To my precious Thing One and Thing Two,
It’s been a while since I’ve written you two a letter. I’ve missed some birthdays and some sweet conversations and there are so many moments of ours that I’ve wanted to preserve here and I just haven’t.
I haven’t taken the time. I haven’t made it a priority.
I’m sitting at my desk right now while you two are both laying on the couch with the dogs, sniffling and coughing your way through a cold. It’s a Diary of a Wimpy Kid, popcicle, oils in the diffuser, pajamas on all day kind of day and the two of you are players on the same team, enjoying the laziness and the freedom from any chores or responsibilities and the fact that I let you both eat ice cream out of the carton for breakfast on a Monday.
I’m not sure if you’ll remember this summer break being different than any others, or where it will rank on the list of favorite memories, but for me, this has been the best one yet. Not because of anything fancy, really. Quite the opposite. Life this summer has been ordinary. We needed some ordinary. I needed to reclaim ordinary of family life, without distraction, without always being on the receiving end of somebody else’s issues, without feeling like I was making it through each day but just barely. I was leaving too many things up to other people, to chance, to The Universe, to I don’t know who, too many things I was overlooking or justifying because I just couldn’t figure out how to get more hours out of the day, more clients through the door, more money in the bank, more whatever we needed more of.
And you two? Kind of paid the price.
I’d love to say I got off of my own rollercoaster, and that the lesson I learned about my priorities was my own, but it wasn’t. I was kind of forced into our ordinary summer. Getting fired didn’t take my WORK away, it didn’t take away my clients or my income. But it took a certain kind of pressure away. Getting fired gave me autonomy I didn’t have even when I owned the studio, because of overhead and payroll and partners and budgets. I was let go, and all of a sudden I knew I’d been given a chance that not many people are given; it was like I won the lottery and I wasn’t going to squander a moment of it. Getting fired gave me a shot at ordinary.
So. First? First, I took my family back.
It started with cable. We shut it off, turned in our boxes, and reclaimed control over what you both were watching. Between channel flipping, commercials, seeing things in other people’s homes that were inappropriate for your ages, we just felt the need for a media detox. This summer we have watched more family movies and played more games of checkers than it is even possible to count.
We also put you on lock down from summer camps. Our annual trip to Florida was not planned around Thing One’s basketball camp; rather all four of us went down together and had lazy days at the beach, played with cousins, went to the water park, and spent time with your grandparents. And our time back home was just that – our time. We took day trips to parks and went hiking, we filled the van full of kids and went to the movies, we read books and played pick up sticks and we ran our own basketball conditioning camp in the driveway. We went tubing on a lazy river, we stayed up late, waiting for it to cool off enough to walk the dogs, and we bought fireworks at the grocery store and had our own show in the driveway. I kept the two of you busy together. I have three big brothers and none of us are particularly close – but we also aren’t anywhere close in age and I didn’t have the same years and years of living in the same house with them that the two of you do. You two have five years left before one of you leaves for college; I want the two of you to have TOGETHER memories, and the foundation of a friendship that will last you well into adulthood.
I also gave you both lots of chores this summer. I took the excruciating time to teach you how to fold clothes and wash dishes and clean the bathroom. You know how to change over the laundry and start the machines. You know what kind of cleaner to use on the tub and in the toilet. You know when it’s time to feed the dogs and you know what day we put the bins to the curb. Thing One, you know how to install a door knob. Thing Two, you know how to make toast and sandwiches. Together we have caught up on many of the odds and ends, replacing light bulbs and changing drawer pulls and finally getting a coat of paint on things. You went through your own toys and clothes and put together bags of things to donate. Together, we took care of our home.
And your dad and I reclaimed the power of No. Sometimes to you (No, you may not have a phone Thing Two). (Thing One, if you won’t wear a helmet than you can’t have a bike) and sometimes to other parents (Thing One isn’t available to spend the weekend) (Thing Two isn’t allowed to go out of town without us just yet). I decided to stop worrying about what other moms might think and remember that I am the one who knows best how to parent you. I know that you, Thing Two, are emotional and sensitive, and telling you not to take something personally is like telling you not to be who you are. I know that there is someone that you miss, but I love that you are able to articulate why the friendship didn’t fit you anymore. I respect that you aren’t (yet) in any hurry to grow up, that you prefer the company of girls who, for the moment, are still content to be young, and silly, and innocent.
And you, Thing One, I know that you are ready for a little more independence. You have proven that you are responsible and that you make friends who are also good people. I always know you are safe and loved when you are across the street, but I have also gotten to know more of the basketball moms, and the pack of boys you roam the neighborhood with know that I’m going to tell them all to watch for cars and text their moms and to get home before dark. I know you love that I’ve taught you how to back the cars up in the driveway when you want to play ball, and I know that you love that I have taken you to an empty parking lot and begun teaching you to drive. Which is like our hilarious inside joke.
Maybe I am romanticizing an ordinary summer that, to you, was nothing special. But to me, it’s been everything. I don’t know how long it will last. One day it will be winter and my freedom will change and I may get busy and distracted again. There is a second whole bullet point to this post, and it’s that I also took control of the way I work, and it is entirely possible that very soon I’ll have to go back to something more ‘traditional.’ But my first thought when I wake up in the morning is to be thankful for the blessings. I have so many.
Thank you, Things, for a most wonderful, ordinary summer.