Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ah, the end of summer...

Yeah, I know. Technically, summer isn't over until September 22. We got married on September 21 because it was right at the joining of summer and fall - all the gorgeous colors of fall with the lovely temps of summer. Our wedding day delivered on that and then some.

But today is the very last day of summer vacation for both my kids this year. Until now, I've always had one at home in the post-kiddo years and summer ends when it gets too cold to wear shorts. Now life will turn the page because school schedules and activities will dictate such. It's yet another reminder about the difference between being a parent and being a kid.

On that note, I had an interesting experience yesterday when we went to the kids' ice cream social - a.k.a. the thing they do to convince the kids to come meet their teacher and see the classroom before day one of the school year. A fellow Pre-K mom was having an issue. You see, they require us to drop off and pick up our kids for Pre-K in this district - not enough 5-point harnesses to go around on the buses. And since I stay at home with my kids, this isn't an issue for me. But I've known more than one family who couldn't do it. This mom and dad were those people. Some days, they'd be okay, but others, probably not. They can get her there, but can't necessarily stay until the 8am hand-off. It meant that their little girl would have to skip going to Pre-K. Which is a shame. So I volunteered that I could sit with her in the morning while we wait for the teacher to take responsibility for our children. It's no big deal, really. I have to be there anyway and I'm just hanging out with other parents. Besides, it might give my son someone to hang out with in the morning.

The catch is that she'd need me to be there around 7:30am. Which, if you knew how hard it was for me to get my daughter to Pre-K on time, would make you laugh. And my husband said he didn't think it was doable for me. But here's the thing: two years ago, I had a toddler at home and a pre-schooler who was NOT a morning person. In the two years since then, my daughter has gone from being a pre-schooler to a 1st grader. She went to school full-time last year and took the bus every single day. A bus, by the way, which arrived at 7:02am. My daughter became a morning person because she didn't have a choice. My son, well, he's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed within five minutes of waking in the morning and he's no longer a toddler - he can put on his clothes and shoes and can even buckle his own carseat. Not that he always does, but he can.

For the 14.5 years I've known my husband, he's always craved flexibility in his life. He likes variety in his lunches and dinners, won't watch too much of any show, might spend hours or days doing any one thing only to abandon it later for months, years or forever. He's the epitome of the saying, "Variety is the spice of life" and there have been times when it gets frustrating. A few years ago, he indicated that he thought we needed to have a schedule. Implying, of course, that I was the one who prevented that from happening.

The reality has always been that I'm naturally inclined to that sort of thing. I'm a creature of habit. I adapt easily and can make changes without much difficulty. But I tend to find things I like or that work and keep with them. In fact, I am my most productive when I'm doing something that has become rote. I like variety, I like new things and am not afraid of them, but I don't need it. My husband wants to be that person, deep down. He wants to want a schedule that's rigid. He wants to be steadfast. But it's not who he is. He likes the idea, but he isn't self-motivated to keep with it if there are other options available and no one is asking it of him. "I hope I die before I get old," The Who once said. That doesn't mean before you age, it's before you start acting like an old person. And I'm convinced that his psyche correlates rigid schedule = sameness = boring =old. The challenge to our schedule, therefore, will and always has been, my husband. Despite what he thinks.

So, back to helping out the Pre-K mom. Like I told her, I've been thinking lately that I need to do better at getting up early and carving a routine for myself in the morning instead of late at night. My husband has just made it easy for me to avoid it. And the truth is, he wants me to be that person because it forces him to do it, too. Have I been procrastinating it all these years? Yes. I don't know why exactly. I suspect it's a combination of things. Rebellion against the rigidity of a childhood where there were 5 kids and little money. Putting off becoming my parents because I don't want to feel old - a refusal to have the mantle passed. And a spouse who says he wants one thing but acts the opposite.

Life is about to get real. Two kids in school, even if one is part time, is a whole new ball game. Every year of their lives things have changed. They aren't necessarily easier, just different. I'm not convinced that it ever really levels out. And that is going to have to be enough variety for us. Because if we're going to be good parents, good people and happy, then we have to stop being college students or post-college grads who live by a whim, and start acting like the parents we've been for the past 6 years. For real now.

This one simple offer of help to another family has the ability to do more than I think either myself or my new friend realize. My husband, as I may have mentioned, isn't fully convinced that me being a writer is da bomb. I know people have their opinions on that and I get them. I have mine, too. But what it comes down to is that if he thought I could do it and still be a great mom and a great wife, he'd be my biggest cheerleader. I guess he thinks I haven't shown him it's the case. By offering to help one little girl get a head start on her education, all it's costing me is maybe a half hour in the morning when I don't get to sleep later. But it has the potential to do so much more.

I spent the last year nurturing my inner writer so that she has the confidence to trust the muse and the ability to polish the work when it's done. Now I need to find a better work/life balance. I've known this for a while. My husband is at his wits end with me about it sometimes. Doing this one thing has the potential to make me a better mom, a better wife, a better homemaker, a better person and a better writer. It might save my marriage and even my sanity. Not that either are in jeopardy, but I'd rather get ahead of the problems I know are lurking.

So thanks, fate, for putting us in each other's paths last night. "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." - Seneca. My mind was prepared and I saw the opportunity. My friend said she didn't know how to thank me. I told her the best thing she can do is pay it forward. I know I'd be grateful to someone who did something for me like that. Hell, I'm sure there are more people than I can count who have been that kind of friend to me over the years.

The best part of it all is that I realized that I knew her from somewhere, that she looked familiar. She could have been anyone I'd seen around town - I have that sort of memory for names and faces. But I offered because it was the right thing to do, not because I was convinced that I knew her. Turns out, later that night, I figured out why she looked familiar. She's my brother-in-law's sister. I'd only met her a few times in the years since my sister got married, but we've met before. Now I guess I can't feel so bad that we left late for school shopping yesterday or that it took forever in line at WalMart and we got to the ice cream social a little later than we had planned.

There are a lot of cliches about making the best out of this life. Sometimes, you have to stop reading them and start living them instead. And sometimes, all it takes is recognizing an opportunity when you see one.

Even if it means the figurative end of summer.

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