It’s that time of year when I look at my calendar and see zero white space.
It’s that time of year when I regularly put my head down on the dining room table and want to cry.
It’s that time of year I’m both very ready for summer vacation and also a little terrified of summer vacation because I won’t have a day to myself again for 10 weeks but I still have to work?
It’s that time of year that inspired this.
And although this time around, it’s all an absolute mess primarily due to my own shit—freelance, book proposal revisions, existential issues, the inability to reschedule Mother’s Day yes really— vs. having little kids whose educational ecosystem required much more hands-on everything (teacher gifts! popsicles! field trip chaperones! all the everything!) it all still comes to a head no matter what.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this article (that I used as a bit of a punchline in this piece) that said 90-year-olds identified the years when their children were young and living at home as the happiest of their lives. I know they’re right. I know they are. Life with kids feels full (full of what exactly changes by the day, often by the minute). These years have not felt lonely, they have not felt dull.
Since my kids are teenagers I find myself thinking more often of that future moment when there will be no kids in my house at all. There is a small part of me that’s ready for that chapter (she said, from the comfort of her perch 4+ years away) and it has nothing to do with them. If keeping them in my pockets until my dying day was an option, believe me, I’d be looking into it. But as much as I (theoretically, very theoretically) am ready for my next chapter, I think I will miss having teenagers. What I will not miss, I hope to God, is this last month of the school year. It’s not just that it’s an organizational 10-pounds-of-shit-in-a-5-pound-bag hell. It is an emotional hell too, it always feels like there is a “last”. There is always a gut punch hidden somewhere. There is always something to take in at the same time you give another year away.
Funny thing, I was never cut out to be the mother of newborns or infants or toddlers. Unless it comes naturally to you and you are super chill about literally nothing ever going the way it’s supposed to go, it is hard. It’s relentless. It requires heaps of patience and the setting aside of self over and over and over again. But I did all the things anyway. I went to the festivals and the field trips and the music hours. I suffered through Sesame Street Live where my son, only five, *flipped out* when they flooded the aisles with balloons because on just a regular day he would feel terrified by the suspense and potential sound of one single balloon popping so you can just imagine. We took a day trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine once, a drive that was four hours each way. Although exhausting as that entire experience sounds now, I remember it as one of our greatest days as a little family. We put our backs into this thing is what I’m saying, not every day and not every time, but often enough to matter.
I have grown exponentially lazier with each passing year. I’m not telling them to pack their lunches or make their own dinner so they can learn to be independent. I’m telling them those things because I’m out of friggin’ gas, people. I just cannot anymore. I blew all my energy and attention on the years they don’t even remember. I know this, because I ask them all the time. “Don’t you remember the so-and-so and the such-and-such?” They do not.
Anyway, my point being, as terrified as I was for the teenage years—and granted I am only at the beginning of them—I love having teenagers. I love to hear what they think about the world and learn what they care about as pre-adults. I get most of the day’s headlines from my son and try not to like too many songs my daughter also likes because obviously that would be the kiss of death. I took her to see Ariana Grande a couple months ago and, given everything that’s happening right now, an arena packed with (mostly) young girls acting joyful and carefree is something I needed. There is a reason we all carry our teenage years with us to the grave. For better or worse, we just can’t shake them. The feelings cut deeper, the highs were higher, all the firsts indelible. To watch these years unfold from the outside is a privilege. Even when it is hard, and it can be, I am into it. This was the phase I was built for.
I read this piece this week and I found it incredibly depressing. College can suck it, honestly. Another point of view for another time but spending your entire adolescence building a resumé instead of following the curves and dips of your own curiosity or just working a regular old teenager-type job is a depressing concept to ponder. Sorry, I’m not a good enough writer to say it any other way—it’s stupid and it sucks. My generation of parents and the one before me and likely the one after me are doing a very solid job of ruining the experience of being a teenager. We’re trying to make every moment of childhood magical and then every moment of adolescence … Harvard Business School? Fuck that. If the delicious college scam has taught us anything, it’s that parents see everything their kids do as their own personal performance review, forgetting they are not us, they never were. And robbing them of the opportunity to organically figure out their world and their place in it, absent of recognition or college admissions, is a crime against teenage humanity.
I wish I could write more about all of this now but I can’t. I have a mammogram follow-up and a work deadline and a presentation today. I need to balance our checkbook and one of my kids has a piano lesson and I wonder where the field trip permission slip is for my daughter? I need to look over her speech for a friend’s bat mitzvah this weekend and figure out if we’re all getting our pictures taken together Friday after school or what. I will likely end up eating Oreos and milk tonight for dinner. Again. (That’s not a Ben Carson joke, it’s just facts.) I badly need to get to yoga before I implode mentally or explode spectacularly through my pants. I’m keeping my eye on the prize of mid-June when my kids are released into the suburban wilds again. And I’ll realize on that last day of school, the same day they all head off for a weekend of Dad Camp, that of the 18 summers I started out with when I left the hospital with babies, there are only 4 and 6 summers of kids-at-home left. It’s fine. I’m fine.
NEW FROM ME:
• McSWEENEY’S: Watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High four times back-to-back gave me a lot to think about. Highly recommend as a coping strategy 10/10 “Fast Times at Alabama High”
• LITHUB: This piece slowly took shape on and off over months, based on a joke I told at the beginning of most of my readings on book tour. “Is this my first book tour or my own funeral?”
• THE BELLADONNA: A little piece about all the many, many areas of life where we keep getting the exact opposite of what we want and I am not angry at all! “We heard you. And decided to do something else instead.”
THINGS FROM ELSEWHERE (ALL HUMOR EDITION):
• McSWEENEY’S: LOL “Increasingly Less Sure Ways to Get Bob Seger To Go”
• NEW YORKER: “What Is Writing and Does This Count As It?” by Mia Mercado
• THE BELLADONNA: “Whoops! That Doesn’t Feel Right. Please Wait While We Redirect You To The Clitoris.” by Rachel Ciferno
• HYOOM: A wonderful, in-depth interview on the humor writing process with Sarah Hutto.
• This is the meanest thing Riane Konc has ever done.
• FRESH AIR: I am so obsessed with PEN15 and I will not apologize for it. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show yet! “Return To Middle School In 'PEN15': Creators Say ‘It's All About Survival’”
• McSWEENEY’S: Lot of valid points here “I Don’t Think a Women is Electable in 2020 Because Last Time Around the Female Nominee Only Got Three Million More Votes Than Her Opponent”
• VOX: This is so satisfying and keeps getting better, right down to the writer’s bio. I’m gonna feel high on the phrase “eclectic tragedies” for some time. From 2018 but evergreen in our current hellscape: “Betsy DeVos’s summer home deserves a special place in McMansion Hell”
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