I love it.
I need it.
I’m not that great at it, though.
I can’t stand a lot of mess and noise in my house. No, that’s not right. I am really messy and pretty loud and that’s about all any house can tolerate. So when all 6 of us are home all day and everyone is loud and everyone is making messes, it affects all of our moods and attitudes.
Our backyard at our new house isn’t fenced yet, so I hesitate to send the littlest kids outside without me. None of us thrive in chaos but none of us are very good at making plans, either.
I just spent half a paycheck on groceries and I didn’t even get paper plates. We had to replace our minivan yesterday.
Our culture sort of whispers into the ears of mothers that they’re not enough like some sort of ASMR we never asked for. If the toys aren’t wooden and well organized, are the kids learning all they need to? If you can’t get through a family game night without somebody saying a cuss word, are your kids going to make it through life? If you can’t afford the camps it seems like everyone else is signing up for, maybe you feel like you aren’t giving your kids what they need. If you have an outside the home job and your kids go to a camp every day, maybe you sometimes feel like they aren’t getting the down time other kids are. No bucket list? Oh my.
It can really start to pile up, brick by brick, until all of a sudden it’s hard to catch my breath.
And then I remember what my regular childhood summers felt like and do you know what I remember most clearly? My own young mom, sitting in a metal and nylon woven folding chair in the yard as the hot summer sun was finally going down. I remember her best friend beside her and their tan faces and the way they talked and laughed with their fruity drinks and their cigarettes. I remember how happy and peaceful I felt watching my mom just be happy. Her happiness in those moments was completely separate from me, it seemed, and it made me feel safer and more free than anything I can remember before or since. I’ll never forget the one time they got up out of their chairs and played basketball with us. It felt like being transported to another planet with these alien mothers who were suddenly jumping and dribbling and trash talking like a couple of kids. I remember my mom putting together a three foot above ground swimming pool for us and then watching as we created a tornado over and over in the water. I remember cheap pizza and 2 liter Cokes and rented VHS tapes in a living room that was barely air conditioned. Those are my very best memories.
So maybe it’s all been one massive trick, a giant conspiracy to convince young moms that what they really need to be and do and have is always and forever more, more, more.
So maybe summer break isn’t what the stupid internet is telling us it needs to be. Maybe all this constant self sacrifice and neglect of ourselves is actually unnecessary, self-focused martyrdom and maybe it’s time to come down off the cross and find an old folding chair. Because maybe, just maybe, all our kids really need this summer is to see their mom smiling in the yard beside her friend while the sun goes down on the dirty kids and the lightning bugs. Maybe that’s actually the only memory that they need to make.