Earlier this week I submitted a proposal for internal summer research funding. The project is great and interesting and I do look forward to digging into the data and teaching students the satisfying feeling of coding up a publication quality graphic in MATLAB like I have done in the past. I do love data and numbers and analysis and finding the signal in the noise. The discussions and the frustration and the random cupcake runs on Friday afternoons, you know, science stuff.
But I must admit to feeling very ambivalent about working this summer. Last summer, I was home with the kids. We did swim team, which in retrospect was a very very good thing because the unstructured time I was so looking forward to was kind of a shitshow. The aftermath of Wes's third grade year followed us into the summer, and even all the way to Maine, our happy place. Wes and James could not be within three feet of each other without a loud, irrational fight breaking out. We went to therapy, we went to the psychiatrist, we tried meds, we had porch beers at night while they duked it out inside because DAMN. But swim team practice mornings were quiet and happy. We all had friends to hang out with, including me, and sometimes those mornings bled into the afternoon when we moved to one friend's neighborhood pool or another, armed with a couple of pizzas and a few bottles of sunscreen. Those parts were nice.
Now that Charley is in sixth grade I can feel the passage of time in a new and visceral way. Facebook memory posts of chubby little baby Toy Story characters in strollers take my breath away. That same kid wants to be a "zombie with bloody fangs" which is good and normal. But what really gets me is how relaxed and happy they are. Huge, easy smiles, arms casually slung over each other's shoulders. We lost that last year. And even though the kids can now be in the same room without literal bloodshed, that easy brother harmony has not come back. Is this part of growing up? Or is this just one more thing?
So I guess the reason I'm ambivalent about working this summer is because it is in conflict with my desire to pack all the kids up and go hike the Appalachian Trail, or sail from Texas to Nova Scotia, or throw on backpacks and visit every castle in Ireland, or otherwise RUN THE EFF AWAY from whatever is causing this, THING, this growing up, this fighting, this irritability, this third grade monster that has been chasing us for so long.
I'm really very tired.
But at least we can still paint kitty cat faces on ourselves with pudding.