Like it or not, summer is here! Tomorrow is my boys’ last day of school. Today was my last day home alone for three months. Okay, I can’t technically say that because in just over a week they’ll already be starting summer school and I’ll be alone from 8:30-1 every day. Minus walking and waiting time. But still! The life I’ve lived the last nine months is about to drastically change and I’m not so sure I’m ready for it.
School Year Reflections
I had a lot of expectations for this last year. The first year both kids were in school all day, every day. I thought my life would suddenly be so structured and clearly defined. I would actually get stuff done. I fully expected that at least four days a week I would bring my kids to school and then come home, sit down, and work all day. I thought I would actually be on top of things. With children only around to mess up the house a few hours a day, there would be so much less cleaning to do. Dinners would suddenly be easy to put together and get on the table on time every night. I would only sew during the day and fully devote my nights and weekends to my family. I would regularly exercise and feel great about myself. I would have time during the days to have breakfast, coffee, or lunch dates with so many of my friends on a regular basis. I wouldn’t be so tired all of the time.
Want to know how many of those expectations became my reality?? None of them. It’s kind of been a really hard year. Maybe because I put too much pressure on myself and I constantly feel like a failure. It was so discouraging every single day to think about how much I thought this year was going to be different and if anything it felt more chaotic and crazy than ever. At least when I had a kid home with me all day or half a day, I was allowed to sit around and do “nothing” with them. When I’m home alone without kids, I have something to prove so people don’t think I’m sitting around living the privileged life of leisure. Or at least I feel that way. So the pressure is constantly weighing on me and there were VERY few days I actually felt like I had the schedule and peace of mind I was supposed to be having.
First of all – the house is always messy. ALWAYS. It will never all be clean as long as I live with other people. Particularly people who have zero desire to actually find homes for all the possessions they bring into the house. People that couldn’t care less about clean countertops and peaceful spaces. And the laundry! Why is there so much laundry?? I feel like I learned this year why housewives actually exist. There IS enough to keep me busy every minute of the day, even if I wasn’t trying to run my own business on top of it. I don’t know how working moms do it. I really don’t. I feel like I’m drowning in just the daily tasks on a very regular basis. It’s exhausting. The planning, the list making, the organizing, the shopping, the putting everything away, the breakfast making, the lunch packing, the snacks, dinner, more clean up, homework, a constant influx of useless school papers and artwork, random rocks and pieces of junk that are “so special” to the boys, the laundry, the cat responsibilities, the dog responsibilites. It never ends. NEVER.
I somehow thought that being home without kids would afford me more time to see my friends. That definitely didn’t happen. I remember going to coffee with one of them once. I had another friend over for lunch once. Both of those occurrences were in September. I don’t think I’ve done a single thing with any of my friends during the day in the last eight months. I’ve gotten together with friends at night maybe four or five times? In nine months. My entire social calendar has subsisted of thirty second stilted conversations on the playground after school between kids and chaos. It’s been a lonely year.
I also fully expected I could start taking care of myself this year. Ha! I did do pretty well with continuing my long walks back in fall. But when it got too cold and icy I had a hard time keeping up. And then it all slide away over winter and spring. I thought I’d be able to start up again once I got Annie, but it’s been hard. I don’t enjoy walking with her for long periods of time. It’s stressful.
And work! I think that’s been my greatest disappointment this past school year. I was so hoping for clearly defined work hours. And I’m pretty sure all year long I continued to put in the most time at night and on weekends. The constant list of other things that “needed” to be done were almost always the higher priority. I was SO easily distracted this year. Some good distractions, some not so good. But it was nearly impossible for me to just sit down and work for hours at a time. I wanted it to happen, but it was just so dang hard. Around January things did get a lot better. But there are still weeks at a time when I can barely put in two hours a day. I don’t know how to work at home yet. It’s amazing, it’s the dream, right? At least for creative super introverted people. But focus was lacking. So much.
I didn’t really mean to go vent crazy there, but I guess that proves how much of a frustrating disappointment this school year has been. I feel like I failed in every area of my life. And I feel more tired than ever. I’m trying to give myself grace and remember this is only the first year of many. Hopefully Heartstring Annie will be career for a long time. I will hopefully start settling into better routines the longer I’m doing this.
School Year Reflections – Caden
It’s also been a tough year for Caden. Second grade did not seem to be a lot of fun. He really seemed to genuinely enjoy school the last few years. He loves seeing his friends and learning new things. But second grade has been a game changer in a pretty sucky way. I think it has a lot to do with his teacher. She wasn’t terrible by any means, but she was a lot more strict than what he’s had in the past. At the beginning of the year he was always upset about not being able to have a snack break. He doesn’t drink milk, so his few sips of water in the morning definitely didn’t do anything to fill him up. In first grade snack was always the highlight of his day. He took great joy in picking out his snacks every morning. It was really hard for him to go without it. He was always hungry. The only thing we could do to try and alleviate the problem was by sending him extra food for lunch every single day. So hot lunch or not, he brought an extra bag of food every single day.
Besides that, it just seemed like his class never did anything FUN. At their charter school they’re supposed to go on a lot of field trips and field experiences. They’re supposed to spend a lot of time outside and in nature learning. His class didn’t do that. When we finally brought it up to the teacher in February, after many, many months of Caden being upset about going to school, she said that she didn’t trust his class as a whole, which is why they never did any of that. It seemed very unfair, and very against the policies and intentions of the charter school they belong to. I think they went to the woods one time. Once. And had two regular field trips. His class was also often given a list of fun incentives that they would receive at the end of the week if they do well. And every single time that list would be completely taken away by the end of the week. Caden was constantly disappointed and sad that things he was so excited about were taken away from everybody because of the behavior of a few. Obviously I’m not in the classroom and I don’t know what it was truly like for him. But he had a hard time. And it’s contributed to him being a lot more difficult at home again.
I guess the good news is that third grade at their school seems pretty awesome. I think they go to the woods almost every week. They do a ton of gardening. They code all the time. He’s probably going to love it. But I hate that he had to have such a hard year before he could get to that point. I’m dreading Shepard’s second grade year.
School Year Reflections – Shepard
For the most part, Shepard has really grown into himself this year. After crying every single day of preschool and 4K, and then last year’s horrible summer school experience of needing to be held by the teacher, kicking and crying, while I run out the door – I was SO worried about kindergarten. And the first few months were hard. The few days that he had to go to school when Caden stayed home sick were a nightmare. On more than one occasion I had to carry him all the way into his classroom while he was crying and fighting with his life to get away from me, trying to run back home. But for the most part, especially in the last few months, he is FINE. He loves school. He loves seeing his friends. He loves learning new things. He walks down the halls like he owns the place. He’s turning into the class clown I always fully expected he would be. Which isn’t really the best thing to be because it gets him in trouble. But he’s happy, he’s positive, he basically loves life. His attitude about being at school and away from me has done a 180 in the last year. And I’m so thankful for it.
On the downside – he still won’t pee at school. An entire school year, never used the bathroom once, even when we had to stay late for a conference with Caden’s speech teacher and Shepard was crying in agony because he had to go so bad. Nope! No school bathrooms for him. And no accidents either. Just a whole lot of rushing home every single day after school, almost never getting to stay and play the way we used to. I just keep telling myself that one of these days he’ll just make the decision and it’ll all be fine. He’s the most stubborn kid in the world if he doesn’t want to do something, and peeing at school is a big fat no way. It’s INFURIATING, but I guess it’s his choice. And if he can hold it? I guess that’s just the way it’ll be.
So! Summer. I hope I can look back in three months and be happy with the way I spent my summer. I hope I don’t have these seem feelings of failure and frustration with myself. I’ve been thinking about it a lot these last few days and came up with three goals for myself. I think if I keep these in mind on a daily basis, I’ll be in for a good summer.
1. Read More
I hereby give myself permission to read as much as I want this summer. I’m always reading fiction, I don’t think I’ve gone a day of my life without it. But I also have stacks and stacks of nonfiction I collect over the years. Books that look so good, but I never get around to reading them because I’m so immersed in my current fiction book. This summer I’d really like to make my to be read piles shrink. I want to read those books that I know will be good for my soul, even though they take me longer because they require so much extra thinking. But I also want to read more of my beloved fiction too. As much as I want, whenever I want to. It’s my summer right!
2. Keep Working, but No Pressure
I want to keep working, but I don’t want it to consume me. My biggest problem is that I always feel very all or nothing about my projects. If I have something started, I want to keep working on it until its done. But if I have nothing started, I let things distract me and it’s so hard to start again. I’d like to always be somewhere in the middle. Have a project going so I always have something to do – IF I need something to do. But I’m not going to stress about it. I’m not going to put super high expectations on myself for productivity in the next three months. But if the boys are busy doing something, the house and laundry situation are mostly under control, I want to work. It will keep me sane.
3. Have Fun!
I like to think of summer as a constant adventure. As I’ve said in the past, I have a hard time connecting with my kids when we’re just sitting around at home. But I absolutely love getting out of the house and trying to find new and exciting things together. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, it’s just the getting out that makes it special. I want to have picnics, go to parks, do a little hiking, maybe find some new places to take Annie. I also want to be open to even simpler pleasures. Gardening together, looking for recipes we can make together, setting up the sprinkler, going to the pool every afternoon, family bike rides. I just want to let loose a little and let the fun side of myself out. She doesn’t come out often! I want to make happy memories this summer. As many as I can.
So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m kind of freaked out that I’m about to go three months without any peace and quiet. But I’m also optimistic that I can make the most of this opportunity. I know that I’m blessed to be able to be at home and have these summers with my kids. There aren’t that many years left and I want to make them the best they can be.
Happy summer, everyone!