Although the days of summer may seem magically endless (or not so magically, depending on toddler tantrum levels and heat indices), the season must, like all things, eventually come to rest. To temper the nostalgia that often accompanies change, I spent some time reflecting on certain life lessons that this past summer brought to light. I recite these lessons here with the hopes that they may be of utility as shorter days and colder temps set in…
1. Carpe Dive-in: On a recent Saturday afternoon, my just-awoken-from-too-short-of-a-nap children and I were plopped on the living room floor in an unruly heap of Legos contemplating our next move. My proposal of pool time was met with Legos-in-the-face resistance, after which an activity stalemate ensued. Tired and short of motivation, I retreated to tackle some stubborn To-Do-List items, all of which I knew would pop right back up like the Whack-A-Mole at the summer fair that lapsed during our indecision. When momentum finally gathered for the pool, we rushed to get swimsuited, sun screened, and sandaled. As we were loading the Puddle Jumpers into the stroller, the ominous dark clouds that had crept in during the preparation frenzy erupted into sheets of rain punctuated by flashes of pool-prohibiting lightning. And so we were back to Legos. In swimsuits. The lesson: damn the toy-pedoes and dive in before the lifeguard blows that whistle (or whatever analogy gets your suit wet).
2. Simplify: Statistics show that money tops the list of modern-day stress factors. In my humble opinion, this stressor has nothing on packing for a trip [notice I did not use “vacation”] with young children. I’ll spare my devoted readership another what’s-in-my-bag spotlight, but suffice it to say, there’s a lot – some of which is never actually utilized, but rather gets forgotten in the caverns of a Goldfish-lined bag. As part of a recent stress management effort, I conducted a pre-pack analysis focused on what I had actually worn during my previous trip (most definitely not the trendy gold gladiators or black cut-out jumpsuit with which I had envisioned pairing them) and what had actually entertained my kids on the plane (meal tray, emergency exit brochure, and seatbelts). I am happy to report that this assessment ultimately saved me time, stress, back pain, and laundry – win, win, win, and win! The lesson: if you don’t need it, don’t pack it (the same, by the way, should have been applied to the aforementioned sandal/jumpsuit purchases).
3. Regress: It seems the Joneses (or in my case, the Chang-Butlers) are running a faster race than ever – from accumulating the latest gadgets to earning coveted spots in the top reading group, or on the All-Star team, or at the Little Picassos art show, we all appear to be in some sort of Olympic-sized contest to out-medal each other. But perhaps the gold is best earned by entering a different kind of event. Indeed, the highlights of my summer came through my boys’ uproarious squeals of pure delight as they found enjoyment in the simple (and cheap!) things – kicking a ball with their father, erecting a sand castle paradise, casting themselves into the waves, chasing bubbles, leaping through sprinklers. Their joy served as a welcome reminder of the many benefits that come from viewing the world through a child’s imaginative and spirited eyes. The lesson: forget about the Chang-Butlers! Allow yourself to tap out of The Race and indulge in a more childlike pursuit of the podium.
4. Learn: I have always wanted to learn the guitar. I can happily replay my mother’s performances for me as a little girl, and I’ll admit to having been enamored by the musical gifts of a few ex-boyfriends (my memories of the boyfriends are not as melodious). This summer, thanks to the selfless support of my dear husband and tone-tolerant children, I finally dove in (see Lesson 1). I have yet to cut an album, but I have strummed my first chord, built up my fingertip strength (and Band-Aid supply), savored a sense of personal accomplishment, and had fun. The lesson: in accepting a new challenge, you’ll expand your skills, find respect for yourself and your art, and enjoy yourself.
5. Make a To-You List: As a time-billing lawyer and mother-of-two, my days are scheduled down to each precious 6-minute increment. Post-its, Outlook, and Doodle have become indispensable tools in the perpetual ball balancing act, which most moms would agree is both exhausting and largely oriented towards serving others – counseling clients, shuffling kids to various activities, warding off household disarray, perpetuating human existence. To succeed as Task Masters of Our Universe, we moms must acknowledge that reserving space for ourselves in the Family Grid is critical and ought to be prescribed in just the same way as “Memo Due”, “Ellie’s Birthday Party”, “Buy (more???) Milk”, and “Fantasy Draft” are charted and honored. Following through, I recently Google-invited myself to a mid-day pedicure, which I accepted with the same commitment (but admittedly more enthusiasm) as a meeting with my boss. Suffice it to say, the session did both my toes and soul good. The lesson: to keep those many balls aloft, you must be sure to treat yourself well.
Thanks for the tips, Summer, and best wishes to all for a happy Fall!!