Expectation vs. Reality: Lots of Changes
Holy crap has this summer flown by. When school let out mid-June, I sat myself down and made an extensive Summer Bucket List, complete with a number of goals I was optimistic about crushing ALL. SUMMER. LONG.
But, as parenting, and life, often goes, the universe had other plans for me. Each year, I march into this season hell-bent on a healthy mix of relaxation and productivity. And while this summer has been productive and somewhat relaxing, it’s been a far cry from the expectations I had for me and mine.
So, let’s recap (don’t worry - I’ll stick to the highlight reel):
Finished my 11th year of teaching
Started job searching to leave the field of education
Avery finished her elementary school run
Christian closed out 4th grade
Anthony started to move in
My sister and her hubby spent a week visiting from the Great North (they’re Canadian, eh)
Our blended family unit of 6 road-tripped all the way to Myrtle Beach for a reunion with my mom’s side
I continued to network and search out new job opportunities
Anthony and I spent one VERY long day loading and unloading a U-Haul and officially changing his address
Kicked off the month with Avery & Christian’s first international trip and a week spent in Sao Miguel, the Azores, Portugal, this time with my dad’s half of the fam
Anthony is adjusting to a four-hour, round trip daily commute
Anthony’s youngest, Amelya, moved into our home and will be spending quite a bit more time with us, as she’ll be attending middle school with Avery in a few short weeks
In between all of this, there were sleepovers, swim days, playdates, movie outings, and the start of our second season of Pop Warner Football.
So much for relaxing and knocking off the line items on the To-Do List huh? I wanted this summer to be a breather, for me and the kids. Especially considering we spent last summer living at my parents’ while we gutted and renovated our current home. There wasn’t a whole lot of stability and consistency and structure (literally and figuratively speaking) and I was looking forward to a predictable, low-key, and lazy summer consisting of our normal field trips, poolside antics, and just settling into and enjoying our home. BUT… what I wanted and what I got are two VERY different things.
As the summer comes to a close - eek, it feels even more real when I put it on paper! - I find myself reflecting on another one that seemed too fleeting and I’m feeling like a big bag of mixed emotions as I process all the changes we experienced these last two months.
Like most mothers at this point in the summer, I’m all too ready for them to head back to school. I find myself channeling the Von Trapp family singers as I wave from the front door, singing an off-key chorus of “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye,” and shoving their backpacks toward them. The non-stop bickering between my two has been enough to make me seriously contemplate a margarita or two on a few choice evenings.
However, the fast-approaching return to schedules, alarms, homework, and stress made me realize something: they are growing and I will never have this stage again. The one where they’re two older elementary school kids, with all the goofy, silly qualities that nine and 11 brings. But there’s more to it. There’s the fact that next summer, they’ll both officially be middle schoolers and I’ll likely be taking on too much fire from the hormone-laden bombardiers, donning a helmet and waving a white flag from the protection of my own bedroom to surface much or brave too many outings.
Or, there’s the idea that this could very well have been the last summer of the Three Amigos. See, for the entirety of my children’s lives, I’ve worked as a teacher, and subsequently had each and every summer off to spend with them as I pleased. There was one year where we attempted camp for a hot second - it resulted in me dragging them through the drop-off, bribing them with a promised toy at pick-up, and usually acquiescing to an earlier pick-up than I had anticipated. But every other year, we’ve trodded up and down the east coast, and beyond, adventuring and exploring every and anything we wanted. Now, as I explore new career opportunities, the reality that this may be our last summer gallivanting has hit me square on the jaw.
And while I know the timing couldn’t be better, it still stings. I realize that over these next four years, they’re going to transition from wanting to spend the summer with me to searching out camps in their areas of interest, asking to sleep out at friends’ houses more than they request early morning snuggles in my bed or cuddles before sleep. I have accepted the fact that while I am experiencing a period of growth and change, they are, too.
A few weeks ago, I read a quote on Facebook about having only 18 summers with your kids - and then they’re gone. At the time, I wasn’t ready to process it - it felt so heavy and loaded with finality. But as I start braving the back-to-school shopping sales with my baby girl, I realize that I’m down to six summers. In six summers, I won’t be shopping for dress code acceptable crop tops. Instead I’ll be stocking up for a dorm room and planning the aesthetics of her 4x4 cell. I’ll be talking about scholarships and the cost of a semester’s worth of textbooks, not which book she should select for her summer reading assignment. Six more summers with her before she finds her wings, flies away, and moves on to create a nest of her own (God willing, in a cool place far away I can visit frequently).
Then, add in the fact that our household just went from three to five in what felt like a teething toddler’s nap. Every summer henceforth, assuming I don’t finally snap one sleepless night and smother Anthony (and his snoring) with a pillow, we will be blended. Anthony will be here in the mornings and evenings and Amelya will join us on our adventures, wherever they take us. And for someone who’s spent nearly four years solo, that is altogether overwhelming, exciting, terrifying, anxiety-inducing, and exhilarating. Despite telling my children and students repeatedly for the last decade that change is scary, but growth doesn’t happen without it, I find myself slightly paralyzed by all this newness. There is so much to adjust to, and quickly, and for a Control Freak/Type A/Portuguese Alpha Female, it might actually be more than I feel confident enough to handle.
But amongst all of these scary adjustments, there’s been a lot of beauty, too. Like watching how excited my kiddos are to wait up for Anthony just to say goodnight. Or seeing my anxious daughter set her own fears and trepidations about middle school aside to assuage Amelya’s and make her more comfortable with the transition. Or feeling my bones break as Amelya delivers a rib-crushing hug after discovering her newly decorated, just-for-her, room of her own at our house.
Change can be a beautiful thing, folks. And as I sit here, chin-deep in it, I am doing my best to find the beauty amidst all this growth. I know we’re not through it - the adjustments, the calibrations we’ll all need as we find our place in this new family dynamic. I know there are more arguments ahead, more attitude forthcoming, more rules to be broken, more buttons to be pushed. But as we kiss summer goodbye and all the dreams, hopes, and expectations we had for it, we look ahead to a year full of change, growth, and fresh starts. Together, as a family.
I hope whatever this new school year has in store for you and your family, you’re open to new possibilities, and know that you, Mama, have the courage to face it, even if it’s not quite what you wanted and maybe not even what you think you need. No matter how scary it is, no matter how overwhelming it feels, you got this. And if not, well, I’m here to cheer you on, listen to you vent, cry with you, and celebrate all your victories. What do you say we grow through this season together?