After a summer away adjusting to life in the sandwich generation and debating how to balance the blog and the new business, I decided that the blog was too therapeutic to ignore any longer. My thoughts the last few months have created a traffic jam in my brain, and the occasional leaks of incoherent ramblings ( I’m sorry, my friends who had to listen!) simply confirmed the necessity of regularly processing  my thoughts into words.

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It was a different sort of summer at our house, as the effects of children growing older altered our typical family plans. My family has a reunion over the fourth of July every year, but this year our immediate family was represented only by the mother-daughter contingent. Our 15 year old spent his first summer away working at a summer camp and our 12 year old and Dad had Boy Scout camp scheduled the week of July 4. It was a pleasant trip for the two of us, but bittersweet as I realized that our days of traveling there as a family are probably over, at least for the next few years. Talking with my aunts who grew up overseas and spent their high school years in boarding schools, I gained a whole new perspective on the concept of the empty nest.  “Why does everyone always say, “When they’re gone, they’re gone?” quipped one aunt. “Here we are!  We didn’t go anywhere!”

And, my son who was “gone” for the summer was really only gone  a week at a time, as we picked him up each Friday night and brought him home long enough  to sleep and wash his clothes and take him back again on Sunday.  I was truly amazed at how smoothly the transitions went and how naturally the family dynamics flowed back and forth with and without him in the house. It gave me hope that the transition to college, early or not, will be a positive experience.  We were also thrilled to see the independence and responsibility that he exhibited at camp.  Some of that has dissipated as he has been home for several weeks now, and I’m forced to ask myself – does he feel too safe and comfortable at home?  Will I have to be that mean mother bird that pushes her baby out of the nest? I hope not.

Summer, for me, always seems to be a time to slow down and reflect on the past year. I guess I’ve been in the educational mindset for so long that the new year for me begins in the fall. And so, as summer draws to a close, I am making my lists of all the things that I’ll do differently this year and all the activities that my kids and that we as a family need. My husband and I were fortunate enough to get a weekend away with time to talk about what our priorities are for each child and for us for the coming year.  As Ecclesiastes 3:1 states,” There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

The trick, as we all know, is not trying to fit every activity under heaven into this one season!

Hiking in the mountains in the snow – those who know me know this is not my idea of a good time. However, my Eagle Scout husband and newly inducted Scout son see it as a grand adventure.  And so the preparations began in earnest, as the tab for all the needed equipment escalated more rapidly than the National debt.

By Friday evening, all was in readiness for the pre-dawn Saturday morning departure. My husband went to help our daughter straighten her bed on its frame, but she soon came downstairs, saying “Dad needs you. It’s his back.” With my heart in my stomach, I went upstairs to find my husband lying flat on his back, unable to move. Not exactly where you want to be the night before a hiking trip with a bunch of Boy Scouts.

After a long soak in a hot bath and some pain medication, it was only minimally better.  By morning, he stiffly got ready and couldn’t even lean over to tie his shoes. I couldn’t imagine how he could hike six miles with a pack on his back, but he was determined since it was our son’s first big outing and the troop was counting on him. Another Scout mom lightheartedly remarked to me, “If they do have to tote him down the mountain on a stretcher, it will count toward their First Aid Merit Badge and will probably count as practice for the next camporee!!”  Small comfort, but I appreciated the humor.

This fierce determination to push himself is not his typical character, but then I realized what had happened.  Our roles have changed.  When our children were babies, I would be up multiple times in the night, rocking them and soothing away the pain and fear. Even when I didn’t “feel like it”, it was what I did because they needed me. Now they’ve been sleeping through the night for years, and most of the time would choose to hang out with Dad rather than spend time with me. I have seen my role shifting, but did not realize that I was trading places with my husband.  Now I am the one in the background, keeping the pieces together while he is in the forefront, providing the needed security.  He went, not because he wanted to, but because he knew he had to.  That I understand.

They returned this afternoon, tired and smelly and happier for the experience. And his back didn’t even hurt (much) while he was gone.