All week, every day, I’ve gotten to do something seasonal: swim laps in an outdoor pool. Slathered in sunscreen, I’ve slipped into clear chlorinated water, and front-crawled back and forth along the 50m lanes for an hour. Swimming at noonish, I can see my shadow on the shimmering pool bottom, my arms reaching out overhead. The light on the bottom of the pool is beautiful to watch. It almost feels like I could swim forever.
With luck, I’ll get to swim most days for the next two weeks, while all the kids are taking lessons; I’ll be limited to half hour swims, due to scheduling, but half an hour a day is better than not swimming at all. Like Kevin said, lane swimming outdoors feels kind of like eating strawberries and asparagus in season — you have to get it while you can, and get as much as you can.
AppleApple expressed happiness about her relatively unstructured summer. I know there’s debate about sending kids to school year-round, but here in Canada, that makes no sense to me. Summer is barely here before it’s gone. Imagine kids being in school right now — indoors! — while there are raspberries to pick, and outdoor pools to swim in, and long late evenings to stay outside kicking a soccer ball around. For them, and for us, we need to grab what we can of summer, soak it up, go all out.
It’s like storing solar energy — heat for the long dark winter.
this is not a picture of me in my bikini
Agh! I want to blog! But I have about six minutes remaining in my work day. I can’t quite describe how busy it’s been, nor how lovely, too. We’re a week and a half into summer holidays, and we’ve hit a nice groove this week. I’ve got great daytime babysitting arranged. The kids are getting outside often, and doing fun projects with their sitters like cooking and making paper airplanes and blowing bubbles. Today, Albus went swimming in a friend’s backyard. AppleApple’s been going to daily swim lessons at a beautiful outdoor 50m pool, and I’ve gotten to bike her there all week — and then lane swim during her lesson.
Which leads me to the bikini. Today, I went for my lane swim in a new sporty bikini. It’s small. It exposes my mother-of-four stomach. And I love wearing it. Why? It expresses confidence. It’s a semiotic for where I’m at. I exercise regularly, not because I want to look good, but because it makes me feel good. And I do feel good in this body. Wrinkles, stretch marks — yup. Got ’em. Muscles — yup. Got ’em too. So be it. I am thirty-seven years old.
Occasionally, I find myself regretting that I didn’t discover my latent athletic self earlier. But you know, mostly I’m simply grateful to have discovered that part of myself, period. Regret of this sort is foolish. So I didn’t play soccer as a kid. I’m playing it now and learning new skills. So it took me thirty-five years before I learned how to swim. I learned and I love swimming! That’s the point, not that I’ve missed opportunities along the way.
I’ve decided that this is my opportunity to wear a bikini. Never thought it would happen again. Glad the moment has come.
If there’s something you want to do, or wish you’d done years ago, can you do it now? Maybe. Just maybe. Consider it.
still lots of time for play
The house smells wonderful right now, and the cause is not my cooking — it’s AppleApple’s! She is making Italian-style tomato sauce to serve over pasta for supper tonight. Why? I think there are a few factors at play here.
1. I’m giving the kids more room to experiment, and more responsibility with chores around the house. I have a controlling type-A personality. I like my laundry hung just so. I like my cooking done just so. And my kitchen has been my kitchen up til now. You know what I mean. But the kids are getting plenty old enough to learn how to cook for themselves, and care for themselves. I need to let them do that.
2. The kids are at home for the summer. They are on hand. They are looking for things to do. And when they’re asking can I make lunch? I’m saying, yes, please go ahead. Yesterday, Fooey made mini-pizzas for everyone. She looked up a recipe, she grated cheese, sliced tomatoes and green peppers, she worked super-hard, and the only part I had to do was supervise the oven. AppleApple is a few years older and knows how to use the gas stove. She’s being supervised, at some distance, by today’s babysitter. And by my nose.
3. I’m in my office not having to see what’s going on, and therefore not getting fussed about the potential mess. I’m prioritizing career work over domestic work. I’m seeing that the kids can genuinely help out — and they’re seeing that too. I’m starting to believe that a household shouldn’t be one person’s responsibility, but the entire family’s. Yes, someone needs to be organizing everyone to make sure everything’s getting done that needs doing. But everyone is capable of pitching in and keeping the enterprise going. It’s not always my job. In fact, we’re all going to learn from letting each other help out.
4. I’m prioritizing working together. I’ve started to see our family differently since I added earning money to my priority list. Before, it was nice to earn a bit extra; now, as we’ve started budgeting more consciously, we realize that to do everything we want to do, our family actually needs that extra. That is a relatively recent development — really just a few months old. It’s shifting the way I see our household working, and the way I view domestic labour. Domestic labour is every bit as important and valuable as paid employment, but that doesn’t mean only one of us has to do it. We’re not boxed into either/or categories.
5. Further to that thought: I’m coming around to the (perhaps painfully obvious) belief that parents aren’t supposed to be slaves or servants. It’s not good for the parents, and it’s not good for the kids either. Obviously, very young children can’t be expected to do major chores, but children the ages of mine are capable of being genuinely helpful. They need to know that too! They need to know they can contribute to the family’s welfare and sustainability. Their work and effort and ideas are valued too. We’re in this together. Chores aren’t really fun. But when we’re all working together, there are excellent and immediate rewards — more time to spend doing something fun together (for us, this summer, that’s watching a few episodes of Modern Family before bed). It also teaches the kids the value of time — their time, and ours. And they’re gaining a more sophisticated understanding of household economics.
There’s a p.s. to this post.
That wonderful smell in the house? About mid-way through writing this, I realized it had gone from wonderful to slightly burnt. Sure enough, when I checked, some of the sauce had started sticking to the bottom of the pot. She was following the recipe to the word, but was using a timer rather than checking to see how things were progressing. Live and learn, we agreed, and were happy to see that the rest of the sauce was still salvageable. And next time, she’ll know to peek and stir more frequently! I’d put this experiment in the win column. (I’d probably have put it in the win column even if the sauce had been inedible, frankly. Because it’s only by experience that we learn how to do things independently.)
It’s too hot to blog. I’m fairly sure it’s too hot to think clearly, though that would be regrettable given that it is my primary source of income. I find my brain drifting off before reaching the end of a sentence, asking, huh? What was that?
This week I’m doing interviews with several local entrepreneurs. It’s been fascinating so far. Best of all, they work in air conditioned environments. I’m being facetious. Which is probably ill-advised. Blame the heat.
I do not work in an air conditioned environment.
Here’s a little story: on Wednesday, I took the kids to a place called Herrles, which sells local veggies and fruits and baked goods, and is slightly out of town, and therefore requires a bit of a drive. It was rush hour and took longer than usual. But was I grumpy about the situation? I was not. Because with the air conditioning blasting, we’d found ourselves a brief and happy reprieve.
Last fall, we learned that our home’s central air conditioner, which we only used in desperate situations anyway, was broken and not worth repairing. We have not replaced it. And even though I only ever used it with a great deal of guilt and angst, I miss knowing it’s there if the kids can’t sleep (or we can’t sleep).
Maybe we’re all becoming acclimatized, and will therefore perform better at events like roasting hot soccer tournaments and long distance runs. Maybe.
Or maybe my brain has officially lost the will to reason.
We spent Canada Day weekend at my brother and sister-in-law’s farm. This tradition stretches back to before CJ. When we remarked on this, CJ gaped at us in horror and disbelief: “WHAT?!” I know, kid. It’s hard to believe there was a time when you didn’t yet exist.
This is our first week of summer holidays, and the first summer I’ve attempted to work approximately as many hours as during the school year. Babysitting has been arranged; we’re on day two, and so far, so good, thanks to my trusty ear plugs. But … will it be hard to work from 9-3 while the children play? Will I regret not taking time off? Will the kids feel like they’ve had a real summer?
Here are a few of my compensatory plans:
* biking to swim lessons at the outdoor pool (shifting work hours to accomodate)
* post-3pm outings to library, Herrles, park, air conditioned mall, etc.
* looking after the neighbours’ chickens (all this week! nearly a dozen eggs collected this morning!)
* dogsitting (first go, this weekend; and we’d be open to dogsitting more often, if you have a dog you’d like sat)
* one promised day-trip to the local outdoor water park (Albus got a free pass for volunteering as a crossing guard at school; very clever, local outdoor water park, very clever)
* summer movie matinee
* one week away at a cottage
* visiting brand new cousin, when born (due August 8th!)
* ?? TBA
* please share your plans and ideas
And a few more compensatory plans, for myself:
* swimming during the little kids’ swim lessons
* more exercise in the evenings, fewer early mornings (I’m down to two/week, and barely managing it; no naptime, and late nights)
* stretching after soccer
* taking time to hang the laundry outside, even during work hours
* saying yes to social invitations
She’s at camp. And I miss her.
All the way home, after dropping her off, I felt a vague uneasiness, an undercurrent of anxiety. When I expressed it to Kevin, he understood. We were both feeling it. The feeling of not being near one of our children, which is a luxury we completely take for granted in every day life.
It came to me: this is parenthood. Our children are going to grow up and away from us, but we may not exactly grow up and away from them. In some fundamental way, we will always feel that they belong to us; even when they are quite certain they don’t.
I’m not talking about this little one, of course. She still makes her claims on me as strongly as I claim her. But in ten years? Twenty? Thirty?
Will it feel then, as it does right now, that a small piece of me has been mislaid?