they’re just deep fried grits cut into triangles, really. They were allowed to camp out in our living room the entire summer. There could’ve been a squatter living upstairs; we wouldn’t have known because no one went up there.
There were days when they didn’t change out of their pajamas, even after syrup dribbled down their chin and onto their shirt. Sometimes, when they did wear real clothes, they’d fall asleep in them that night and then wear them again the next day — didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I wish I could get away with that. They assured me that they brushed their teeth (no they didn’t) and I believed them (no I didn’t). They had bedhead for, like, days at a time. “Whatevs — it’s summer,” I’d say (true). “You’re the greatest Mom alive! We’re going to dust and vacuum ‘cause you’re so awesome!” they’d reply (lies).
I allowed them to just be and I allowed me to just be. And I’m so happy about that.
This summer felt never ending and non-existent all at once. The days were sometimes painfully, sluggishly long while the weeks passed by in a rapid fire blur.
Then, just like that, it’s over. And as much as I enjoyed both the busy days and the idle days of this summer, I have equally adored these first few days of back-in-school structure. Upstairs by 8 p.m., lights out by 8:30 p.m. Early morning coffee drinking, lunchbox packing and breakfast making. Trekking upstairs to brush the hair back from their sun-kissed faces to wake them before the sun is up. Them begging for “just five more minutes” of slumber, half-assed tooth brushing because the bus is just around the corner, hopping on one foot with a bagel clenched between their semi-clean teeth trying to get a shoe on the other foot because the bus is waiting just outside our front door now. Kisses blown to me through the bus window and me waving goodbye from just inside the door because I haven’t put on my bra yet.
And then they’re off and I have just the two littlest Woodchips at home with me. They are damn near mime-like when compared to their older siblings. They are quieter but not easier — just different. They are messy, sticky, bouncy and tireless. They require constant supervision. I have to make their food and wipe their butts. They want to go outside and, like, do stuff. They see no value in napping and, when I ask them to rub my feet, they pretend to not understand me.
I’ve made a conscious decision to roll with these punches as well. I know that all too soon I’ll be alone during the day and the silence will be deafening. I’ll long for someone to ask me to fix the Xbox or cut up their chicken nuggets or read that book one (thousand) more times.
I’ve not perfected the art of always letting it be, but I’m working on it — not only for the summer but for life. I’m trying to embrace the chaotic days and the uneventful days, the wants and the needs and the things they can do on their own all in equal measure.
I’m trying to pay attention to all the good stuff because kids, although they are exhausting and oftentimes make me feel stabby, are made almost entirely of awesomely good stuff. They’ve never been here before. They’re still learning their way and figuring out how to do stuff, navigating the sometimes choppy waters of being a child, pushing our buttons and their boundaries to find out what is accepted and what is will not be tolerated.
They don’t mean to be all consuming, but that’s their job, really, to learn and then to do. They don’t stay dependent forever, though. They grow up, fly on their own a bit and then, eventually, they fly away from us entirely. They just don’t need us so much anymore. I don’t know about you, but the thought of that guts me.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to make six grilled cheese sammys now. I am making a conscious decision to delight in the preparation and cooking of these sandwiches because our kids still want and need me to feed them. They haven’t begun to fly away just yet. They’re still right here in our nest — loving me and needing me, through the chaos and the calm, while I work on keeping my eyes fixed on the good stuff, on letting everything else just be… and not burning their dinner because sometimes I get distracted.
Oh look! The new J. Crew catalog…