Making Magic

There are things we do as parents for our children that they will never fully appreciate simply because, to them, they just happen. Things like clothes, food, a treat in their lunch box. One day, they may grasp the fact that there are a number of people in this world who don’t have that type of security, but I’m happy to let them save that lesson for later.

Then there are things we do as parents that we hope will be memories that end up looking like cautionary tales. The special trips we plan that somehow get marred by a too long car ride or bad weather or an ill-timed fever.

Then there are days like today. The spontaneous, fabulous, magic days that you have to stop and say thank you to the universe for because they are just that perfect.

Today was the last regular season game for the Braves. Our last chance to catch a game this season as a family. We tried to go to a game a few weekends ago, but our plan was thwarted by a very feverish three year old. But our oldest kept bringing it up, asking to go to another game. With the weather perfect, a Sunday with nothing but chores on the agenda and tickets still available, we decided to go.

And it was a blast. We danced in our seats. We did the wave. There were Cracker Jack and Dippin’ Dots and beer (for those of us of-age). There was sunshine and scoring lessons and home runs. There was laughter and silliness and smiles galore.

Then, as the Braves left the field with a 12-5 win, we traipsed our way around and around and around until we found the end of the line to run the bases (a Sunday post-game tradition for kids attending the game). After nearly an hour of winding our way back around the line, then out onto the warning track of Turner Field, our kids lined up to take their turn around the base line.

The thousands of stands enveloping the green grass, the crunch of the track, the dome of the blue sky. There is magic and romance and timelessness standing on a baseball field.

Our boys ran those bases with abandon. Most of the kids forgot to tag home plate and instead headed for the exit just short of it. The 7 year old, however, jumped on that plate with gusto and a grin a mile wide on his face. The little guy slid. He actually slid towards home. Feet first, not belly, but still. That kid has style!

Watching them, so small on a field so vast, being kids, seeing their joy, I couldn’t help but get teary. I’m still smiling about it hours later.

The seven year old announced that running the bases was a dream come true.

Funny, because after being with them today and watching the magic happen, one of my dreams came true, too.

Adjustments

We have nearly two full months of this school year under our belts around here and it’s safe to say we’re getting our sea legs. The morning routine is running relatively smoothly, the car pools are worked out for after school karate, the volunteer slots are in the calendar, the pantry and fridge are full of the additional snacks needed to get through a long school day, my work schedule is finally a reliable schedule again and things are puttering along in a safely predictable manner. 

And yet, I wouldn’t be writing if there wasn’t something unusual happening. 
When I got pregnant, my mom idol (another mom of two boys who seems to have her world together with just the right combination of discipline and laissez-faire-ness whose house seems to always be clean and her boys well behaved and generous) congratulated me with the promise of more time because two kids, “they will play together!” 
I have a sister. I understood the concept of sibling play. I honestly didn’t get why this was such a revelation or gift. 
Until now. 
This summer, the boys definitely caught on to having each other as play mates. Their three year age difference an issue, but less so this year than last. They can both hold their own in suggesting pretend games, they are getting better at using sentences rather than fists to persuade the other to their preferred mode of play and their interests are evolving in a way that allows them to come together over a common ninja problem rather than Darth Vader battling the Island of Sodor with tears as the result of a track destroyed by the force.
But the long days of summer were sometimes too long or too much together time or spent shuttling one kid to camp and the other to a play date and fitting in pool time. Not to mention the rain. The all consuming, unending, soul crushing rain that has defined the Summer of 2013 in Atlanta. 
So I was moderately surprised to realize that my afternoons are relatively breezy after school. The 7 year old gets off the bus, watches a show (we’ve found it’s the best way to allow him to peacefully decompress from a busy day and loud bus ride), completes his homework and then he and his brother play. Together. Until dinner. 
Sure, I have to break up the occasional disagreement or moderate a “he won’t do it my way” standoff, but all in all, my afternoons are suddenly free of hard core, involved play responsibilities. Part of me is thrilled to not have to play Candy Land 30 times an afternoon, but the other part of me is sad to know they don’t need me as much anymore. The silver lining, other than the Candy Land thing, is that they now have each other. They build tracks and race cars and create scenarios and chase and ride bikes and scooters on the sidewalk in front of the house and make a holy mess of their room, the playroom, the living room. 
So I am adjusting to having time in the afternoon to read a magazine article, make a bed or sneak in some work. 
But I am relishing those days when a little voice calls from the play room, “Mom, will you play Legos with me?” 

A New Appreciation

I was the neighborhood babysitter when I was in middle and high school. I loved it. I had several families in our small little hood that I sat for regularly – the C’s had me over every Wednesday after school to watch their two little ones while the mom was taking classes at a local university, the Cr’s who had me over every Tuesday night so they could attend a couple’s church group, and the G’s with two very rambunctious boys who used me regularly for much-needed nights out and during the summers for what I can now only imagine were afternoons that the mom simply wanted some peace and quiet.

The G’s house always made me nervous. It was always so immaculate when I arrived, morning, noon or night. You could see the vacuum lines in the carpet, everything was always put in its place, the counters clutter free and the bathrooms sparkled. I was always terrified the boys would destroy it while I was there, convinced they must be neater when I wasn’t around and that my inability to maintain such a high bar of cleanliness would be reflected in my take home pay.

Before their parents would come home, I’d make sure every Lincoln log and car were safely stowed, the counters wiped down again (even if all I’d done was dish out some Goldfish), I was known to even vacuum occasionally to ensure a spotless home upon their return.

I somehow made the assumption that they must have just lived in a constant state of clean and I was in awe.

Now, as the mom of two boys, I often think of the Gs. I see their bouncing youngest son in my own never-sit-still-unless-I’m-sleeping younger one. I hear the know-it-all remarks from their oldest in mine when he feels compelled to correct my mistake(s). And I especially think of their mother on days like today – where I spent the better part of the afternoon hiding clutter, putting away toys, wiping down bathrooms and vacuuming in advance of the babysitter we have coming tonight.

There is no way that woman lived in a nirvana state of cleanliness. Not with the level of activity her boys could muster. I see now that she was probably like me – a gal raised to clean up a bit for company, who wants the world to think she’s got it together and doesn’t want to air her dirty laundry (quite literally) for the outside world to see.

I know I shouldn’t care. I know my home is well taken care of, although far from eat off the floor clean. I know my boys are typically (fairly) well behaved for our sitters, but I still worry that these girls will come into my home and judge my mothering on the state of my refrigerator organization or a layer of dust on the DVD player or the papers exploding off the desk in want of signatures, file folders and a trash can.

All I can do is remind myself of my moments with the G family. Sure, I remember their clean house, but I also remember consoling a distraught toddler through a bit of separation anxiety. I remember giggles after building and, of course, destroying many a block tower. I remember two tow headed boys that, although they did in fact try my patience with a streak of Dennis the Menace mischief, were funny and fun to be around.

I hope that these various girls we have that watch our boys take away similar memories of my boys. Moments of fun, silliness and sweetness.

No matter what they think of the state of our kitchen floors, which are filthy, by the way.