three things: a summer frame of mind

Summertime and the living is…

well.

Complicated.

If you are a small child, the living is VERY easy. Popsicles, bike rides and splashing in the pool… repeat!

If you are the cruise director in charge with coordinating all of the activities and events that, when strung together in your children’s minds, will create the perfect symphony of childhood memories, then summer is your PRIME TIME.

I have good news for you: I do NOT have a magical list of amazing bucket-list-type activities that YOU MUST ACCOMPLISH by Labor Day or else. I also do not have a list of the top ways you are making your children hate you and hate summer and fail at life.

What I have is a very brief list of ways that I have adjusted my mindset and attitude so that I can actually enjoy summer and be more present for whatever shenanigans we find ourselves doing.

In no particular order:

Thing 1: Mess is Best 

I immensely dislike living in a disorderly environment.  It makes my soul itchy.  Quick fix for this? Accept defeat early on and try to never be inside my home.  If I can’t see the mess, it’s not happening.

If for some reason, you can’t put the blinders on to what is happening in your home, then do the dishes every night and wipe down the counters.  At least you can enjoy your morning coffee and Cheerios in peace. The rest is for the birds.

Speaking of which, the birds are outside and they do NOT care if your laundry is folded. So go. I promise the mess will be there when it gets cold outside.

Thing 2: Yes, AND…

In the category of “Everything I learned, I learned from Tina Fey,” I have to give credit to this mindset change to the wise Ms. Fey. Not only is she brilliantly funny, but her improv chapter of “Bossypants” is saving my summer – and maybe even the rest of the seasons. Essentially, the way improvisation works is if a character proposes something like “I am a moose” and the second character says, “Yes, and I am a moose rancher” or something. The idea is that improv only works if each of the characters in the sketch are building off of the other’s story in a positive and meaningful way. In short, improv is life and summer is the perfect season for living.

Example: This week we had a day that contained exactly two hours and twelve minutes of warm, rain-free sunshine. I was driving home with all three kids and groceries in the trunk when my neighbor announced she was filling the kiddy-pool and invited us over. Planner-me wanted to say, “Well, I have groceries and I need to put them away and start dinner and so on …” but SUMMER me said, “YES! And I’m bringing a fruit platter!”

I put away frozen and refrigerated items, had the twins un upstairs and put on swimsuits and we were in the freshly-filled baby pool down the street, noshing on fruit and juice boxes in less than 20 minutes.

That is summer. The girls loved it, we all had fun and life was lovely.

Say yes… and add to it!

Thing 3: Baths

If you can accept that your house is going to be a mess and that your plans may become a mess, then it’s time to accept that your children (and you!) will likely also be hot, sweaty, dirty, happy messes. I learned this one the first summer that the kids were walking.  I would drop them off at their sitter’s house in adorable summer outfits and I would pick up virtually unrecognizable sweaty, smelly, grinning messes. It took me less than two seconds to appreciate that my kids may have been messy, but they were also incredibly happy. Running, jumping, investigating dirty things, rolling down hills, playing in the “forest” and so on are the things that make memories and open up minds and free our children to be children. It delighted me to find my girls covered in the dust of their day, exhausted and happy.

It’s just that… baths, man. Baths are a process in our house.  I can’t speak for any one else, but bath time is just… ugh.

I realized that my desire to avoid giving baths to three children, every single night, was causing me to view activities through the lens of whether that activity would merit a bath. I finally just had to say, “Self. We are going to have to put on our big girl pants and give these kids baths. You’ve done harder and more dangerous things than give three kids a bath. Self, I’m asking you to step up on this one for the sake of the summer! GIVE THE KIDS BATHS AND LET THEM BE FREE!”

It was quite a mental process.

I am pleased to report that once I made my peace with the nightly baths, I felt free. Free to let Annie crawl around in muddy grass in her diaper becuase she was happy. Free to let Carrie hug all of the pollen-laden flowers in the backyard because, gosh darn it, those flowers needed big hugs.  Free to let Ellie roll around on the ground for reasons I could not understand (although, I did find out later she literally rolled in an ant hill, so, you know, maybe I need to reign in my “go forth and frolic” attitude a smidgen…).

Really, letting go and embracing the reality of nightly bath time gives me freedom to say “Yes, and” to a host of dirtier adventures.

So that’s where I’m at.  How about you?

3 thoughts on “three things: a summer frame of mind

  1. The struggle of being a NEAT person and having messy kids is real. Before we had Joey I would toss Legos on our immaculate floors to try to desensitize myself to mess. It helped actually. In the early years my kids made messes in our un-redecorated house. Each room had its own unique ugly. So — I decided I would redo one room — my study. It would be my citadel. Clean, neat, sharply designed. No matter how wretched the house looked I could go there. Then one room at a time, I brought order out of chaos, beauty from ashes. Last was a total re-do of the kitchen. That was victory. Total strangers actually kissed in time square when our whole house was finally redone in 2006. But its still a work in progress. Today with teens, we have lost ground. The jungle as crept back in. But it days are numbered. The complete order of an empty nest is not to far away. But that will be a sad day.

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