August is closing out this spree of carefree summer days, of spontaneous plans welling up from the abyss of unstructured time; and the equal joy of having no plans, the kids sprawled about reading novels.
Included also was my daily, neurotic panic: wanting the kids to be engaged somewhere else so I could have uninterrupted work time and wanting to cast off work so I could have uninterrupted fun time with them.
Screen time is limited in our house, allowing the kids to reach that precise quantum of boredom that kick-starts the creative mechanisms of their minds. Col and his friend built a tree fort in a nearby park, toting – on bikes – boards, nails and hammers, only to have the fort removed two days later. Whoops, city land. Still, he was outside, presumably acquiring skills, and I got to work for several uninterrupted hours, so it counts as a win.
Last week, Rose and Col spent a couple hours making new noses for each other out of putty, impersonating quackish, bossy doctors. The game ended when Rose became worried that she might acquire a putty-based skin rash, which seemed like a small price to pay for sibling fun plus productive work time.
Rose spent much of the summer channeling her inner retiree. I’d come home from teaching nonviolent communication classes to find her gluing beads to yarn, yarn to jars and jars to each other to make side-by-side Q-tip and cotton ball dispensers (and many other items you never knew you needed). She used a pint of expensive, raw honey to concoct a honey-oat scrub, added lemon balm to our ice cube trays and melted every lip balm in the house together so all separate beeswax-based products could unify into a melting pot of diversity. I got a little anxious seeing her rummage through the medicine cabinet with eager fingers but kept telling myself that it was cheaper than camp.
Sending the kids downtown with four bucks for ice cream proved to be a great strategy for accomplishing some work between bouts of managing their whereabouts. When the kids leave the house with their shared flip phone, I become an air traffic controller, keeping track of my little planes lifting off and landing around town, changing destination and passengers, making emergency landings at garage sales (where craft supplies are legion) and doing my trust-breathing exercises while they are off radar in the river.
Rose checked in frequently with actual phone calls, her small voice squeaking out, “We’re at the rec center now.” From Col, I’d get texts like this: “headg.” And then I descramble it in my maternal de-crypter and get: “heading home.” 10/4, little pilot.
With school back in session, like most parents, I feel a mix of heartbreak and relief. I’m already feeling nostalgic for having Col and Rose underfoot, the way they’d open the refrigerator every 30 minutes; Col’s drawings of World War II airplanes that I’d try to appreciate without getting hung up on the images of planes consumed in a fireball of death; and Rose pawing through cupboards for craft supplies like a family of eager rats. By the first week of school, I’ll just remember summer as that time that we were all blissfully together.
Rachel Turiel teaches nonviolent communication to groups and individuals. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her blog, 6512andgrowing.