During Summer, I Feel Like the Head Counselor at Camp Mom.” Excerpt from: A Fairy Godmom’s Book of Reminders
I respond with, “How can you be bored? You have so many toys. What do you want to do? Do you want to play a game, call a friend, go somewhere, do a craft, make cookies?” I used to believe that entertaining the children was part of being a “Good Mom.” It felt like a have-to, though, not a want-to. Big difference.
The first summer that I retired from my job as Head Counselor was also the first summer that I truly enjoyed. It happened when my children were 15, 7, and 3. Rather than working to keep them busy, I started planning summer around a wish of mine: I wanted the first two weeks of summer mornings to myself in order to make headway on this manuscript. My oldest was scheduled for a two-week vacation with his grandparents, so I looked for two weeks of half-day camps for my younger boys. As summer approached, my plan was almost in place, except that my 7-year-old had only one week of camp instead of two. Try as I did to locate an appealing camp with an opening, it wasn’t falling into place, but something else was. My husband had been downsized out of a job at the end of April. I assumed that by summertime, he would have another job, but he didn’t. Perhaps he could take care of our 7-year-old for a week.
My old approach to getting what I wanted usually involved dramatic body language: sighing, frowning, and sending the occasional blast of “stink eye” until my husband finally asked, “Are you okay?” This time, I took a more mature approach. I calmly explained my wish for two weeks of mornings to myself. Then I asked him (in a very nonjudgmental way—which I have been trained to do) if he would be willing to take our son and be out of the house every morning for a week. He said, “Yes” and asked for some ideas on what the two of them could do. In the end, I got the time that I wanted, and my husband even took the boys to and from camp so that the house was quiet a little longer.
I was fortified by this outcome, so I set about pursuing my next wish: to read some children’s classics. I dug out my stash of reading lists (part of my Good Mom program) and read it to my two younger boys. “Okay you guys, what do you want to read from this list?” I asked cheerfully.
My 7-year-old stared at me and said plainly, “Nothing, Mom. You want to read from that list.” Out of the mouths of babes, huh? I went to the library and checked out Charlotte’s Web. The first night, as I read it aloud on the couch just before bedtime, no one joined me. However, on the second night, they snuggled in close. It wasn’t a have-to; it was a want-to. Big difference.
A few nights later, I needed to clear my head after a disagreement with my husband, so I set up the tent in our backyard and slept outside. The next night, the boys decided that they wanted to read Charlotte’s Web in the tent with flashlights. They ended up sleeping outside for a week.
The more I begin with myself, the more I find my children joining me. I remember my favorite “mom-tra”: Being myself is more important than being mom; being myself will take care of being mom.
Excerpt from A Fairy Godmom’s Book of Reminders by Julie Wheaton and Patrece Powers. Julie resolved her stay-at-home/working mom dilemma by building a shed (for herself, not the kids) in her small suburban backyard. Her next book: Which House is Mine Again? For more information visit www.juliewheaton.com.
Patrece Powers is the founder of P Systems, a non-profit corporation established in 1983 to promote research and development in the various uses of human energy. P Systems produces extraordinary resource material for individuals, couples, families, corporations, educational institutions, and the entertainment industry. Visit www.p-systemsinc.com (LINK) for details.