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Where's the summer pause button?
Are your days sauntering and racing by at the same time?
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I’m writing to you from my back patio while sipping my second cup of coffee. (Happiness is when Rael leaves me a full second cup of coffee in the pot.) It’s all raggedy abundance around here. Weeds are going to seed in the garden and the birds like them as much as I like not worrying about them.
From July to September in Portland you believe in your cells that the sun will shine forever. I’m basking in denial, but I’m also aware that the days are slipping by. Does summer have a pause button?
The creeping desperation reminds me of the summers after my kids’ high school graduations. I tried to play it cool and give them space and relish the excitement of what was ahead, but I also wanted to clutch their legs and never let go. My brain screamed YOU ARE READY FOR THIS! SO AM I! 💃🏽 Also, DON’T GOOOOOOOOOOO 😩
Here’s(who I seem to quote constantly) in What I Will Be Without Her:
For the past 18 years I was highly conscious of not “losing myself” in my children, whatever that means. But what about all the ways we’ve found ourselves in them? Can we talk about that?
I’m not crying! I’ve got something in my eye!
ANYWAY. If you’re in the middle of a carefree summer, ignore me and my bittersweet nostalgia! Stop reading this and pour another glass of lemonade! Throw on your tank top and let those shoulders feel the sun! Unless you’re being blasted by heat wave in which case sip your lemonade in a lovely, air-conditioned room! Put on a sweater, for God sakes, it’s freezing in there!
But it’s okay if you feel a secret twinge of don’t-let-summer-end greediness, too.
My daughter’s home for the summer
Mirabai’s home and recovering from a grueling sophomore year, mental health-wise. I’m relieved she’s under our roof for a while because even with her cooperation and college health insurance, it’s been tough to support her long-distance.
Once they’re out of the house, it’s so damn hard to know when to let them manage the bureaucratic details vs. when (or if) to step in. Mirabai has had troubling symptoms since last Fall. I couldn’t figure out whether it was a turbulent-yet-normal storm of growth or a looming health crisis. I’m grateful Mirabai is so communicative, but I still couldn’t get the full picture via periodic late-night FaceTimes.
After much lost sleep and gut-checking and discussion with Rael, plus visits to her apartment from each of us — and with her permission — we got involved. Rael and she spoke more frequently and I called the college advice nurse to break through the red tape of setting up mental health appointments. Mirabai was able to take it from there.
By some miracle we’ve also managed to find her a good counselor in Portland for the summer, but that was a lucky break and only possible because we are able to pay out of pocket. (I’ll spare you a rant about accessibility to mental health care in America.)
It’ll take time for Mirabai to be Okay with a capital O. I’m worried, but a deep part of me is also sure she’ll get there. More than get there…I suspect she’s Leveling Up.
It’s not all hard work, there’s fun and reconnection happening too. Epic neighborhood walks, dinner with Mirabai’s old preschool teacher (now a dear friend) and a Lord of the Rings marathon, Extended DVDs OF COURSE, THERE ARE NO OTHER DVDs. Mirabai’s new sweetheart is here for a visit, which is a total delight.
This is her second summer at home, and the energy is so different this time. Last summer I made assumptions about College Mirabai based on High School During Lockdown Mirabai. Yeahhhhh that didn’t go well. This summer I’m in closer touch with her heart even though I don’t fully understand what’s happening in her head. There’s healthy space between us.called it “decoupling” and that feels right.
Rael and I are also better behaved in our fuller house. Last summer we were deep in empty nest adolescence and having a kid back home chafed a bit (the irony that we, not the college kid, were the more petulant ones). So far this summer, aside from annoyance about dishes again piling in the sink, it’s pretty relaxed. My heart explodes a little when I walk into the dining room and see my daughter hunched over a bowl of cereal and her phone. The only thing that could turn it up a notch would be if Sam were sitting there hunched over his cereal, too.
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My son’s out in the real world
Sam’s establishing himself in St. Paul as a COLLEGE GRADUATE (all caps = disbelief, not that he graduated, but that I’ve arrived at this moment in parenting). He’s getting his employment and apartment in order and wrestling with the lack of structure and unknown future. I watch him deal with these challenges and double over with pride. I also ache for how hard it is to make the transition from college to “real life.”
More irony: knowing the hard stuff is necessary for growth, yet wishing I could magically erase the hard stuff. Not really, but kind of. You know what I mean.
The world/economy/culture is so different than it was when I was his age. Perhaps that’s true for every generation, but it feels more so now. Perhaps that’s true for every generation, too. I wish I could transport him home for a few hours, cook him a good dinner, slip him a few bucks, and transport him back to Minnesota.
I came across two things that addressed how different things really are for young adults right now:
- and on
The introduction to You & Your Adult Child by Dr. Laurence Steinberg
I’m still reading You & Your Adult Child, so I’ll tell you more about the book in a future newsletter.
Speaking of good books, I gave Sam Your Turn: How to Be an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims as a graduation gift last year. If he didn’t want my eminently wise counsel about how it was “back in my day,” I hoped Julie’s steady guidance would comfort and encourage him. On a particularly thorny afternoon, I casually enquired as to whether he had read the book. 🤷🏽♀️ Immediate regret! It’s his journey! I should have let it be. Oh well. The book’s waiting on his shelf should he ever decide he needs it.
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I’m no longer the parent of teens 👀
Mirabai turned 20 earlier this month. I usually post gushing birthday tributes on Instagram, but I this year I still haven’t said anything. I’m dumbstruck!
20 is a big deal, especially now. Mirabai and my niece, Tess, have each talked about how turning 20 post-pandemic came with a distressing sense of dislocation that was hard to articulate.
They called it “going from 16 straight to 20.” Both felt catapulted from late teens straight into adulthood without the milestones to celebrate or experience to help them prepare. They described a culture that expects them to ignore this loss and just move on without addressing it. Well-meaning smalltalk from family friends — “how’s college going?” “what are you interested in doing?” — often leaves them unsure how to answer, so they stick to “fine” because it’s just easier for everyone.
It’s so important for us to recognize that some of our kids are feeling this. There’s no fixing it, but we can at least acknowledge their experience and sit with them as they work through it.
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A postscript to last week’s newsletter about my mail phobia
Finally, I want to thank you for your wise and gentle comments re: my mail phobia. I’m not saying misery loves company BUT you helped me feel less alone.
Something funny happened the day after I sent that newsletter. Three scary envelopes arrived in the mail: one from the Oregon tax authority and two from my health insurance carrier. Rael intercepted and opened them for me, and guess what was inside? MONEY. All three envelopes contained checks!!! THAT, my friends, is a message from the universe!!! 💸
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Have a gorgeous rest-of-today. If it’s too hot outside, think about having a Lord of the Rings marathon.
Do you have a college kid home for the summer? How’s it’s going?
Is it “midsummer” for you? Are you in summer mode or are you turning your attention toward all the Fall things? I just spoke to a friend whose kid is moving back to college the first week of August!
If your kid’s making their way in the real world, how’s that going? For them, but more, for you? Do you ever feel a secret urge to fix all their problems, even though you know that’s impossible and the last thing either of you needs?
Team Aragorn or Team Boromir? 🗡️
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