Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.
Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.
The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.
Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.
Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes
Robert Louis Stevenson
Ahhh, summer. There is something about the extended sunlight, the extra outdoors time, and the smell of chlorine mixed with vodka that brings out the very best in us. We stay up a little later, we get out of town for a while, and we get a welcome influx of Canadian visitors popping in for a night or two on their way to Disneyland. We are sun kissed, well rested, slightly tipsy, and ready for F.U.N.
That’s how I remember it, anyway. For me, family vacations are a little like giving birth. The moments of physical pain, screaming, and crying seem to magically disappear – and all that is left are the warm memories of love and togetherness. I am sure we had to football carry one or both children out of a fancy restaurant at some point. I am also fairly certain that a complete stranger approached our table to shame me because the kids were giggling too loudly in a lobby bathroom. It is entirely possible that we sent the kids to bed early (and without dinner) for fighting the very same night we returned home. And I know for certain that I spent an uncomfortable 24hrs working through a stomach bug when we returned. But even that memory is lined with silver, because who wouldn’t enjoy, at least at some level, some effortless post-vacation weightloss (or, five the hard way, as it’s known under my roof)!
What I do remember from our family trip to Carmel was our after-dinner walks to the 18th green, where we would let the dog and the children off their leashes to chase the wild turkeys across the fairway. I remember the daily 1:00-5:00pm time at the adults-only pool with Craig, while the kids were at the resort “camp”. I remember the sticky sweetness of s’more’s around the fire pit at night, and I remember two young ladies approaching us at breakfast one morning to tell us that a) we were the most loving and adorable couple at the pool the day before, b) that we were their relationship goals, c) did Craig have any single brothers, and d) that they thought we were even more adorable, when they saw us with Walter and the kids at dinner. I will never forget it; I felt so proud.
In some ways, summer can be a little stressful. The kids are out of school, and we are off of our regular routine. Also, the girls spend a lot more time together, which creates room for a lot more squabbling (like, a lot more). A couple of months ago, I was excited for the upcoming McGreggor / Mayweather fight – now I find I need such a break from the constant bickering that I can’t even sit down to enjoy Bachelors in Paradise, let alone a boxing match. The trade-off for summer fun definitely comes at the expense of our routine and good behavior. Yet, it is familiar enough for me to dismiss it as a phase, or at least somewhat normal. For me, the equity struggle between my kids is my own childhood with my sister staring back at me. For Craig, an only child who is prone to hyperbole, the sky is falling: we have failed as parents, and we are raising thankless, lawless brats! Only until fall, I assure him. And by then, the memories of scratched backs, slamming doors, and my own yelling will fade with the extra sunlight.
My selective memory, it seems, is not just relegated to time with the kids. Craig and I managed to squeeze in a week long trip to Ireland (without our little martial artists). It was an unforgettable adventure which included quality time with my extended family and friends, gorgeous countryside, and the friendliest most lovely people in the entire world. I remember my cousins beautiful fairytale wedding, complete with a castle. I remember the night we spent in Tipperary reconnecting with good friends. And I still tear up when I think about the quality time spent with my mum and dad, the carriage ride through the streets of Dublin with Craig, and the incredibly talented father/daughters band that we heard in a tiny pub in the tiny village of Kinnity.
Forgotten are the stressful moments driving 100km down sidewalk sized streets on the other side of the road, no less. Moments made worse by my gripping door handle, heavy breathing, and pumping the invisible passenger-side brakes. The stress that I endured during those car rides was nothing compared to the piled on anxiety felt by my husband, the driver. The distilled version of the trip, for him, was time spent in the car = divorce / time spent in the pub = marriage. You may be wondering why, if I am such a controlling hag in the car, didn’t I just drive? Because my brain is so fantastical that I simply could not grasp the concept of staying to the left. Every single time we pulled up to a corner, or a roundabout, or a highway on-ramp, I would simulate driving and pick my next move – and EVERY SINGLE TIME I failed and killed us all. So, we opted to teeter on the edge of divorce between villages and then erase any leftover tension at the local pub.
We arrived home from Ireland certain that the kids squabbling would signal the first and last time that a grandparent agreed to look after our barbarous, feral kittens for an entire week. Not that I would blame them. Age 4 and 6 is easier than age 3 and 5, but it is still far from being civilized. Especially during the very last week of constant togetherness before school starts. It wasn’t exactly an ideal setup, to say the least. We are, however, eternally grateful for the time away and fully recognize how hard it can be – particularly when you aren’t used to it.
The fighting didn’t magically disappear when we got home, either. In fact, I started to question my own theory about siblings, squabbling, and school being out. Shit, I thought to myself. Maybe Craig is right. Maybe we are raising violent, lawless kids! Then last night, just two days before school started back for both of them, we had huge win. Quinn was in line to get her face painted at her friends birthday party. The artist was legit, and creating the most beautiful unicorn and butterfly designs. So of course all of the children wanted one. I noticed Quinn waiting in line on and off, but was busy socializing with friends and didn’t pay much attention. It was just about time for us to head home, when Craig noticed Quinn sitting with the makeup artist getting her butterfly. He walked over to snap a photo of her, when the woman asked if Quinn was his daughter? Yes, he replied. She told Craig that Quinn waited 45mins for her turn, and that when she was about to sit down, Wrenn walked up and said she also wanted to get her face painted. Without missing a beat, Quinn asked the lady if her little sister could go in front of her? Sure, she said – but you will have to to the back of the line and wait again, since there are so many kids who have been patiently waiting. That’s fine, Quinn told her, and ushered Wrenn into the chair before heading to the back of the line. Quinn waited another 30mins before her turn. The artist told Craig that in 7 years of doing kids parties, she had never seen anything like it. We joked with the lady about how we were at our wits end with the sibling rivalry that has plagued our house over the last month, and how her story helped restore our faith in our ability to help guide our children, and our children’s ability to listen and act in ways that mirror our expectations of them.
This morning, I told Craig that sometimes my blog posts write themselves. Yesterday, I didn’t know how I was going to tie all of this together – then Quinn pulled the sister of the year card and I had my happy ending! In some ways, I wish I had pulled out my laptop last night to wrap this one up. In other ways, the photo below is a much better representation of the yin and yang of the family Fange. This is Quinn’s bedroom door, which Craig just unhinged after she slammed it 4 times in a row at the end of an argument….with her mortal enemy…her sister.
Tonight, I am raising my pint glass of fireball to both kids starting back up at school full time tomorrow. Who’s with me??