Last week husband started back at work and we had a rare day where we didn't have to be at one school or the other, and we had done our dentist appointments and back-to-school supply shopping, and you know what, it was 90 some odd degrees and I realized it is STILL summer!
School may start earlier and earlier... remember when we started the day after Labor Day, but we haven't...YET! We threw on suits, I picked up an iced coffee, we slathered on sunscreen and we did an impromptu splash padaroo at Great Plains Park. It seemed much calmer, and a flavor in the air that summer was on its last sip this year. There were a few camp kids rolling around on giant balls, and there was a van selling slushies for two bucks. I usually would ignore the presence of said van, but this time, this time I encouraged ordering of sloshy, sugary ices.
We got a wonderful air show from the Air Force jets overhead, there's a nearby air force base, and the girls sunned themselves on the scorching sidewalks etching the parameter. When I am with my girls, while I am THRILLED to relive my childhood and share a bit of my past with them, be it through books, movies, characters and toys, I also try to carve space in my mind to snapshot what it means to be inside THEIR childhood NOW. What is THEIR childhood taking shape as with each new layer of summer skins bond atop the last? As parents, we BOTH have inserted very assertive, opinionated, a more polite way of putting ABRASIVE, ABSURD, RIGID, ideologies of thinking onto how we parent these two. If I think about it, we have both based some parenting decisions based on HOW we both grew up. Questions around whether or not they should share a room, to what holidays we celebrate, traditions to start, vacations we take, dishes we make, places we visit, a lot of WHAT we do with them, stems from OUR PAST, and sometimes we forget about taking from the PRESENT that they are in NOW. But Casa Bonita and Lakeside stay, okay? Haha! It makes it even more fun to insert your kiddos in settings from times ago, when you grew up in the very place you are raising them.
I get fearful. I think about their future and thoughts can get heavy. I will spare you from those dark thoughts as I am sure you all who are in the thick of parenting hard right now probably have the exact same shared fears. But what about TODAY? What about THIS summer? What and how does that TASTE for THEM, NOW?! We cannot predict, control, or begin to know where to change the future, without getting political or too literal here. Of course there are small steps, and yadda yadda yadda, but let's be REAL, none of us can really know what tomorrow will bring. What we can do as parents who love our children and are trying to pass on the best feelings of safety, comfort, and happiness from our own childhoods through osmosis, is SHOW them what those moments were to US and SHARE how they MOVED us and shaped us to be who we are today, by BEING WITH THEM in their moments happening NOW.
Slushies have dye, yup, probably, but sucking up that blue raspberry high through a plastic straw, I said it, the dirty "P" word, plastic, is what is happening NOW. Do we hope for organic, dye-free, all-natural fruit juice flavors gently squeezed over purified, triple-filtered water from a natural spring, with a perfect little paper straw with hand-stamped stars from natural flower dyeserved up in a recycled paper cup from an electric Tesla? Sure! Is it reality? No. Can we choose to have the slushie pumped into our aluminum water bottle we brought along? Perhaps. Would it be as fun? Probably not. Would that create the memory you imagined planting for them or what you want to have implanted in your memory in your own past of how you raised your kids?
Every detail in my mind from this day: their red plastic straws, blue tinged tongues, her grip on an Enchantimal doll as she dashed through water sprays, peeling of rubber water shoes by the sticky heels and having them float in pooled water over the drains with dolls inside, stringy strands of hair, and round little perfect bottoms hanging out of suits, their matching face freckles that sprung up by their eyes, watching them listen in on conversations of camp kids several years their senior, these are all feathering notches taking form on their tiny lobes. It's what I see and what I am transferring to memory from the day, but is it what their tracing paper will lift and reveal when they are grown? It's okay that there may not be a match. Slight shifts in shading and how darkened one point is before lifting up and curving out before highlighting the next moment is inevitable, from me to her, and from her to her sister, and from them to the boy in red shorts jumping in the background. And that's OKAY. It's okay! It's more than just okay, this is THEIR now, this is THEIR childhood, happening, carving out, right in front of me, and I am so blessed to be witnessing it.
I just wanted to share a little on this, more as a reminder for me, as a mama, to let it be. I do so much find JOY and energy and inspiration in dressing my girls, but I see them forming THEIR own tastes and opinions in what they want to wear, how they want to present themselves for the day, and see that they want to dress themselves and give their bodies the costumes that fit their moods that day, and it's okay! I think. Haha! Talk to me after school starts. I'm starting to let them take the wheel on the whole dressing-themselves thing, but am still able to suggest and sway. I'm here to guide them on what is appropriate, tasteful, seasonable and reasonable, but soon it won't be part of my role to dress them, just as soon enough it won't be my role to put the kabosh on what jolt of sugar rush they choose through the school lunch line. That totally freaked me out today when I was at her kindergarten check-in and they were talking about lunch accounts for the full-day students (luckily she is still only a half day away) but they talked about how kiddos will burn through $100 in two weeks because they purchased snacks. My mind raced! What if there are Skittles and Gummy BEars and she wants them and what if she gets them, and EAST them?! And why is a school selling candy and shouldn't we ban candy at schools, and this is crazy! But hold on, they are separate from me. They will make their own decisions. They will help make future decisions. Until that time, I'll be that mom saving old straws in a drawer at home because I couldn't bring myself to toss it, or trying to get by without a lid on my drink and have it sloshing around my car because it's a piece of plastic more, or rinsing out old applesauce containers and saving them for dishes, or hey, why don't I buy the glass jar, and let's save that too, because i have a hard time tossing out glass jars, and I'll be here explaining why I do what I do, so that someday they might be the ones to eliminate and alleviate needs, change products, pass legislations, create the change that will be their PRESENT as future citizens. And let's face it, they may have swallowed a Skittle or two by then along the way. And that's okay.
Long post short, I am trying to be mindful and aware of the summer moments they are making for themselves. Tonight we did a little scooter before dinner. The neighbor's sprinklers started with a spatter, and rather than heading inside, I encouraged them to run through. (Knowing these neighbors well and that they wouldn't mind a little grass ruffling from us.) Something from my childhood I remember VERY well, running through sprinklers in front yards. Will we always have sprinklers spraying, clean drinking water over green patches of grass? Not sure. I love my grass, but I love water more. But today, TODAY, TONIGHT, for goodness sakes, we weren't sitting in front of Congress asking the water to be limited per household, so we ran through the damn sprinklers! I did too.
My girls head to school this Wednesday, and so, if you listen to the noise on social media about only having 18 summers with your kiddos, that would mean I only have 13 and 12 left, and well, SORRY, I'm just not taking that. Not US. We have as many summers as we have together to run through water sprays or sip slushies. Summers don't have to end just because you're grown. If you press those memories down deep enough for them, they'll feel them all their lives, just like I do from mine. Thanks momma and daddy for giving me a great childhood to sort of share and pass on in bits to my girls today.