I'm down by half of my kids. It is so completely strange and different. And lovely.
There are two types of personalities that my kids have. I have two that are so outgoing and never meet a stranger and could talk all the live long day to anyone who would listen and two that are shrinking violets who get nervous around new people and experiences and who need massive amounts of quiet to function. I live somewhere in the middle. I really love the quiet, but I also love people and hearing their stories and just doing life in community with others. But the way we've "done summer" so far really only catered to the two who are outgoing and enjoy chaos.
Scarlett and Miles go full throttle all the time. They don't like to sleep at night. I find them wandering around, lights on, beds full of toys many times during the night. They pop out of bed in the morning ready to tackle the world. And by tackle the world, I mean meet and greet the whole world. It's almost like a cartoon where everyone throws the windows open and greets all the people in the streets. That's Scarlett and Miles. They bound down the stairs in the morning and say things like "Let's go take the dog on a RUN and then jump on the trampoline (at 6:30am)!!!!" If Scarlett sees the same woman at Walmart twice she will say, "There's my friend! I need to go and say hi to her!" And I will say something like, "Baby, that woman is 75 years old and screaming at her grandchildren and buying all the toilet paper in the free world and we don't know her." It's both a good quality (if you want to be, say, a politician or a preacher) and a bad quality (if you don't want to be abducted by strangers.) Miles will high five anyone he meets and then sit down and swap life stories. He's going to make a hell of a journalist, that boy. Those two are uncomfortable in the silence. They need structure to the nth degree. And chaos- but structured chaos. They need transient relationships. They are who you want next to you in the face of an emergency because they are always ready to jump into action. They need activity. THEY NEED TO GO 100 MPH ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY or they get bored and antsy and pretty much pull the paint off the walls in an effort to find some sort of stimulation. That, or they fight.
Fighting is not my M. O. and so I have filled summer to the brim. Truly, to the freaking brim. There has been swim team and piano lessons and appointments and running here and there and everywhere. Scarlett and Miles lurve it. Sadie and Noah, not so much. They are exhausted. Sadie, who could sleep til noon everyday wakes up saying, "They are just so loud." And then sometimes she'd just burst into tears because some of us aren't built for noise. Noah would sometimes look at me and say, "Mom, can we just have a day off to snuggle?" I would think, "Hmmmm... I'd like to snuggle, but if we stop, disaster will surely strike!" Those two are the "quiet mice." The deep thinkers. The ones who could sit in their beds all day long reading a book and talking quietly to each other. It borders almost on laziness, but they just need a lot of sleep and a lot of down time. They are the ones who introduce themselves at camp as, "My name is Sadie and I have social anxiety." We are all just wired differently.
We were following the laws of averages, half being content at the warp speed of summer and the other half longing for a break. I felt a
lot little ragged trying to keep everyone happy. I find that's one of the hardest parts about being a mother... trying to nurture and love all the little differences in their personalities... especially when what makes them all tick seems to really be at odds with one another. After 6 weeks of being so lopsided to catering to the ones who need to go all the time, I had a little breakdown where I felt so tired and felt so bad at not giving my other kids what they need to function as well. When mama gets out of whack, there is no hope for anyone. I started feeling defeated. I broke it all the way down. The kind of breakdown that makes you think for just a fleeting moment, "I wonder how long it would take me to just get in the car and drive to Mexico?" Really, let's be honest. When there's more than one kid, it just feels hard to meet all the needs. So, last week, I tried to slow down this train so that I didn't need to take the train to Mexico. The ones who need the structured chaos like they need air could not handle the stillness and so the behaviors that went down in this house are the kind of crap you see on made for TV movies about possessed children. There was not enough coffee, Jesus, or Zoloft in all the world. I went to the The Google and thought about typing "Boarding School" but instead typed "day camp".
A place in our town did day camp. It was affordable. It was ALL DAY LONG. It was fear factor themed and there was going to be swimming and eating worms and canoeing and running and being with so many NEW PEOPLE TO BECOME FRIENDS WITH! I didn't hesitate. I announced this to all the kids, "Who wants to go to day camp!?!?!?!" True to their personalities, Miles' and Scarlett's hands shot up so fast it made my head spin. Sadie and Noah looked at me and Sadie became the spokesperson, "That sounds like it would make us nervous." So we divided and conquered. Two would go to camp. They would get everything their little adventurous hearts could ever desire. Two would stay home. They would get everything their little introverted hearts could ever desire. EVERYONE GOT EXACTLY WHAT THEY NEEDED. And yet, I couldn't help but feel major guilt that I couldn't be the one to give everyone exactly what they needed all at the same times. Which is completely stupid because everyone would be perfectly happy doing their own thing (Some at camp, some at home) and it didn't matter if it was me giving it to them as long as they got it. On Sunday night, the excitement of the upcoming divide and conquer week was palpable. Sadie and Noah had planned our Monday with all the things the other kids didn't like to do. Scarlett and Miles packed their water bottles and bathing suits for camp and declared that it was going to be the best day ever.
And it was. By noon on Monday, I felt relaxed for the first time all summer. It no longer mattered that I couldn't be everything each one of my children needed simultaneously. They were all blissfully happy. One Monday, I took Sadie and Noah out for a day of their favorites: stir-fry for lunch, a long relaxing trip to the bookstore, and then we capped it off with a scary movie since Scarlett and Miles hate scary stuff. Then on Tuesday, we stayed in our pajamas for the entire day. When I say the entire day, I really mean it. No one put clothes on all day. We read our new books. We snuggled. We took long baths and had long uninterrupted conversations. On Wednesday we went to the museum and stopped and read all of the signs since no one was there running from exhibit to exhibit to stop us.
When we all convene for dinner together in the evenings, it is so fun to hear the kids talk about their days. The campers are all fired up for all the go go going they've been doing. They come home with dirty clothes in a sack and ketchup in their hair and stories of new people they've been meeting. While none of those things appeal to the others, it's awesome to see them all be genuinely happy for each other's experiences. Watching each one of my kids be in their element has helped me find the balance I was so desperately searching for. It feels like a weight has been lifted off of me. I feel like I can make it to the start of school in 26 days.
They say that money can't buy happiness. But money can buy day camp and so far I think those two are the same thing.
Cutest. Campers. Ever.