I feel a little blasphemous admitting to you that I am feeling just fine about transitioning out of the perma-freedom days of summer into a little more structure.
Maybe it’s because much of summer has been an extended Take Your Child To Work experiment (Rose accompanied me all last week to Mindfulness Arts Camp where I taught writing; Col’s been on the job site with Dan, building fence).
Maybe, also, I am sensing that the kids will benefit from actually getting dressed in actual clean clothes or from the experience of getting needs met with other adults. Plus, there’s always the potential gifts that come from leaving the house for extended hours.
I’m aware that this column was once the chronicles of small, cute kids and their mom who felt occasionally overwhelmed, at what? Toy clutter? Missed naps? Bad moods that lasted three minutes? Weaning children who could do basic arithmetic?
For many sweet years, we were immune from the rumblings of puberty, toxic mine spills, the media and its enticements, the developing beast of self-consciousness and the complex psychology of growing up.
If I were to give you an in-depth look at our household now, you’d see me losing sleep trying to assess the true risk in the kids’ current desires (Col: flying in single-engine airplanes the size of my couch; Rose: purchasing dubious plastic, outgassing, made-in-Third-World-sweatshop items, laced with a storm of chemicals).
You’d also see Col and Rose locked in a 30-minute, heated, courtroom-esque drama regarding the consequences of “accidentally” destroying each others’ belongings, while their mother is deep-breathing in the corner. (New amendment to the sibling constitution: Reparations must be made!) And, Dan? He’s preparing for bow-hunting season, shooting his bow across the garden every chance he gets, not bothered by much.
And yes, at ages 8 and 10, Col and Rose can now go 3.3521 hours without a snack. They can be left alone in the house for short, finger-crossing stretches. I do appreciate that we can all be together, doing our own thing, harmoniously, for at least a solid 42 minutes. And yet, this growing up is complicated.
Every day, at about 5 p.m., we all trickle out into the yard. We let the chickens out. I water the garden and try to get someone, anyone, excited about turnips. Dan works at blocking the skunk’s hole that leads, no doubt, to the Shangri-La of burrows under our shed. The kids discover a wriggling mass of cabbage worms. Beers are opened. The water hose is commandeered for mischievous purposes. I marvel at how we are here, at ages 8 and 10 – all of us growing up together – and, despite the humbling blind spots of parenting, what a gift this is. I exhale gratitude. We celebrate another day.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.