One of our kids started school yesterday. Two more go back tomorrow. Summer break is over, hallelujah, thank you, and AMEN.
America moms, how did you do it? I only have to handle a 4-week break, but it took every last bit of my energy and ability to make it to today. Perhaps it’s like my husband says: it doesn’t matter how long the drive, flight, or vacation is — the last 10-minutes (hours? days?) are always the worst. Human nature says your capacity will feel tapped just about when the finish line becomes visible. It’s the curse of the bedtime hour.
When I’m around my children too much, I start feeling like I would do anything to change my scenery or escape my current space. I begin to imagine the endless possibilities of different living arrangements, just for a change of pace. Two-bedroom apartment down the street, rental with a porch in Nebraska, renovated bus on the road, general living quarters on a base in Antarctica: you get the picture. Sometimes I have wrongly assumed this desire to move countries or spaces was in connection with dislike of my current home, cultural overload, or even change of calling. But in reality, the real culprit is my kids. MY KIDS: I love them, and they overwhelm me. My subconscious is screaming, “You need a change!” — like, a back-to-school, get-alone-and-recharge change — but I just hear it and think, “You’re right! We need to move.” This makes for interesting conversations with Bryan.
I love each of my kids deeply. Their facial features stir my insides, their personalities and their talents are so interesting. At the same time, I don’t want to be around them 24/7. I don’t want to be their playmate or their constant listening ear. I want to be their nurturing mother, helping them grow and challenging their ideas and offering them opportunities to learn. I want to cultivate their living space towards creativity, simple functionality, and open community with their people. I want to cook them yummy meals and build seasonal traditions that they look forward to with excitement. But I do not want to be their buddy. They have their own people for that. But summer break sometimes asks me to be their buddy, and their constant requests for attention fuel that fire, and so I begin to experience heavy guilt that this is the one role I don’t want to fill. I fight myself, I give in and get tired, I even get angry at them for constantly requesting my playtime. It would be better if I could calmly and confidently say No, I’m sorry, I am not your buddy today. I can be your buddy on x day, but today, I am just your mommy. But their faces, their eyes — you know those looks.
I want to say emphatically, so it can ring with truth in my own heart, I am not meant to be my kids’ playmate. I will sometimes get on the floor with them and build marble contraptions, color Cinderella with crayons, and dress Barbie for work — these are important things to do, entering into the pleasures of another person to express love and value to them. But I’m not going do it every day, which means I certainly won’t be doing it for hours each day. I’ve been given many roles when I was tasked as their parent, and while playing is important, there are a hundred more important, necessary roles I must fill, like FINDING MY SANITY SO I CAN COOK A MEAL WITH JOY TONIGHT. Buddying just needs to take a backseat to feeding, protecting, listening, nurturing, teaching, doctoring, praying, dressing, providing, counseling and so much more.
Maybe you don’t have a kid that asks this of you — if so, this post is probably not for you. But I have three-out-of-four like this, and they take turns asking me in ten-minute intervals to color this, play this, hear that, watch this, and build that with them. If I don’t say no, I’m toast. Nothing brings this truth to the forefront more than SUMMER BREAK.
We made it. Another summer in the books. Hallelujah, thank you, and AMEN.
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Endnote: When “playing” starts meaning card games, karaoke, shooting hoops, hiking, or shopping, then I’m ALL IN.