Yes, it's October. Yes, I last blogged in May. I guess this is what you call "writer's block". I find it hard to believe a whole summer passed, where I had hours of free time, and I did not blog even once. What was I doing all that time? I feel like I had a fun and productive summer, was busy, accomplished things......and yet, not a single blog entry. Yet, every time I committed myself to writing I got......nothing. It's not that there was nothing going on, or that I truly had nothing to write about, but I just couldn't make those "somethings" into a blog post. I can't explain it. But, here I am again, and I got an inspiration, and so I'm writing about it.
It really sucks when your kids grow up faster than you. I mean, I'm still a young mom (in my mind) and I still want to do all the fun "young mom" things with my kids. For instance, it's October and pumpkin patches are open and ready for fall fun! And we've been trying for a couple of weeks to find a time when all of us are free to take our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. Last year, we, quite literally, managed to squeeze out ONE hour of time when we could all be physically present at a local pumpkin patch. We took pictures, selected pumpkins, petted animals, and then the oldest child scurried off to work. This year, we've attempted a group text to keep up with who is available when, and so far, no dice. The oldest works varying shifts, so it's really a crap shoot if she'll be available at any given time. The second oldest goes to school three nights a week and works during the day. The next kid works a few nights a week, every weekend day, and goes to school during the day. The youngest works varying shifts, usually nights and weekends and goes to school during the day.
Last weekend, it was gorgeous and sunny and perfect for a pumpkin patch field trip. But my husband was on a hunting trip. For two days, I looked at the gorgeous fall colors and sunshine and longed for a trip of days gone by, when the whole family was under MY control, and we went to the pumpkin patch when I said so. Long gone are the days of mom being in charge. Now, everyone drives, has jobs and school and, truth be told, I don't even know where my kids are half the time! I never know who's going to be home for dinner (so I don't make dinner every night anymore) and sometimes I realize hours have gone by and I have no clue where my kids are, if they should be home, if I should be worried.
It seems so simple - a family outing. But it's NOT. Not anymore, and it's only going to get worse. Of course, I realize that the time will come (terrifyingly fast) when the kids will be on their own, with their own families, maybe not even living in close proximity. They might not come for Christmas or Thanksgiving. They'll go to Disneyland and on other vacations without me and I'll have to be satisfied with looking at pictures on social media and living vicariously through images. Sure, it's the circle of life. It's normal. But it sucks.
I still want to make caramel apples, and Halloween crafts, and decorate pumpkin cookies. I still want to dress them up and take them trick-or-treating. But they're "too old" for that. And who decides that anyway? The other day, daughter #3 asked me if we could have two bowls of candy this Halloween - one to give out to trick-or-treaters and one for the kids to eat while they're standing on the other side of the door, handing out treats. And why not? Wasn't that one of the most delightful parts of Halloween? Who doesn't love candy?
I broke out the Halloween decorations last weekend. I've been sick, so decorating has happened slowly, over several days. When the kids were little, I'd decorate the whole house all at once, while they were at school, so they could come home to the wonderland of whatever holiday was upcoming. As I looked through the Halloween decor, I realized so much of it was purchased haphazardly - these from the dollar store, this one from the craft store. Still others were homemade, but had seen better days. I made up a box of decorations I was ready to pass on and gave them to my oldest for her apartment. I really didn't have much sentimental attachment to many of the items. Some, like "Cauldron" have stories that make me cherish them, even though they are plastic icons of a commercial holiday. When my youngest was three, we stopped in a craft store to pick up a few Halloween supplies, likely for a school party. He spotted "Cauldron" - a black, plastic cauldron with fabric "flames" and an orange light that, when turned on, mimicked a flaming witch's cauldron. He was so transfixed with it that I shelled out the $16.99 for it. On the way home, he buckled it into its own seat belt and proceeded to tell it stories all the way home, always addressing it as "Cauldron". How can I NOT treasure that silly thing?
At work, I signed up to bring treats the week of Halloween, I chose that week specifically because I knew it would be a great excuse to make up all those themed treats I used to make when the kids were little. Sure, I might not be room mom at an elementary school party this year, but I can replicate it at the elementary school where I teach! And, even with those good intentions, I know the week will creep up on me, I'll be busy and tired, and all my Pinterest-worthy dreams of Halloween treat magnificence will fly out the window like a witch on a broomstick as I pick up chips and dip on my way to work in the morning.
I do realize there is a beacon of hope on the horizon. Grandkids! Surely some day, with four kids of my own, I will be delivered a couple of bouncing grandchildren. I will be able to relive the glory days of holidays with children all over again, make the messes, do the crafts, and then send them home so I can nap off a productive afternoon. But for now? It's the dark years. The dreaded time when your own kids are too old, or too busy, or just plain uninterested, in doing the holidays up like you used to, The chasm between busy mom and a mom with too much time on her hands, just waiting for the hands of time to click on the magical hour of grandparenthood. For now, I relish the time with my great-niece and nephews to get my "kid fix" but they live too far away.
So, whether we make it to the pumpkin patch or we take five minutes to take a quick family picture next to a gorgeous fall tree in a parking lot (if we can find five collaborative minutes to actually meet somewhere), Halloween will come and go. Thanksgiving will creep up, with its usual awkwardness of who's going to eat at which parent's house, and whether the other parent should make a big dinner if no one's going to be there. Christmas will come and we'll have long dispensed with our detailed list of "must do's" - watch Christmas movies, make cookies, drive around to see Christmas lights, go see a holiday show. Our long-standing tradition of dollar store shopping for each other has given way to kids with jobs and bigger bank accounts, therefore bigger presents. We'll face the pumpkin patch dilemma all over again when we try to find a time to get together to take Christmas card photos. Then again, last year, exasperated, I just asked everyone to send me their best selfie. We dispensed with the forced living-room session in bad lighting, me getting more irritated by the minute as the kids goofed around and no one looked at the camera. As much as I love my pictures, especially the rare photo of us all together, I love the memories more. Capturing them on film is just a bonus.
So, maybe we won't make it to the pumpkin patch together this year. Maybe, as in some years past, I'll just take the kids to the grocery store to pick out pumpkins and then hold an impromptu carving session at home. I don't even like carving pumpkins. Spending good money on a gourd just to carve it up and watch it mold on the front steps seems so inane to me. But I do it anyway, because it's TRADITION! And who am I to buck tradition?
Sometimes, new traditions need to be made. Or old traditions tossed. As much as I hate it, I'm not in control anymore. Truly, I never was. Life unfolds and spreads out like a pumpkin vine and people grow up and go their own ways. And there's not a thing I can do about it. Except enjoy every blessed minute.