I recall driving home from the beach last summer. We'd gone to North Carolina during the last week of summer vacation, and coming home was awful. First of all, nobody likes to leave a beach vacation. Second, I was (rightly) stuffed with anxiety about the coming school year. During the 8-hour drive, I made to-do lists and filled in our schedule on the app that controls our lives and basically fretted.
I went over our schedule countless times during that drive, and a million times after. Too much, too much. Our family's quality of life cannot be maximized at this rate. What might be cut?
Oh, believe me, I tried.
- Lorelei: gymnastics, ballet.
- Charlotte: ballet, soccer or basketball (depending on season), violin.
- Chris: running (and getting injured), WORK, church treasurer, lawn and garden because he refuses to hire gardeners; in charge of most meals.
- Me: ballet (put on hiatus during spring), writing, WORK, church session, running household, kid chauffer.
Overall, I feel (a) relieved the year is done, (b) rather proud of what was accomplished, and (c) hell bent on adjusting for next year.
A little retrospective: On the Chris side, we had significant challenges. First and foremost, the declining health and eventual death of his beloved dad was . . . just huge. It remains huge. Second, Chris . . . how do I put this nicely? Chris's work has him by the . . . he works a lot. A LOT. He says he doesn't, but as someone picking up the slack and also interacting with countless moms and dads, YES HE DOES. His schedule is inflexible, the demands on his time great, his responsibilities hefty. Lastly, that damn ankle injury. The poor guy really didn't need that this year.
On the Charlotte side, she was just overbooked. The problem is, she did everything so joyfully (except practicing her violin) that we couldn't find anything to cut. She LOVES ballet. She LOVES soccer. She LOVES basketball. Heck, she even loves school and Sunday school. I don't dare introduce another activity, because she'll inevitably love it.
On the Lorelei side, she had ballet at an awkward time that made getting Charlotte to violin tricky and a complicated carpool schedule I eventually pulled out of. She also had several weeks of crying in class. Gymnastics is a pain because where she goes is packed and chaotic on Saturday mornings. But, sigh, she loves it. The main thing with Lorelei this year was deciding whether to push for early entrance to kindergarten or not. We debated and pondered so, so freaking much. In the end, no. We decided she will not go to kindergarten in the fall.
On the mommy side, I was the supporting actress, playing the supportive wife (at least, I tried) to Chris through his travails, running the household, and getting the kids where they had to go. This was a very busy year work-wise for me, especially January through April, and that's of course when my grandmother died and things went so poorly for my father-in-law. So, inserting a full-time job that has just enough flexibility to let every kid thing fall on me? Well. Guess how much fun I was to live with? I did try, though. No, really. REALLY!!
Oh my gosh, how did we get through this year?
For the past 9 months I scoured. I scoured our schedule for things to nix. "How long does your treasurer role go?" I asked. When Chris said January 2018, I told him he is not allowed to take on another position at that time. "I'm on Session," I said. "I will block any nomination of yours."
"You can't," he said. "That's not how that works." Okay, so he's right, but Chris agreed to politely decline any new role.
I gave up ballet (for me) for the majority of the spring semester. With Chris gone so much in Reno or for work, I literally couldn't go. And then when I did, I came home to chaos and mess and screaming kids who didn't want to brush their teeth. It proved easier to just stay home. But I do hope to return in the fall.
I suggested nixing Lorelei's gymnastics. Chris said she loves it too much. Ballet for the girls was a sure thing, the sports were fantastic for Charlotte, and the violin was, as we viewed it, "character forming." In other words, hard for Charlotte. Most things come easily to her, so the child actually having to work at something is . . . well, character forming.
So, we persevered. Day by day, we got through the school year. Two ballet shows. Three sports seasons. Grief. My work trips and annual conference. Chris's ankle. Lorelei kindergarten decision. And so on.
Now, here we are facing a summer with most evening activities nonexistent (except for gymnastics). Halleluiah. I'm anxious to hit the RESET button and shake out the stress from this past year. But I'm also sitting here with my arms crossed and ready to do battle come September. This past year we got by. I feel like I raced through the school year balls-out. I'm tired, yes, and perversely proud, yes, but I'm also determined NOT to do that again to myself or my family. If Charlotte won't practice her violin, I'm done. Maybe we need an additional day per week with after-school nannying next year. Costco pre-made meals are really quite good. Any dish that requires garnish is too complicated for a week night. The kids need to take on more responsibilities.
I'm not unique in any way here. Millions of parents feel the same way I do. I want to shape our family life to be more relaxed. I want us more tuned in to each other. I don't want to always, always be hustling everyone to the next thing. And yet? What do you cut?
I have a few other things in the works that I'm putting in place this summer to strengthen my sweet family and ensure we have our priorities straight, which should better prep us for next fall. More on that some other day. For now, it's summertime. Thank. Goodness.