Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lesson #38: Reality Bites

My problem has always been that I get an image in my head of how something will go, and inevitably end up disappointed when reality does not live up to the wonders my mind creates. Case in point: summer vacation.

Here’s how the summer looked in my mind:
The boys outside riding bikes at all hours, playing in the yard as I sat in the shade reading and enjoying the sound of their laughter. Trips to the beach where we would hang out for half the day, happy and sandy, cooling ourselves in the water and munching on snacks. Day trips exploring the area, where we would discover local hidden gems. Messy outdoor crafts and water play and time in the pool. It was going to be so great.

Here’s the reality:
The boys got tired of pretty much every activity we have within a matter of about two weeks. I now have to declare it Outside Time and lock all the doors behind us to make them stay outside so they don’t sneak back in to watch TV and get into snacks. Even then, it’s so hot and humid that they play for about 15 minutes before becoming soggy, sweaty messes and begging to go inside where it’s cool. What about the pool, I ask. They want to wait until Daddy gets home, or won’t go in unless I am going in. What about the water table? The little one won’t play with it unless the big one is; the big one refuses on principle. They beg to go to the beach, one of my favorite summer past times. I would love nothing more than to take them to the beach. However, my mind didn’t take into account this pregnant body. The heat takes its toll quickly, making me sick if I get too hot. I can’t get comfortable on a sofa, let alone a beach. There is no way to position myself on a towel or blanket that doesn’t cause discomfort or indecent exposure. I can’t take a camp chair because, well, I can’t get OUT of a camp chair once I get into one. Not even joking. I had to have my husband help me out of a camp chair as I wobbled back and forth like a Weeble, unable to heft myself to my feet. Then there’s the matter of having to use the bathroom literally every 20 seconds. Packing up two boys and heading to the restroom with them in tow every other minute does not equal a fun beach day. The only thing beached this summer is me; a beached freaking whale. We can’t really “do” the park either, since there is virtually no shade at the parks we frequent. If we manage to get there at just the right time of day there MIGHT be one bench with a shady-ish spot on it, but it is always taken up by one mom and her 57 bags, or by several people’s bags while they buzz around watching their kids. Trips to anywhere are pretty much out of the question at this point in time anyway, since riding in the car brings such discomfort that I just can’t even. And, of course, once we get to wherever we’re going, even if it’s only across town, I often have to hobble around like a 90 year old woman due to the sciatic pain shooting through my butt cheek. Fun times.

The other reason summer vacation is not quite what I saw in my mind’s eye is that boys are like bulldozers on crack. They leave a path of destruction so wide and so long there is no hope of ever repairing the damage. They are loud; they are rough; they break things and spill things and leave crumbs on every surface imaginable. They get into things when I’m in the bathroom; they eat all the cookies (and chocolate chips and marshmallows and sneak chocolate syrup) while I shower; they fight like rabid dogs; they trash their room so badly I can’t even walk in it. They run away and hide on me when we’re outside; they chase the cat; they splash water all over the bathroom. I have to say things like, “WHY is there pee all over this floor?!” and “You have to flush the toilet EVERY TIME you go to the bathroom. EVERY. TIME.” and “Do NOT lick the cat!” By 10am I’ve done enough refereeing to last me a lifetime. It’s probably a good thing I’m pregnant so I can’t start drinking.

Here’s a confession: I used to think that stay at home moms were kind of jerk-y for celebrating the return of school so much. Taking for granted those lazy summer days that the rest of us working moms had to ration like precious  sips of water in the desert! How could they?! Lucky them, getting to spend all that time with their babies; time that my colleagues and I only dreamt of. Now that I have spent exactly 78 very long days in a row mostly alone with both children at the same time, I can safely say that I get it. I so get it. 

Everyone talks about being “in the moment” and enjoying it but I find that being in the moment is what sucks the joy out of my day. Moms of rowdy boys know that every moment brings another mess, another argument, another frustration to deal with, constantly. I spend entirely too much time “in the moment”, stewing about how I JUST mopped the floor and it’s sticky and spotted again; how I JUST gave someone a snack yet they are in the fridge again trying to get another; how they seem to think the floor is a trash can because I have found YET ANOTHER wrapper, cup, plate, trail of crumbs; how ONCE AGAIN the toilet seat is up and there’s pee just hanging out in the toilet waiting to be flushed; how they JUST had their room clean last week and now I can barely walk through it again. It’s exhausting. It makes me tired. It turns me into an unhappy hag. It takes something away from us.

So yes, I get it. I understand now because I, too, long for those days ahead when both boys will be in school all day and I will get a quiet minute, a floor that stays clean for longer than 30 seconds, an errand that gets done in a timely manner, a complete thought passing through my brain. Yet at the same time, I know that once the rush of school begins I will miss them. I will feel like I never get to see them. They will get home at 4:00 and we will play outside for a bit, have dinner, and then it will be time for baths and bed. I will only see them for the 2-3 hours in the morning before school (yes they wake up that early and school starts that late) and the 2-3 hours in the evening before bedtime. I will want more of them. I won’t remember all the things above that make me feel like I am slowly going insane. Instead, I will remember the time we used frozen finger paints in the morning sunshine; playdates with friends; splashing in the backyard pool; the puppet show at the library; playing with spray bottles; visiting the farm stand; making s’mores around the fire; the day we baked banana bread for the first time.

As the dog days of August propel us towards that bittersweet September day when my babies will again have to be shared, I will do my best to celebrate each day from now until then. I will try my hardest to be fun again. I will try NOT to be “in the moment”, but rather to focus on and see clearly the memories I have collected within, around, and between moments. 

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