We're halfway through summer. No broken bones. Only one sunburn. A few minor cuts. Minimal mosquito bites. Most importantly, my sanity remains intact. I've learned a few things in the past six weeks.
The Little Lessons...
I love having no schedule.
I hate having no schedule.
The minute a stranger tells you, "Your children are so well behaved," is the instant they show their true colors and make a liar out of that stranger.
If there is a knock on the door, it only comes when I'm not wearing a bra.
Legos are dangerous. They should be played with in a home where shoes are mandatory.
Making recipes I've pinned on Pinterest is a pipe dream.
When there's a glass of liquid on a flat surface in my house, my 3-year-old's elbow will be drawn to it like a moth to a flame. My reaction:
Week 1: "That's OK, sweetheart, it was an accident!"
Week 3: Sigh. "Here's a towel. Please wipe it up."
Week 6: "Again?! From now on, if you're thirsty, drink straight from the goddamn faucet!"
A 9-year-old boy can thrive on a breakfast of two waffles with Nutella and sliced strawberries for 45 straight days. On the 46th day, he will eat three waffles with Nutella and sliced strawberries.
There is nothing wrong with splitting an entire bag of Sun Chips with four children and considering it a healthy lunch for the five of you.
A fedora can stay on my 6-year-old's head while he does flips in a pool. Underwater. Solid choice, Indiana Jones.
A chipmunk can play dead convincingly enough that my cat buys it. That same chipmunk can wait until the cat turns his back, then wink at me to let me know he's still, in fact, very much alive.
When my husband announces on a Monday morning, "Oh I forgot, I have a golf outing today. I'll be home after 10 p.m.," I'm going to need some time to digest that information. I'll sit in a corner, hug my knees and quietly sob. Don't judge.
Parents whose kids are attending sleepaway camp are easy to identify. They're either the adults who look tan, well-rested,and supremely happy... or they're the adults who see me with four kids and proceed to laugh and point at me. I wish each of them a peaceful summer. And the pointers... I wish an unplanned pregnancy. May you be blessed with twins.
Boot camp on the beach sounds great in theory. It's a nightmare in reality. A sweaty, sandy nightmare. And I'll still eat the donut that's waiting for me on the kitchen counter when I get home. How could I not? It's still warm. For. The. Love. Of. God.
When the guys fishing on the beach pull four foot sharks out of the ocean, one after another, for over an hour, there's no need to avoid swimming. Even when you have your period. Don't ask. Just trust me. It's perfectly safe to go into the ocean.
When I take the kids to the mall and "Party Rock Anthem" begins playing over the speaker system, they will immediately form a straight line and bust out the moves to Dance Party 3 in perfect synchronicity. Strangers will mistake this for a flash mob and take pictures with their iPhones, posting them to Facebook and Twitter.
The library shouldn't put out games for small children. Because my 3-year-old will play the game, then fist pump and yell, "Yes! I winned!" Forcing my 10-year-old to exclaim, "Be quiet!", to which the 3-year-old replies, "You be quiet! You're not the police of mine eyeballs!" So my 6-year-old chimes in with, "Both of you, stop fighting!" The 3-year-old and 10-year-old then take it to the ABC rug in the children's section. Naturally, the 6-year-old screams, "Stop fighting! Mom, they're fighting!" My 9-year-old will continue to read his chapter book like an angel, I mean play his DS as though he were in a trance. And my attempt to hide behind the reference books until the entire thing blows over will prove unsuccessful when the 6-year-old finds me and inquires, "Mom, are you hiding on that bookshelf?"
If you take four kids to a self-serve frozen yogurt store, even after instructing, "do not touch anything," not once, not twice, but three times, the oldest will think he's "helping" by serving himself. He will in fact over serve himself, and his yogurt will cost $9. Not to be outdone, his 9-year-old brother will serve himself while I chastise the 10-year-old. His yogurt will cost $9.15. And when the 9-year-old discovers he's chosen original tart flavor instead of snickerdoodle, his punishment will be to eat all $9.15 worth of it. And he will man up and do it. And I will swallow back tears of pride and think, "Well, now. That's my boy."
The Big Lessons...
There's nothing like spending a hazy afternoon at a friend's pool with my kids. Eleven kids, six on giant rafts, laughing, swimming, splashing... the quintessential summer pool party. We parents marvel at how our children are growing... not yet teenagers, but no longer our little boys. We take time to swallow over the lumps in our throats and tell one another how lucky we feel that our kids are friends. And that we, in turn, have become friends. I go home on a day like that feeling like life is good.
I wake up the next morning to the news that an armed man has walked into a movie theater in Colorado and opened fire on the audience. People are dead. More people are injured. Witnesses are traumatized. The country is in shock. I am tasked with telling my older children. My job is to find the right words. Words that will educate them. That will instill just enough fear to be cautious. That will provide just enough comfort to feel protected. Words that, once spoken, will hinder their belief that the world they live in is a safe place. I go to bed after a day like that feeling like life is not always so good.
I spend the first half of the summer hoping that the men in power surrounding Jerry Sandusky didn't really know. Sandusky is sick. He's broken. But the men in power around him... none of those men was sick. I spend the first half of summer hoping that, had they known, they'd have put the welfare of innocent children above everything. Innocent children. And my heart breaks just a little bit upon learning that they knew enough. And they failed to act. And again, it's my job to tell my older kids. To find the right words to warn them that monsters like Sandusky exist. To encourage them to trust their instincts when something or someone doesn't feel right. To expect them to comprehend that the men surrounding this monster had an opportunity to be better men... but didn't take it. To remind them that these men have families who are now devastated and suffering. And to teach them that these families deserve sympathy... understanding... privacy... peace.
Summer is half over. The little lessons I've learned have become memories. Snapshots in my head of perfect moments with my kids. Still young... and beautiful... and unaffected... and innocent. The big lessons I've learned have been sobering. Gut wrenching. They've been the catalyst for whispered conversations with my husband late into the night... Do we tell them? How do we tell them? When do we tell them? What do we tell them? They've been the topic of texts and poolside conversations with friends who care just as much as we do about keeping the lines of communication open between parents and children. Did you tell them? How did you tell them? When did you tell them? What did you tell them? What did they say? The big lessons have left me wishing I could keep my children blissfully ignorant. Sheltered. Protected. Do we really have to tell them? The answer for me is yes. We have to tell them. These things happened. The children... my older children... will find out. Best they hear it from the people they trust most in the world... the people who will tell them only what they need to hear. And answer their questions. And offer hugs. And suggest hope. Hope that no more big lessons like these need teaching... at least for the rest of the summer.
May the last of our summer be filled with little lessons. Snapshots in our heads of perfect moments with our children.