Transitioning from three kids in school to all four kids home for the summer has an immediate effect on the state of my house.
The mess, the noise, the mess, the mess. Also, the “I’m bored, hungry, etc. etc.”
I present to you my very fancy summer charts.
The first, a list of things they can help themselves to when they are hungry and suggestions of what to do when they are bored.
The second, three chore stations labeled A, B and C. The three bigs each have a clothespin with their name on it. They will rotate each week between these stations and every day, they will move their clip from “needs done” to “done”. Completion will earn a weekly allowance of $5.
The last, a list of things that must be done before screen time is allowed.
Cheers to a summer full of laughter, chaos and cleanliness!
My girls have been “back”’to school for almost a month now and Lord, it hasn’t been easy. Between a week off with Covid, snow days, half-days and holidays, there’s been little consistency. The days are “too long”, school is “too weird” and they don’t understand “why they have to do this”.
Today, I drew them their “circle of control”- the things they should focus on- what they want to eat for breakfast, wear and play- how they decide to move their body. All of the other things- the weather, having to go to school, how other people live and behave- are not in their control.
I explained that every day, we have a choice on what we focus on. It’s easy to get lost in the things out of our control- best to leave those things to God and to live with a heart full of gratitude for the things in our immediate circle.
New Leaf Parenting. Every Day is a Fresh Start. Turn the page and try again.
I knew it was hopeless before the meeting even began.
Ms. Larrimore briskly explained to my perplexed mother that there was no amount of extra credit I could complete in the last few weeks of school to help me achieve a passing grade.
I had failed ninth grade English so badly, she told us, that I didn’t even need to attend the 7:10 A.M. class for the remainder of the year.
To her, I was hopeless.
I remember feeling a mixture of anger and relief.
Relief that I wouldn’t have to bother attending her class anymore and anger for the entire disaster that was my freshman year of high school.
Where had I gone so wrong?
Aside from second grade, I had attended private school. Ninth grade public exposed me to a world I was wholly unprepared for. I figured it out by fitting in with whoever would accept me- smoking cigarettes, smoking weed, drinking alcohol before and after school and failing the honors classes I had been assigned.
Ms. Larrimore, one of the first African- American students to graduate Maury High School in 1964, saw right through my privilege and wasn’t going to give an inch. This was a woman that assigned a few hundred word paper, in which we weren’t allowed to use the verb “to be”- is, was, am, going, will- all forms. She was all business and I was taking my education for granted.
I took a summer school class the following summer to make up that failed English class.
And ultimately, I became an English Major with a Masters in Education and later, a writer.
But the lessons Ms. Larrimore taught me that year will last a lifetime:
“But I thought I was bad.” My seven year-old Harper remarked, when I recently shared an adorable video of her two-year-old self.
I looked right at her and said, “You are phenomenal. You always have been”
And she burst into tears.
I wrote this blog 5 years ago, but somewhere along the way, the message was lost.
My beautiful, seven-year old has been carrying the shame of being a difficult toddler, explaining why these last couple of years she has been our best listener and the most helpful.
She’s trying to right her “wrongs”.
Cue my broken heart.
I gently explained that we all experience times in our life that are more difficult than others but that doesn’t make us inherently “bad”. I’ve made it a point to share photo and video after video of her smiling and laughing, illustrating what a joyous child she has always been.
“It’s time we rewrite the story in your mind about the kind of kid you were.”
A few years ago, I returned to my elementary school and visited my art teacher, a woman I deeply admired then and still do, now. I teased, “I know I was difficult.” She tilted her head and looked at me genuinely perplexed. After a momentary pause, she responded, “Lauren, I never thought you were difficult. I thought you were extraordinary. Sweet, fun and smart.” I returned the tilted-head, genuinely-perplexed-look because all I ever remembered hearing about my childhood was how “difficult” I was. To be remembered for all positive attributes was truly astonishing and it forced me to rethink the way I had always described myself as a child: difficult, prone to emotional outbursts and epic temper-tantrums.
It’s not as if these things weren’t true. They were. I was often-times angry as a child. So angry that I would bite my arms to release the tension. So angry, my mother…
Did I tell you about that time I was robbed in Italy?
This morning my second daughter asked if Olive Oil tasted gross, since it is the only oil I use to cook our fourth daughter’s meals.
And with reverence I exuded my enduring love for olive oil, ever since visiting my family’s olive tree farm in Calabria, Italy.
I wish I had words to describe the experience of existing amongst an olive oil tree farm, being in the presence of literal tanks of fresh olive oil. Olive trees as far as the eye could see.
When I took my first taste, life, as I knew it, would never be the same.
Think, eating a fresh tuna off the boat versus tuna fish in the can.
There is no comparison.
I was 18 and for my graduation, I had asked my biological father to take me to his homeland.
I had never lived with him, we had shared a roof only one weekend before but it was important to me to know my roots.
He was first generation American and I had never known my grandparents.
So, he agreed.
Our first hotel in Rome was a closet. Talk about zero to one hundred. We had rarely spent a night together, nonetheless nearly touching!
I love yous had never been said, instead, as a child, he would grab my ear lobe and look at me with endearment. Like he loved me so much he couldn’t even believe I was real.
But there we were. Father, Daughter.
We traveled to Naples and Pompeii and then on to the olive tree farms in Calabria, meeting my grandfather’s relatives.
They, speaking only Italian, welcomed me like they had known me my entire life and served me a lasagna for a table of 15 that I will never forget.
My cousins threw me on the back of their motorbikes and whipped me around the mountainous roads as I learned to scream, “ay-aya-aya-ay!!!!!”.
We left in our rented, bright-blue Mercedes for my grandmother’s homeland of Licodia Eubea, Sicily with only a few days of our trip to go.
I stood in the room my grandmother was born.
I am 38. My dad is 90 this year. My grandmother was born in the 1800s.
This was major.
And then we were robbed.
We were lost in an alley in Sicily when a motorbike blocked our rental car’s way, while a thief on foot opened our back car doors and stole our backpacks containing nothing but nine rolls of film, my journal and a legal pad with the names and contact information of all the relatives we had met along the way.
We are all a product of our collective experiences.
It is easy for me to wish away the sad things that have happened in my life.
But if it weren’t for those, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
This, as Oprah says, I know for sure.
Divorce is a terribly, sad thing.
Particularly when children are involved.
I was on my way to visit colleges with my step-dad, whom I had called “Dad” since I was two years-old when he announced, “Your mother and I are getting separated.”
Is it just me, or do you never ever forget that moment?
It’s like the world stops turning.
Sure, maybe I had known it was coming in some sick and twisted way, but did I ever want it to truly be?
And yet, there it was.
Worse, they were in business together and weren’t going to announce it to the very close-knit family company until January so now, I had a secret to keep.
That Last Christmas, we rented a house in nearby Sandbridge Virginia Beach, Virginia, decorating the tree one last time, only to grab our individual boxes to keep the ornaments we each wanted when the week was over.
It was the one of the saddest moments of my life.
Fast forward 20 years later and now, who are we?
If you were my dad from age 2-18, does that mean you are my dad for life?
If we were step-sisters and brothers then, are we still?
Time passes, parents re-marry.
Who are we now?
Oh, but not me.
Because I have my own future to tell.
Divorce, my children will not know.
Because we chose carefully.
We waited until we met one another to make that kind of commitment.