Finally, summer vacation is here. The relentless pace of the past month has eased. The kids keep themselves busy, visiting friends, working and sleeping late. I’m kind of at a loss.
I used to be the Cruise Director of Summer Activity and now, I’m nothing more than an Uber driver, depositing the kids at one location or another. (The 18-year old drives now which is an entire untold story in itself. Is there anything more disconcerting than letting your baby drive down the street by himself?)
I remember the experts telling me to enjoy my children while they were young because after about age 12, they’d prefer their peers to me and boy howdy, that’s exactly what has happened.
I think I enjoyed my kids when they were young. Mostly. Not enough. Not nearly enough because frankly, they were kind of annoying. Well, some of them. (Not the one who is reading this blog because NOT YOU, my darling! Ha.) But I have scrapbooks that remind me of all the things we did, the places we went, the fun we had. Photographic proof.
I remember those early years as a concentrated dose of everything. Too bad I couldn’t have diluted it, bottled it and saved it for these days because now, snuggling in a recliner with a freshly bathed four-year old watching Rugrats before a 7 PM bedtime sounds absolutely enchanting. At the time, I was just getting through the bedtime routine so I could have a moment to myself.
When I come across an article giving tips to parents, I think, too late, too late. Why didn’t we do all the things the clever writers recommend? We were busy, too busy, trying to survive and get through the days. (Also, as it turns out, kids drive you absolutely crazy with their whining and fighting and they resist being who think they should be. Maybe that was just me.)
Why didn’t I tell them everything I know while they still believed I knew everything?
We should have given them more chores, had more conversations, isolated them from technology, insisted that they read every night before their early bedtimes. We should have told talked more, listened more, made them eat more vegetables. We should have lived in the country so they could milk cows and grow produce and we should have lived in the city so they could explore museums and experience a diverse urban community. We should have spent a year traveling cross-country in a camper. We should have never left home.
We should have been young and active parents. We should have been gray and wise parents. We have should had an only child. We should have had a dozen. We should have banned television from our house. We should have watched television together so we could discuss it during commercials. We should have used library cards more. We should have purchased more books.
We should have played with more homemade organic Play-doh and painted with more professional-grade watercolor paints and planted six-foot sunflowers and formed our own family orchestra (complete with violins and cellos) and our own baseball team with a pitcher who could throw a curve ball and a fast ball.
But it’s too late.
So, I’m not a perfect mom, not even close. (That breaks my perfectionist heart because all I have ever really wanted since I can remember is to be perfect and to do thing perfectly and make perfect decisions and every time I’m faced with my imperfection it bums me out.) I’ve made selfish choices and done bonehead things and missed opportunities along the way.
I read those articles with their hints and tips and ideas for parents with regret and a little bit of bitter rage because how it is even possible to be That Parent when you are dealing with kids who don’t even want to brush their teeth or eat carrot sticks? How was I to know that the years really would scream by faster than a rollercoaster? I did not really believe it and now, I feel like I missed some things and I would respectfully request to be allowed to time travel so I could fix up a few things I missed the first time around.
Pending that approval, I can only tell you what I know for sure. We did the best we could with the knowledge and ability we had at the time. We are still doing the best we can, navigating these waters, hoping we are doing the important things right.
That just has to be enough. (Until I can go back in time and spruce up some things.)