If you've read my posts, you know that I don’t believe in New Year's Resolutions.
I prefer to make my resolutions every night. I resolve to be a little bit better tomorrow at some parenting “thing” (where “thing” is redefined daily).
So here we are. Summer. And you have to know this: I approach every summer swearing. Not in a bad way. But, swearing just the same.
I swear that I will make this particular summer the best one yet.
I swear that I will spend more time with my daughters, because we all have more time – or, at least, they do with no school day bells to jump to, no homework assignments to be accomplished every evening, and fewer extracurricular events to race to.
And so, in my mind, I owe it to them to take advantage of their free time to create more free time in my world. (And yes, I realize that I don't work on a school bell schedule and can't just shift gears but somehow, some way, I must.)
I also swear that in these months of freedom, we will laugh more, plan less, and just hang out. Because as teens / young adults, this is what they do. We don’t need play dates and organized outings to museums and playgrounds and amusement parks any more. (Though a few of those might still be fun – if only we could arrange enough family outings to balance out one person's boredom with another's delight … )
Kids at this age need parents that will see into the future (“future” may equal the next day or the next few hours) and concoct a plan that we can all jump into. But some kids (like mine) require a plan that looks 7 days in advance – at least. It's because their busy summer days of work plus well-earned laziness requires several days notice of a “major” family event (as in “Do you want to eat dinner together and watch a movie on Thursday night next week?”). Anything sprung on them becomes subject to criminal cross examination that makes any suggestion of familial proximity automatically suspect.
So, here I am halfway through summer thinking, “I blew it again.”
My older daughter is already setting in motion all the things she needs to do before returning to college and is trying to take charge of her health (see Being a Teen is an Age, Not a Diagnosis) and her life. Her younger sister has filled her days and nights with projects as she works out her medical issues to just stay awake as best she can (see The (Latest) Ultimate Lesson My Teen Taught Me).
Me? I am busy. Crazy busy. A single mom starting a business. Translation: I work 25/9 and laugh at the very idea of getting away when someone politely asks about my summer vacation schedule. Then hours later, I realize “Oh, cripe! My un-vacationing life is my current price for my dreams. But duh. What about my girls? Have I even considered 'summer' and 'vacation' in the same breath for them, at least?”
In my efforts to create a business to support all of us, I have left them behind. I failed Summer Parenting 101 with its overarching rule: Spend more time with the kids.
Talk with them. Hang with them. Be with them. Do what they want to do, and do it with them. And, get a decent exchange rate on doing what I want to do with them.
Turn off my Tech.
Turn off my work.
Turn off my scrambling brain that tries to loudly over-think any one-on-one conversations I am having with them so that when it is my turn to reply, I come up empty and clueless and have to confess that my brain was not as present as my heart. (You know those times: when you are watching someone's lips move while you are busy planning the rest of your day, formulating a grocery list, and generally calculating shopping hours until the holidays... Those moments. ARGH.)
Not good. Never good when that happens. And those moments are always followed with an apology and never an excuse because there is rarely, if ever, anything that is more important than my daughters. I need to unscramble my brain and listen harder and be softer in the moment. I know this, even as I recognize that I have not done this as well as I know I can.
I have several weeks to repair this situation, to bring up my parenting grade.
So this is my intention & assignment (and I will report back):
- We will eat together on all nights when we are together.
- We will plan movie nights and we will take turns compromising and not complain. (At least, I won't.)
- We will occasionally play a game and admit that it was fun. (Even if I still, sorry, can't understand Apples to Apples®... but I play an exciting game of Tripoly® and Royalty®.)
- We will plan an outing that involves shopping for college that is not rushed, but rather more like bonding time as we drive and talk and, oh, yeah, pick up a few things here and there.
- We will have times where we just hang out and not make lists. (I have a list of possible dates... never mind.)
- We will go someplace (or places) that seems silly or serious (Knoebels maybe? or the Crayola Experience? the Brandywine Art Museum? or the Hagley Museum? or – get this – a playground with swings and a ball to kick around)
- We will get something to eat that is dreadfully decadent that none of us should be consuming… but we will enjoy it and laugh. (I'm thinkin' funnel cakes with powdered sugar or a large dish of ice cream ... Yeah, definitely ice cream and make mine double German chocolate ice cream with brownies and hot fudge, please ... maybe on top of the funnel cake ... )
- We will hug more often, listen more often, laugh more often. (And I will initiate this.)
- And I will make sure that when they ask if I have 30 seconds, or 1 minute, or 5 minutes, that I not only have that much but more and that I am completely committed to them in that time. Completely. Without a mental timer. Without working on my usual lists while fake-listening. If I agree to their request, then I agree to be there fully.
Summer stretches only so long and makes demands on us all.
It is my turn to make a demand on myself because I want – I need – a passing grade. This is a "once in a lifetime" time. And since I can’t extend summer, I must extend myself.
And that is my ultimate intention.
Because my toddlers turned into kids turned into preteens turned into teens. And now young adults. They did this all faster than I could have imagined, and soon the summers will belong to them alone.
It is true that our days on earth our limited. I want to be with my girls in every way that I can.
So, I am resolving not to squander another parenting moment in these long summer days.
And I am resolving to live as if all my parenting time is summer time.