Oh, sister, it is THAT time of year. The one that gave us butterflies when we were kids, but now instills knots (gas?) in that herniated and slightly numb part of our stomach that’s just never felt the same since we ejected life out of our bodies. SUMMER.
Well, it sure didn’t take much time between Eid Al Fitr and becoming 24/7 caretaker/entertainment for our kiddos, but it has arrived, and exhaustion is the least of our problems. That can only ever be addressed after every snack has been eaten (Do growth spurts only happen in the summer? I cannot keep up with these groceries!), every pool visited until fingertips are raisined, and we’ve begged every girlfriend for a playdate so we don’t have to be alone with these animals.
Dread is a common theme for moms when it comes to summer, but a lot of that comes with pressure to “fill the void.” Lots of articles abound nowadays, telling us that the best thing for our kids is to be bored, let them figure it out and go tadpole fishing or biking through the neighborhood. But that was America 30 years ago when neighbors knew us and our parents, and phone calls reporting our escapades were made (pre cell phones) and Ammi knew what we did 4 blocks before we could reach her in time to present our defense. If you happen to live in Andi Griffith’s old neighborhood, congrats. The rest of us live in eerily quiet suburbia with an underlying threat of increasingly random acts of violence and freak accidents, as well as enough social media reports of real or threatened danger that no amount of Xanax will permit our kids out of sight outdoors. Totally not me. I often have no clue where my children are, and my mom crew will attest to it. Xanax is not involved.
So why is it that the anxiety of summer entertainment isn’t on my mind?
A) FACT: The kids are home for the summer. No negotiation unless they’re off to camp, which mine are not. They will be in my face all summer.
B) THOUGHT: I can streamline our lives to accommodate summer with sanity. I do not have to “make every moment count” or “stimulate their brains or they’ll shrivel up before the next grade and never attend an Ivy League or be a doctor/lawyer/engineer/MBA.”
C) EMOTION: Empowered and relieved
D) ACTION: This is the best part because the action here, is no action. Like, no more appointments, classes, meets, tournaments, competitions, spars. We are FREE! We play summer by the ear just like in the good old days.
E) RESULT: Less stress for me, more time, more MONEY for us (seriously, we were spending like $800/month on activities!), and a productive summer. “Productive” is relative, I know, because I am surrounded by a culture of Kumons and pushing kids into geniushood for some trophy I don’t know about. It wasn’t there when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure it’s still not, but nevertheless, there is a pressure “to do” and I’m pushing back “to let go” and witness what is produced.
The “let go” is an experiment I’ve coined “Opposite of My Life Challenge.” I started this right before Ramadan, which if you listen to the podcast, means I withdraw my kids from all their extracurriculars in order to conserve my fasting energy every Ramadan. I’ve accepted that part of mom life is to chauffeur children everywhere, but during Ramadan, it’s to the masjid and back, often a couple of times in the same day, and anything further is beyond me. With school falling during Ramadan this year, this was an even bigger challenge, so I had an epiphany: Why not just extend this hiatus of NOTHING EXTRA until the beginning of the next school year? I’m not going to every conference, rally, meetup, out of state or out of country emergency, and my kids don’t have to turn into Saleh, Messi, Bill Gates, or Yusrah Mardini THIS summer through all of the activities we’ve cultivated for them outside of our home. We don’t need to go to every party, every movie, every family wedding, or even on a summer vacation. Less is more because for the longest time, our more has brought less to our lives. Or, quite simply and in line with Scott Harrison, “What would the opposite of my life look like?” OML looks different for everyone, and it’s a good exercise to do, if only on paper.
My OML means I say “no” more, commit and spend less, and open more time up to opportunities at the end of my nose instead of at the end of my imagination. Those opportunities are my kids and my sanity, the latter sounding optimistic and unrealistic, but stay with me here. OML means I WILL be more available to my kids, and I WILL have to figure out how to react when they complain, “I’m so bored,” or demand “Watch me do this somersault (side roll, really) for the 76th time,” or retort, “I don’t NEED deodorant, Ammi. YOU need deoderant.” I’m choosing to be in their faces as much as they have to be in mine for A WHOLE SUMMER. And I’m going to enjoy every red hot second of it. Seriously, it’s triple digits where I live. I’m not outsourcing my kids to a coach or master or instructor of any kind until I just can’t stand the sheer enjoyment of 24/7 kids anymore. And I’m doing it without biting my lower lip until it bleeds.
I’m loving that my kids have to learn to use the thousand egg crates and sauce jars I’ve collected to make or break because their cherished electronics are not making appearances until the weekends. I love playdates, baking, swimming, watching movies together late into the night and sleeping in even later, visits to the grandparents, and yes, sending them off to the masjid with grandpa for ‘Isha so I don’t have to deal with bedtime. He can stay up with them until ungodly hours, God bless him. I didn’t have 3-4 activities where I had to show up and perform growing up, so I busied myself making toys I didn’t want to ask my parents for, writing books and spending time with the limited friends I was allowed to play with in my neighborhood. I read voraciously and did chores. I learned to pray with my grandmother, like ALL the prayers including every single sunnah and nafl prayer there is. That was up until college when my new religious friends were like, “Girl you only have to pray the fard,” Mindblown. We stayed up massaging Dadijan’s legs and hearing stories from her childhood in India, about all her kids (Ya Allah, she had 9), and our cousins we’d never met. These were nights of routine family affairs and interactions I’ve lacked for a long time with the little family I’ve helped make.
Reframing my thoughts (that annoyed and exhausted voice in my head) on summer is helping reframe my lifestyle. It’s slowing me down, letting me bask in the limited days I have with my children who are daily outgrowing their clothes (but I’ll be damned if I buy any new ones before August!) and emptying my pantry, hugging me around my waist and increasingly at shoulder level. My kids are already figuring out that boredom isn’t an option because I’ll just assign them a new surah to memorize or dole out a fresh new chore. OML is making me OMG at the time I have when I do a lot less. OML is helping me check my anger and frustration at a kids’ insistence on showing me his loose tooth as he’s pulling it, another kid’s 4pm temper tantrum, and a whole lot of wet carpet upstairs that no one can explain (we’re potty trained and the ceiling doesn’t leak). When there’s less on our plates, we don’t feel the stress of schedules and commitments as much, so we lash out at each other less.
The boys came to me at bedtime (I won’t share what time this is at our house in the summer) to verify a “crazy history Dada is telling us. Is it true that Eve was created from Adam’s RIB?!?!?” I would have read them a book, some story on sharing, something with a moral with cute fake characters and bright pictures. Instead, grandpa knew to teach them our story, our beliefs, Allah’s Word, because at his age, he knows that slowing down is when we have time for what matters most. That was the OML until now. To summer and achieving the OML we all deserve.