As an anxious person, I spend a lot of time trying to calm myself (and others) down. As a loving person I long to be in synch with and connected to people. I watch with envy those who seem calm and at ease with themselves, and strive to make myself that way too, but I’m not sure anyone can “make” themselves calm, except through yoga or other personal outlets. Faking it, unfortunately, usually doesn’t work for me.
Being a romantic I have grand visions of how my family might be. I struggle with when to force this utopia on them, and when to let them alone, though I guess I managed a bit of both this Labor Day heatwave, so maybe not all is lost.
First, for those who live in parts of the country with real weather, I apologize for my wimpiness, but I promise if you live in Northern California a few seasons you’ll also be stripped of your ability to deal with temperatures below 50 or above 80. There’s almost no air conditioning here, so 100 degrees feels like a bit of an emergency. (It’s not, of course, as people deal with the aftermath of Harvey and other real weather, so feel free to skip over my whining!)
Saturday morning it was pretty bad by 9am, hadn’t really cooled off overnight, and I felt escaping to our local beach was the only choice. Neither kid wanted to go, but I exercised the prerogative of my position and told them They. Were. Coming. With. Me. Now. Only a small amount of fussing and crying later, they were in the water, refusing to leave. That was a win.
It was weird and hazy and still, which is strange as we almost always have a breeze off the ocean. But in the heat the bay was refreshing, and we were soothed.
Monday my grand plan was a matinee, which is sometimes the perfect air-conditioned popcorn break I need, no matter the movie. Shayla was on board, but Jaden balked. “Not going,” he announced. I debated fighting him, threatening or forcing it, but I was too tired. The only place he wanted to go was this crazy giant playstructure 4o miles away, The Lost Worlds, with trampolines and slides and stuff to climb and big dinosaur statues. We divided up.
All the way there I grumbled and fretted. What’s wrong with me, giving into the whims of a 7-year-old? Who drives this far for a dumb playground? But we got there and it was a reasonably comfortable temperature, and Jaden jumped and swung and climbed for nearly 3 hours. Under the giant dinosaurs I got to read quite a bit of Karl Ove Knausgard’s Autumn, a beautiful set of short essays he wrote to his unborn daughter to “show you our world as it is now: the door, the floor, the water tap and the sink, the garden chair close to the wall beneath the kitchen window.” Small poetic meditations were just the ticket, even if this was my view:
But I guess the real success of the weekend was the most instinctive, and it wasn’t a struggle at all. Friday night, as the house was sweltering and bedtime approached, I dragged the kids’ mattresses out onto the narrow deck. I didn’t ask, I just acted, driven outside by the heat. If I’d stopped and thought about it, I would have guessed at least one of them would refuse to sleep outside, but they both loved it. Friday and Saturday nights were sweaty and still. I brought out fans, and squirt bottles, and while it was humid, evaporation still helped. Sunday night was still hot, but it cooled overnight, so waking up this morning we had pulled covers on ourselves. It wasn’t cold, but it was nice. We’d survived.
I put the beds away. Both kids wanted more outside overnights, and maybe another time, but for now we’d had our struggles, and our rest, and it was time to get back to normal, into our own beds and ready for school tomorrow.