I’m not the mom you will find at play dates, mom and me classes, or even at MOPS. I’ve tried library story time and probably won’t be going back.
It’s not that I’m against these things, or think they are bad (they aren’t), it’s just that they cut into our day of basically not having to be anywhere. (Also that I’m an introvert and the idea of small talk on the sidelines makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a chopstick.) I don’t have schedules to keep, places to be, or an agenda to maintain. Much of my children’s lives are based on the idea of having an innocent simplicity to them. Sure, we have a routine, and this isn’t to suggest we are a loosey-goosey family where anything goes. Not at all. In fact, in many ways, I think Andy and I are pretty strict and have high expectations of our kids.
But, I guess the best way to describe it is this:
My hope would be that when my kids look back on their childhood, they remember a sort of idyllic, lazy days of summer feel. Filled with family time and a healthy mix of productivity and fun. A time when they get their responsibilities done (whether that be schoolwork or chores), but the bulk of their day is spent exploring, riding, imagining, and experimenting. Jumping through sprinklers, digging holes, climbing trees, impromptu bike races with the neighbor kids, searching for roly polys under rocks, and pick up baseball games in the street. If we lived in the country, I dream they would strip down to their underwear and jump in creeks and catch fireflies in mason jars. It’s all very Huckleberry Finn-ish, except we live in a California suburb and make do the best we can.
I’ll often find Lucy sitting on the neighbor’s stoop scratching the little black and white shitzu’s tummy and chatting with Miss Sylvia, the dog’s owner. Henry spends time with Mr. Billy, the retired professional body builder, fiddling with sprinkler heads and lawn mowers. Miss Nicole often distributes miniature water bottles and healthy snacks to my crew in the late afternoon (but only after they’ve run in breathlessly asking permission to accept the treats). Neighbor kids congregate and form a rag tag gang of scooters that would be scarier if it weren’t for the fact they are all under 12. When they aren’t outside terrorizing the neighborhood, you’ll find them crafting something or another at the desk.
We guard weekends ferociously. You won’t find us parked in front of the television, though. For us, Gibson Style Family Time looks like yard work, tinkering in the garage, and mom inevitably spray painting something. In many ways, our days are busy and full. We don’t often sit down, and we’re always doing something…but in our own space, and on our own time. Clocks rarely looked at.
I like our life. I like that it’s messy and fun and productive. I like that we enjoy each other’s company. Andy and I sneak out on our own sometimes, but honestly, we really like hanging out with our kids. They’re a cool bunch with fun personalities.
Except that we’re entering the age of organized sports.
Sure, we do skateboarding for Henry. But let me be clear: while skateboarding is a sport, it is anything but organized. Less the occasional lesson, we can go as often as we want, or as little as we want. There are no times we have to be there, and we can stay for 20 minutes, or 2 hours. If the baby is having a rough day, we simply don’t go. And it’s indoor, so no weather issues.
But I know that at some point, I’m going to have to find a way to carve out the time and space for more traditional sports. Henry is asking, not too often, but it comes up from time to time. I cringe at the very thought of shoving a double stroller across a grassy field, just as the temperatures start to dip, and find a way to wrangle a rambunctious toddler and a child with special needs. Honestly, the very thought of Owen and Jill together, going in opposite directions, and flipping out if left strapped in the stroller, makes me want to burst into tears. (Hey look! I have twins! Again.)
Chatting with the mom of one of Henry’s classmates, she asked if he was doing soccer this year. I said no. Obviously.
She went on to lament that she was dreading it this season…after all, last year the kids had practice twice a week, plus a weekend game. And practices were always right smack during dinner time.
“Wait. Did you just say practice twice a week? Last year? As in, these were KINDERGARTNERS?! Do Kindergartners need that much practice?!”
“Yup. Twice a week. And then games mostly ate up our Saturdays. By the time you got the kids ready, to the game, and the decompressing after the game/changing clothes/etc. it was afternoon.”
“Is this a competitive league? Club or something?”
“No. Just the basic thing through the City.”
Y’all. This slays me.
Look, I get the benefits of sports for children. Camaraderie, confidence, skills, and it keeps them out of trouble as they get older. I get it. Really.
But I don’t wanna. I just don’t wanna.
I realize I’m complaining, but seriously. How do you deal with dinnertime? Do you eat crazy early? Do you give kids snacks and eat late? Do you cook and then re-heat? Fast food twice a week? What about toddlers? Do you feed them separately altogether? What do you do with littler kids (who don’t do iPads yet) during all this practice time?
And if I keep holding out: will he be so far behind the other kids who have been playing since 2 that he’ll never play a game? What’s the point then? (P.S. I’m not interested in my children being the best. But if I’ve gotta do all this running around, it might as well include playing time.)
Gah. It stresses me out just thinking about it.
You see, the way we’ve established our family life is that we say no to things. Cut a corner here. Snip there. Find margin wherever we can. A self-employed husband who often travels means that life can get hectic, and so I go out of my way to find ways to keep things simple. And by simple, I don’t mean easy. We live in the suburbs of California, but I try to incorporate ways that remind my family that it’s not always about convenience, but about the process. I bake bread, I make my own laundry detergent, and we shop Farmer’s Markets. I also drive a gas-guzzling Suburban. It’s give and take.
Cultivating a simpler life doesn’t mean you lay around in a hammock all day gazing at your navel. But it does mean swimming against the current of society.
We don’t do it perfectly, but we do try. It’s a jumbled mess of an imperfect life, but it’s the one we love dearly.
This is all why I loved Tsh’s new book, Notes from a Blue Bike. Tsh and her family have lived an extraordinary life in a high-rise in Turkey, but now find themselves in a mostly traditional American life in Oregon. Tsh’s book explores the differences between life in slower paced cultures that value community and Time to Be, and the tension of moving back to the g0-go-go lifestyle that personifies America.
The book is filled with plenty of practical tips for slowing things down, but my favorite part is how she writes it all out for us. No shame. Tsh isn’t here to make you feel guilty for doing things the way you do or to bad mouth Americans. It’s not about selling all your possessions, buying a pair of Birkenstocks, and moving to a compound in the woods. It’s about simple ways she learned living abroad that can be adapted to life here.
It’s perfect timing for me as the kids get older and more vies for our attention and time. And our dinner.
I loved the book, and I love that I get to give away 5 copies! Just follow the Rafflecopter prompts below and I’ll choose 5 winners on Saturday, February 15.
But mostly, I want to know how your family handles sports and the impact it has on your lifestyle.
(Also, I admit that it doesn’t help that sports as a whole is not my cup of tea. I truly am uninterested. I don’t care how cute my kid looks in his uniform.)