Ten Days

I’ve been away from my kids for 28 days. 28 days. I’m officially clean and sober from parenting. I’m not obsessively checking laundry bins, Chlorox-wiping toilet seats, wondering about the state of the dishwasher, or cooking many meals at all. I don’t need to tell anyone I am going to the grocery store, or buy gallons of milk or three boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats when I get there. For an entire month I haven’t reminded another human being to eat, shower, or brush his teeth already dammit. The beds are always made. I read two entire books without being interrupted by anyone who is hungry, bored, wants snuggles, needs rides, or has to show me this hilarious YouTube thing right now. My house is neat as a pin, and my days stretch out as unstructured opportunities for lap-swimming or yoga-bending or garden-wandering or the entire Netflix season of GLOW.

And I cannot wait for them to come home.

I miss them viscerally, as if our shared DNA has reached a sort of magnetic limit, being stretched too long, too far from each other over the span of an entire planet. This is not unique to me. Plenty of you send your kiddos off to camp for weeks on end with nary a text or call, and only an occasional blurry proof of life website pic or smudgy postcard. At least I know that my boys are in the care of actual family, and there’s the added perk of LINE, an international messaging app that lets them send goofy updates with a bevy of emojis. Yesterday they called with a real time Happy Birthday serenade in Mandarin! But they are so… far… away… and the fact that they are living a half day into the future makes that feel even farther.

I think they’re having a good time. There have been homesick moments for sure, exacerbated by the unfortunate results of eating a questionable curry. Also, they are spending lots of time with their younger cousins who are probably also a bit hot, occasionally bored, and exhausted with all of the no-one-speaking-English, tofu-rich meals. A Gong has shared umpteen sheets of Chinese character homework indicating hours of intense tutoring. But in every ‘round the Lazy Susan group shot, my boys look happy. Probably because of the food. Mmmm, the food. I wonder if they’ll want a zillion pizzas and Shake Shack dinners when they get back, or if they’ll request soup dumplings and dow guan even more frequently.

Whatever food want, they’re getting. Whatever they want to do, I’ll let them. I cannot wait to spoil them with French toast, relaxed rules, and unlimited snuggles. Go ahead and snigger at me, veteran camper moms, knowing they’ll do something irritating within hours prompting all of the usual parental regulations and responsibilities to reboot. But right now my fantasies revolve around letting them sleep in and marveling about how tall and different and yet still mine they are.

Ten more days, friends. Ten days has never felt quite so far away.

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That Pikachu hat. It will be the first test for spoiling, relaxed parenting. But they look happy, right?

 

 

 

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Making Memories

My iPod is kaput. It’s (supposed to be) waterproof. I need it while swimming laps, so instead of being BORED OUT OF MY MIND, I can just tell myself I am freestyling for seven songs. I could endure any number of unpleasant activities for seven songs. Probably. If three of them were Rhianna. Oh na na… what’s my name. Or if even one was Justin Timberlake. Mirror starin’ back at me… whoa. But today I pushed off from the wall in the lap lane without a single top 40 accompaniment to lessen the obvious torture of exercise. And 30 minutes of nothing but your own thoughts and breathing is an eternity, so I stop a bit short of that. And dammit if Barb and Arnie, my elderly swim noodle bobbing exercise pals don’t notice.

“Cut it a little short today!”

Yeah yeah yeah. I know, cancer-surviving Barb and Arnie, with your plastic visors, million grandchildren, lovely personalities, and sweet inquiries about my boys. BUT I CANNOT SWIM WITHOUT BEYONCE! So it’s only twenty minutes of back and forth and back and forth until I quit the pool to sit on the decking and swap Chinese restaurant recommendations with Barb and Arnie. Octagenarian Jews who snowbird in Florida know every dumpling dive like there is some Old Testament footnote that thou wilst be cashew chicken connoisseurs.

And this is how mornings go here in the summer… and the occasional evening, too. I find myself chatting up the oldest person in the pool, bar, or grocery aisle. The cancer-ed part of me is charmed by longevity and experiences, because I occasionally and morbidly wonder if I might not get to see that later version in the mirror starin’ back at me… whoa. But mostly it’s because we can trade gardening tips and cluck disapprovingly at the maxi dress espadrille moms ignoring their bratty kids who encroach on the lap lane. Cluck cluck.

I do have some lovely summer mommy friends, though. I might have written that I like children about as much as exercise, so it’s rare for me to share a Chardonnay with someone whose spawn I can stomach. Also, I might be a terrible person. But my boys play tennis with a gaggle of tweens that off the courts are like a pile of ever-hungry puppies that remember to say please and thank you. Our house looks like this. Every day.

Ours is the house with the yummy snacks.

Ours is the house with the yummy snacks.

We are in the sweet spot of parenting here and know it. In a few years, these boys will never choose to spend an entire night playing board games and video games and those made up games with the complicated scoring and occasional broken window… certainly not with moms upstairs. They’ll want to troll for cuties at the movie theater. In five years time, they’ll all be driving and dating and sneaky and smelly. The very idea that these kiddos once let us Twist and Shout with them during an impromptu dance party will be a remotely fond memory. We’ll miss them begging for brownies, sleepovers, and just five more minutes after spending untold hours together. But if we have Barb and Arnie luck, we’ll share these memories over our swim noodle bobbing routines in the lap lane.

Happy summer, friends. May all the bikes stop at your door.