It took a week or two to decompress and rediscover my sanity after a whirlwind school year, but upon finding it, I have fallen into summer mode.
The I don't care about much mode.
Popsicles for breakfast? Fabulous plan.
No bath or shower for days? Excellent, so long as we are hitting up the pool or sprinklers often enough that we appear clean.
Getting dressed to leave the house? Well, sometimes. But for errands and that kind of thing? Nah. No need.
Pajamas to bathing suit and back to pajamas is a quality summer day in my book.
Today, exactly 14 days into my summer vacation, I decided our house needed a list of summer rules. I erased our meal-planning chalkboard (which typically lists a dinner we served to guests three weeks prior, super helpful…) and wrote down three things. Our Keating Family Summer Rules.
1. Be Kind.
2. Create Beauty.
3. No Whining.
I've decided these are the only rules I'm really going to care about this summer. The rest can go. The other details that seem important sometimes just aren't right now. I don't want to feel my stomach tighten, my voice to get shrill, or to send adrenaline soaring throughout my body. I have better things to do with my time this summer.
Like doing nothing. ?
Well, that's not exactly true. There are always certain commitments and places to be and things to teach and ideas to hatch and all that. But mostly, I want this to be a summer of nothing. Of open ended play and exploration. So far, it's been lovely. My 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter have been setting up detailed pretend scenarios, going for long scooter rides, swimming, you know. Summer.
With us not needing to be at school every morning, we take our time. We eat breakfast when we feel like it, I zone out and do other things, leaving them to their play for long amounts of time. They don't need me, because we don't need to get ready to do anything. I've actually sat down and read a few times. I don't think that has happened in years.
It's all beautiful and lovely until the sudden shriek “Mom!!!! Tucker pushed me 6 times!" or “Mommmmmmmmmm! Gracie won't give me a turn. She's not being fair and she's ignoring me!!!!!!" Then my peaceful little morning gets shattered into a million pieces. Without so much other stuff going on, I do find it easier to remain level headed and supportive through these battles, but still. I often just want to say Seriously? Seriously!!? I'm enjoying a yogic moment here and you are fighting about who has more blocks?
I don't do well with fighting. I've told them that I've understood they will have disagreements. They are siblings. They are people. All people have disagreements. But I have been clear that we won't be solving these disagreements with mean words or actions. That our world has enough mean in it without us adding to it.
This morning's argument over which toy race car they were allowed to cheer for in a pretend race caused me to snap. In hearing myself shout, “Just stop it!" I knew something had to change for this summer to continue in the bliss I'd imagined.
Therefore, I've decided these are the rules for both the children and myself. Be kind. Create beauty. No whining.
When I hear the children quarreling, instead of attempting to solve it, I've been asking them one question. “Are you being kind?" I've been trying to replace my frantic “Stop it!" with a gentle reminder—“be kind!" They may be upset with one another, they may even karate chop one another, they may momentarily hate each other. But, I believe they will learn more about our world if they are reminded to stop and figure out a way to be kind. There is always a kinder solution. Additionally, this phrase encompasses the other stuff—like taking care of toys and all that—I lump it all together.
Are you being kind to your toys? Are you being kind to your body? I'm using it as a catchall, for better or for worse.
This one is as much for me as it is for the kids.
I want each moment to feel full. Full of life. Full of beauty. Full of heart. To me, that is creating beauty. The ability to take any situation, any place, any moment and fill it with love. To transform every place we meet into a thing filled with delight, or if not delight, with a full, conscious, and accepting heart.
Create beauty became my mantra years ago when I was looking for a way to empower my broken heart. The sentiment hasn't left me, and it has become my mantra for these days of bringing small children into this world.
Make something beautiful from what stands before me. Find a way to see the light, for, every shadow was created with light. Some days it is easier than others to see the light, but I do believe, if we look hard enough, it will find us.
That's fairly self-explanatory.
I have patience for many things, but whining isn't one of them.
This goes for children and adults. As I told my 5 year old today when he countered “But Mom, sometimes I just have to whine, it happens." That's true. Sometimes we really want to whine. Sometimes things just aren't going our way. We can be frustrated or sad or mad. But I would rather hear words that describe emotions and work through them and with them instead of falling into the tone of voice that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. It might be a tall order, but I do believe if we acknowledge any and all emotions, accept them, move through them, we can then find a solution. If we fall to whining immediately…well. It all seems hopeless.
And there we have it. My summer rules. Be Kind. Create Beauty. No Whining. Perhaps this might need to be tattooed on my arm to keep my own head and heart in a good place out in the adult world when summer ends.
Oh. One more. Go to bed, kids. Just go to bed. Mama is tired. Just go to bed.