“You must be so busy.”
“Have you just been running around like mad?”
“That’s mom life – chauffeuring the kids everywhere!”
But I’m not. I could be. I could be cleaning out the junk drawer, organizing my pantry, or building a froggie pond (which I, truly, intend to do ASAP.) For now, I am here at my computer, with a cup of coffee. Kara has my older two kids, Jack is at preschool, and Felix is napping. The house is quiet except for the whooshing of the trees; it is windy outside. On the way home from drop off this morning, I saw tumbleweeds. Once so firmly entrenched and attached in the soil, but now rolling down the street, at the mercy of the wind. They don’t have a thing to do anymore.
I really don’t, either. I teach my kids, but a lot of what they do is independent study. I feed them. I clean the house. We practice our music, they play outside. We get takeaway, we do crafts, and occasionally, Bridget has a friend over. The older two spend time with their cousin when she is home between treatments.
I used to have a life – we were at the dojo four or two times a week, late. We played and coached soccer. Gymnastics. Dance. Tennis. Swim lessons. Music. What were the kids going to be “good” at? I had to figure it out, and quick! How were they going to specialize, and compete, and, of course, win? I felt a lot of pressure to take everything seriously. We could not “try” or “dabble” – we had to commit, be all-in. Nothing was just for fun or fitness. Weekends at tournaments, late nights at training facilities, and lots of expenses loomed in my future, and it scared me, because unlike my own parents, I am not that kind of mom.
I grew up in a “busy” home. My mother is still the president of a competitive soccer club, and we were expected to play. And it certainly wasn’t bad, in and of itself – but it was a lifestyle choice. We were gone many, many weekends every year. If I didn’t have a tournament, one of my siblings did. My sister, the most promising athlete among us, was moved from club to club – and for a period of time, my mother drove her to Santa Anita for soccer practice twice a week, after school. But I prefer a more peaceful existence – I don’t giggle about being a chauffeur or a taxi service, or humblebrag about how many activities I’ve booked into one day. That sounds awful to me. I just want to be home with my kids, eating pot roast or drinking a beer on the porch while they ride bikes on the cul-de-sac.
There is definitely a fear that my kids will reach a certain age, and not have any accolades. What if they are never good enough to play high school sports? What if they don’t have a trump card for a college scholarship (aside from being Chamorros?) Social media shows us that other kids are getting black belts, are getting accepted into Ivy League schools, are CIF champs, singing at the White House, building homes in Guatemala, making varsity, or being inducted into the National Honor Society. Of course, I want to see my children shine, too. But I am not willing to look back on my parenting years and recall only a blur of exhaustion, driving, drop-offs, and schedules that look like the walls in the shack from “A Beautiful Mind.”
When we were on the fast-track, Bridget had an evening athletic class, twice per week. One Thursday, she left for school at 7:40 AM, and we got home from school around 3:15 PM. After washing up and getting a snack, she had about 45 minutes of homework. That took us to around 4:30, when she had to do 30 minutes of piano practice. By 5:15, I was shoveling an early dinner onto a plate to get her to eat and be out the door to her activity. When I picked her up at 7:00, or so, she was near tears. She was so tired, she fell asleep in the car on the four-minute drive home. When she told me she wanted to quit, I let her. It was hard for me. I felt I was teaching her to give up, or be a quitter. She had participated for years. What I learned was that it is okay to benefit from something, and decide to set it aside. It is possible for something to be both good, and not a good fit. When I used to consider a potential activity for my kids, I looked at it in a vacuum. “Sports are good.” “Art is good.” “Music is good.” “Tutoring is good.” Now, when I discern whether or not to enroll the kids in something, I ask myself, “Are my kids better off doing this than being at home with the family?” “Does this add peace to our home, or does it add stress?” “Does this activity help me raise a well-rounded person, or will I have to undo some of the damage it causes?” “Is committing to this thing fair to everyone else in the home?”
This evening, Brian is coming home a bit early with some smores supplies. He built an outdoor fire pit, and the kids are excited to make the treats with him. We don’t have anything else planned. We just aren’t that busy anymore.
Photos from the archive…