Welcome to my home, sweet friend. I’m so glad you came over.
Drive into my driveway and walk the 25 feet to the front door. Take note that the house seems small for so many kids. You are correct; it is. But since the front yard is nice enough and the back seems pretty big, you assume I’m moderately outdoorsy—just something you picked from my obviously higher than normal tolerance for not showering—and you think, again correctly, that we must have purchased the smallish house with the idea that we’d shoo our kids out anytime we needed some space. (A great idea, except for the fact that the children hate being eaten by the mosquitoes who feast on their innocent blood from late June through mid-October, the very months I need them to go outside.)
You see a water table in the middle of the front yard. There is a cup, a matchbox car, and a baton in it. Please don’t trip over the hula hoop. Yes, yes that is a harmonica next to the lilies. There’s a pair of boys size 9 sandals at the foot of the red-leaf bush at the corner of the house. My son likes to drop trou and pee there, even though the door to the house is a little less than four steps away. I don’t even care anymore and can’t explain one more time that his bladder can wait a few more seconds to empty. Apparently, news to me, he also likes to pee without shoes on. I guess he forgot where he put them, and his jumping out of the car for swim practice this morning barefoot makes more sense now.
When you walk in my house—come in the side door by the way, because we’re close friends you and me, and did I mention I’m so glad you’re here?—you’ll see more shoes. Like, 9 million pairs of shoes. I have four kids, one husband, and we all had one pair of shoes here a few months ago. But all the shoes got married, had babies, and now there are 18 million individual shoes living in a kibbutz as happy as can be next to my side door. They don’t want to be alone. They all want to commune together in one big, happy, peace-loving pile. Except for my youngest son’s shoes, which hide from each other. He can never find two that match. (I’m guessing they’re in the yard?)
Come in, come in. Don’t mind the kitchen. It’s just an enchanted world of never-ending plates and cups of water and half-eaten bananas and sandwich crusts. It’s not even real. You’re imagining that I have two bottles of wine next to a watermelon next to an industrial-sized bag of veggie straws; next to a rarely used mixer, next to the coffee maker, next to a pile of never-looked-at-yet-very-important-papers, next to a pack of strawberry gum, next to fruit bowl that’s either overly full or totally empty.
Walk further into my house, and we can sit on my navy couch. I love this couch. The kids aren’t allowed to eat on it, although I have let them sit on it on occasion. But watch your step. You know those war movies where a bomb hits during a battle scene and the camera pans out so you can grasp the full effect of the displaced earth raining down, burying the soldiers underneath? That’s my living room. My kids are the (friendly) foe, and I’m one covered under a maelstrom of legos, library books, uncapped markers, scraps of very important papers (I don’t know where they get this from), and remarkably prolific toy trucks.
And while we’re on the war-zone metaphor—it pretty well explains how the kids get along. They sign peace treaties and trade agreements every 37 minutes, immediately rip them up, invade each other’s territory, exploit the weakest members of their society, steal commodities, and do it all in whiney voices until the next non-aggression pact forms.
(If you’re still with me and you’ll let me be indulgent: I’m the United Nations during the summer months. I wear a baby blue baseball hat, drop off food and water, and welcome whoever wants to come to the table for conflict resolution … but at some point, I always have to put the smack-down and enforce some sanctions on the people in my zone.)
We won’t even talk about the bedrooms or the basement (where the 18 million socks for the 18 million shoes live a big abandoned pile, fending for themselves on the hard-knock brick hearth in front of the fireplace.) I’ll see you in the fall, socks. Ain’t got no time for you now. If you lie on the couch and dump a full laundry basket of clean clothes on yourself, you’ll get the design style I have going on in our basement.
Back on my navy couch, I’ll offer you coffee. I always have coffee. I feel a teensy bit bad because if you came in the fall instead of the summer, I’d serve you some banana bread (maybe a scone?) on the one adorable plate I have from Anthropologie that hasn’t been chipped as a result of my newly-instituted summertime Kids Will Do Chores plan that includes dishwasher unloading. But we’ll drink our coffee (my 4th cup, your 2nd) and you’ll look out to my deck and realize it isn’t actually a deck. It’s a clothing line, circa 1950, where I hang out all the Minnie Mouse pool towels to dry. You might make a note to buy my sons a Ninjago or Power Ranger towel for their next birthdays, as I’ve obviously not bought towels since my 11-year-old daughter was four.
We will talk on my couch, and I will confess to you how I lost my mind yesterday driving home from the store. How I felt like my dad—slamming on the brakes, throwing a hand back to the row behind him. But it was me, just trying to get every crazy child’s attention, because I’d been asking them to stop doing what they were doing, and no one was listening. One of the kids was singing (which I can handle), but another one was screechy-scream talking (for fun), the third decided to scratch her brother while cackling like a rabid hen (I know that’s not a thing), and another one was actively destroying the only pair of goggles we had left from the 30-pack I bought from Costco at the beginning of the summer.
It was just All Too Much.
I was at maximum capacity.
And I will hate to admit this to you, but I wear my heart on my sleeve, and you know this (and I think that’s maybe one of the reasons you came to my house even though I told you it was a bombed out crazy-town) so I also feel safe when I tell you that I asked my kids to go away from me when we got home. How I begged them, no, I almost raged at them, to go play and for the love of all that is good and holy and right and true, to stop fighting for, like, six minutes while I go take a cold shower. Because there is so much sweat in the summer. And even I needed to shower.
Here’s the bottom line: Summer has officially kicked my butt.
I take back everything I said in May about summer being fun and relaxed and my favorite because we’re all unscheduled and free and loose and it’s sunny and warm and we're together all the time.
Because, well … because summer is also long and frustrating and hot and unstructured and full of kvetching about nothing and just plain hard. Can’t prove it, but I think it’s because we are together all the time.
Today, I let myself think about fall. When routine sets in and the kids are busy and how much I’ll miss these days when they’re over. And I will. But something tells me I’ll get used to it.
You’re done with your coffee.
Would you like a glass of wine?