Easing into Autumn, and Getting Older

Should I tell you that the word ease is a bit of misnomer, at least a few days ago? Last Friday, vicious rains began... the season only just ordained autumn and four days of ferocious rainstorms pelted our heads, winds throwing down tree branches like children playing pick-up sticks. This Tuesday a pocket of overcast sky-- but no rain-- drew me out of the house in the hopes of a quick walk. Quick indeed~ ten minutes later, two blocks from home (I was planning on doing circles around the neighborhood and doubling back, just in case...) the sky gave way and brought an initial torrent of rain, followed by sideways hail. Despite the rain it's been warm, so I was caught out with just a warm sweater and jeans. Running to an enormous Douglas Fir, I took shelter only to be swatted by dropping needled twigs. Finally, realizing that the pouring rain was not going to let up, I ran most of the way home, water flying down the driveways into the street creating puddles 4 inches deep or more.  Where the rain gutters rounded the corners on the rooftops, water gushed out over the sides, they  simply could not accommodate the sheer volume of water. Toward the end of my dash home, I stopped for a second to clear the storm drain at the bottom of our street, removing some debris and watching a torrent of water rush down from the top of our block. 

Once home, I had to pull down the shades and undress by the door... a dripping, soaked mess from head to toe. Only my underclothes were dry. Thank heavens for water heaters and hot showers! 

I've been walking as a way to get myself back into shape without, well, straining anything. My body has been talking to me a lot lately, telling me that I am not as young as I was ten years ago. Growing up for me means some soreness, a prescription of naproxen, and getting to bed earlier. It means being more thoughtful about what I'm eating and when. These are things my adult mind can manage and while the craving for junk food still rears its head from time to time, I'm easily satisfied with one chocolate chip walnut cookie or one small serving of Veggie Booty. Chips are not really welcome in the house, especially the barbeque ones-- they are kind of like that friend in high school that always seems to get you into trouble. Fun, but not worth it later.

Kiddo is also growing up a bit. We have nearly completed his second week of homework, which has gone well. We are in a season of learning how to manage his time; I've let go of telling him what to do and have made checklists for the morning and after school, which he uses-- in his way. He is learning that sometimes, when we don't get all of the morning checklist done because we forgot to make the bed after we saw our Legos-- well, you get the idea. Those tasks still must be done, even if it means they get done in the afternoon and we miss some play time or tv time. It's a life-long discipline, time management. If you play in the morning, and then take a lot of time unloading the backpack or dawdling over homework, then we don't have as much time to play later on. 

Frankly, I don't know how families of kids who have afterschool classes and lessons do it. Where is the play time? The down time? I am sure they have it, but I know that in our home, even with most of the housework and dinner prep done beforehand, it's a busy afternoon. 

Kiddo is feeling this, as well as the new bit of responsibility I've handed to him: getting himself, his folder and water bottle into class on time. After the first few weeks of hanging around and nearly walking him through it, I came to that realization that many parents do-- the one that makes us kind of feel bad, but understanding that it's time for the little bird to stretch his wings a bit: I removed myself from the situation. Now it's a kiss goodbye at the locker and a friendly post-it on his desk and I am gone. His teacher is wonderful and will tell me if he's coming in late, so we can help him adjust his morning routine if need be, but so far, so good. 

All of this is a lot for a kid, any kid. Like myself, Kiddo is often in his own head, easily distracted by friendly faces, and really wants to please. I remember walking to school in first grade, crossing a busy intersection twice, alone, and making my way to my classroom, to the cloak room.... Not that I think that was a great idea, nor am I ready to send Kiddo across any intersection solo, but I know that it's time for him to grow up a wee bit, to manage that part of his day and to get used to that. Now, is this a welcome change for my sweet boy? Not really, but c'mon-- I wasn't expecting him to shout "YES!" and pump his fist when I explained this to him. We all have to do hard things in life. For me, it's making myself walk even when it's crappy outside. For him, it's another step of growing a little more self-reliant. Stuff happens and we have to figure out how to deal with it. When I arrived to pick him up yesterday, he calmly explained that he'd forgotten to bring his lunchbox in from recess. We checked the lost and found first and then went out to the playground. "Do you put your lunchbox in the same place every day?" I asked. His eyes brightened. "I know where it is!" he shouted, leading the way to a small cluster of other forgotten lunchboxes. He is not the only one, and I praised him for 'having a same place to put it every day, that's a great idea'. 

At bedtime, though, that's when those heart truths are revealed. Last night, it was so clear that he was wiped out and sad. Changes can be hard. I told him how much he was growing up and that it was a lot of responsibility, and sometimes that's not easy.... and that the work of getting bigger isn't easy at all. Extra hugs and a kiss. Teary, tired little boys do not need to be told they are tired. "I want to play more" he complained. "Why don't you play in your dreams tonight? Have playful dreams." His reply was that he hadn't been having dreams, which meant that he was obviously exhausted and sleeping hard. "Well, maybe your brain needs a rest, so just think about playing and fun things before you go to sleep..." 

I could not solve the problem for him, but could offer empathy and the choice to enjoy his thoughts. Sometimes, that's all a person can do. 

This morning, though, was so good, it gives me hope. Looking out into the misty morning, Kiddo asked me "Mom, look at that blue jay." In our plum tree a scrub jay was diligently working to crack a nut. "Where's my friend, Mom? That bird?" I asked if he was referring to Sweetie Tweetie, the songs sparrow we named a couple  years ago. "Right there" I pointed out the window. Then, on the way to school, he stopped by the neighbor's yard to point out a spiderweb to me, a golden and brown orb weaver patiently waiting in the center. "Let's observe the spider for a minute, okay?" he asked. We had time and he commented on how beautiful the spider was. 

After dropping him off, I made my way through the neighborhoods at a brisk pace, over to Laurelhurst Park for a turn or two along the paths that border the expanses of muddy lawn and which travel around the pond. Pale lavender cyclamen had popped their heads up just above the grass line. The late white summer magnolias had crumpled in on themselves, the trees are beginning to turn. As I walked near the pond, the ruddy brown, scaly needles of the Cedars of Lebanon crunched under my feet. Only a handful of walkers and joggers were out this morning, so many of us wished each other a good morning and continued our huffing and puffing along, grateful for a morning without rain and avoiding the muddy spots or slippery leaves. 

Growing older means that my feet hurt more than they used to, but that the ache and the sweat feel good when one gets home. Another shower and then the discipline of getting housework done while the getting is good. As I type this, the sun is shining white through a large bank of clouds. They say we're in for a sunny afternoon. More goodness to come. 


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