Monthly Archives: June 2015

Our friends —the thousandaires —a reneging landlord, and a garage sale that was a total bust.

****I accidentally hit publish today before I had proofread and completed this draftoops! Sorry if you read the unfinished version. This one should be a tad more finished!

Let’s catch up.

First, my very good friend’s hubby won a hundred thousand dollars playing fantasy sports online. What?!?! And, although it couldn’t have come at a better time for them (they’re getting ready to move), or happen to more deserving people, I still find myself thinking:

Man, wish we’d won a hundred grand!

Or: Hmmmm…what could we spend that money on? Paying off loans? Downpayment on a new house? Me not having to work for a year? Vacation abroad?

Or, alternatively: Liam needs to get a new hobby—stat! Like, gambling online at paying fantasy sports sites! Sheesh.

During dinner, when I told Liam about our friends, he was like: Man, we need to catch a break. (Again, let’s be real, here. We are talking about first world problems. Our lives are pretty darn sweet, and we know it.) But, still…

After dinner, Liam opened up the mail. In the pile was a letter from our landlord. Usually the only mail he sends to us includes utility bills. As I was watching Liam read the handwritten note, I noticed that there were no bills included. I also saw him chuckling. I asked aloud, hopefully, thinking this might be our lucky break, “What? Is he going to give us the house for free because we’ve been such outstanding tenants?”

“Not exactly,” he replied. He passed me the letter so I could read it myself:

Kirstin and Liam,

This is a note to inform you that I will not furnish or maintain a lawn mower any more. You will have to supply your own mower. I will sell the present mower for $120.00 for your use.

Sincerely,

(Name Witheld to Protect the Old Guy)

Before I get into the heart of the letter, let me first tell you a bit about our lawn. Our house sits on a corner lot and it has a lot of grass. It takes us approximately two hours to mow the lawn on a riding mower, which came with the house. Up until now, apparently.

And now, let’s get to the mower. It is old. Rusty red. Every winter the front right tire goes flat and the battery dies. We need to start the battery with jumper cables from one of the cars each time we decide the lawn needs a trim, which, given our schedules these days is about once every two weeks. The grass gets to about mid-calf sometimes, depending on the amount of rainfall we receive. It can get embarrassing.

Also, the riding seat is a major hazard. The bolts and screws have come undone no matter how many times we have tightened them, glued them, duct-taped them, etc. So, one side of the seat is safely attached to the mower, but the other side is not. If you drive it too fast on an incline, you might get thrown. Ejected. You have to perfect your lean on this thing, much like a motorcycle rider has to when making steep turns. Suffice it to say, the mower is a piece of shit. Hardly worth $120 big ones.

Onto the letter. I can understand why the landlord, getting on in years himself—much like our dear mower—might not want to maintain the machine any longer. It’s a lot of work. But furnishing the mower no more? Come on, now. It’s not like somebody else is interested in the piece o’ crap. And selling it to us? Does he desperately need that money? I don’t know. All is know is this. I agreed with Liam when, after reading the letter, he exclaimed, “This isn’t the kind of break I was thinking about.”

I guess his response was better than mine. My idea was to draft the following:

Dear Mr. Landlord,

This is a note to inform you that we will no longer be maintaining or mowing the lawn. 

Sincerely,

Your Loving Tenants

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So, the much anticipated neighborhood garage sale was scheduled for this past Saturday. The garage sale that was going to bring in hundreds of people from all over the place. The sale that was going to bring in so much cash that it would pay for two weeks’ worth of groceries, and maybe even allow us to treat ourselves to a dinner out.

And then, it rained. Postponed until Sunday.

Flash to Sunday. We had maybe seven folks drop by our house. And that’s being generous. Our house was the only one on our street selling anything, so we weren’t bringing in the traffic flying solo. Even the egg roll ladyyes, she did show up asking if she could sell on our lawn (I said yes); and yes, she does indeed wear a t-shirt proudly identifying her as ‘The Egg Roll Lady’drove past, honked her horn and waved, and moved on to greener pastures, somewhere else in the neighborhood. To her credit, she did come back to the house at the end of the sale and offer us egg rolls. They weren’t free, but she gave us a discount.

We probably made close to $40. For someone who is already thin on patience, I found it hugely disappointing we didn’t do better. It took a lot out of me to block out the morningLiam’s only day off with us for awhileset out and organize clothing by size, and wait for the gawkers and hagglers to do their gawking and haggling. Had there been more people, we would have KILLED it. I’m sure.

Around noon, I decided to walk to a neighbor’s house a street away to buy pulled pork sandwiches for lunch. Liam advised against this since doing so would blow our meager profits. Whatever. They were delicious. He agreed.

When all was said and done, we were about five pairs of shoes and twenty-five articles of clothing lighter, made enough money to pay for lunch and egg rolls, and still had some left for about half a tank of gas and an iced coffee.

I’ve been talking with some of the neighbors about either trying to have another Saturday sale, or get rid of some things online. After all, we are still hoping for a lucky break of some kind.

Maybe the next sale will be it?

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Vacation withdrawal.

The kids and I just returned from a five-day whirlwind vacation to a lodge on a lake somewhere in Georgia, about a mile and a half outside of Atlanta, for a family reunion of sorts with my dad’s side of the family. Whew! That was a long sentence.

And although I was happy to arrive home last night to see Liam, get out of the car (we logged about 25+ hours in that thing), and have access once again to the Internet, I discovered this morning that I had a bad case of the post-vacation blahs.

The kind of blahs that happen when you wake up to ninety degrees of humid mugginess, but realize there’s no longer a lake in which to jump in and cool off. That there is no high quality leather furniture in your house upon which to recline and snooze while other people hold and care for your children. There are no other people to hold and care for your children. No sleeping in. No insta-Keurig-coffee-drinking while looking out floor-to-ceiling windows at the natural beauty that surrounds you. No walking with your sister for miles and chatting about whatever. No middle of the day boat rides. No family style meals and conversating with other adults.

Just some whiny-ass kids (whiny because they spent eleven hours on the road the day before and didn’t go to sleep until after ten, and woke up prematurely at six), and a home full of shit that needs laundering and unpacking.

Highlights of the trip (according to me):

  1. Using call signs Eagle One and Sparrow One with walkie-talkies among the two traveling vehicles.(Each time we stopped to fuel up, my lovely, but impatient father, would drive off to hit the road before all of the passengers traveling in our vehicle were inside and ready to go. Someone in our car would inevitably shout, “Eagle One is out! Eagle One is out!” Then, we would all have to clamber inside the car, buckle up, and peel out to keep up with my pops.)
  2. An early morning walk with my sister talking about everything. And nothing.
  3. A late evening solo swim.
  4. A village to help care for my kiddos while I was able to…wait for it…relax!
  5. Catching up with cousins I love and hadn’t seen in awhile.
  6. Watching my kids and their cousins and extended family play and interact together.
  7. No one drowned, wrecked, needed stitches, fell off of anything or down anything, cut or scraped themselves too badly, or got hit in the head by a wild-swinging golf club (there were many of these).
  8. Also, the ride on the road with six young kids went great!! They were super travelers!

The girls’ highlights (according to them, but with some editing and rephrasing by me):

  1. Eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch each morning for breakfast (they woke up earlier than I did and someone else always got them what they wanted).
  2. Lake swimming.
  3. Boat riding.
  4. Getting stung by a wasp (OK, this was definitely a low point for Nora, but still memorable).
  5. Having the freedom to roam between houses (and floors of houses), and pretty much do as they pleased with little adult supervision.
  6. Riding in a golf cart.
  7. Bathing in a giant jacuzzi tub that held four cousins and likely could’ve held two more!
  8. Eating Gigi’s birthday cake (we celebrated my dad’s mother’s 90th!)
  9. Watching movies in the car.
  10. Eating snacks in the car.

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I had these grand plans to carve out some quality time with my oldest since she and I don’t get much bonding time at home these days, what with two needier little ones about. Instead, I discovered she didn’t really need or want much mothering from me (apart from the whole wasp sting thing). She and I would spot one another from time to time on the grounds while she was playing about, and wave wildly at each other, or offer big smiles. And that was it. Instead of being sad about it all, I’ll just be proud of the little independent person she’s become and becoming, and take the moments, large and small, as they come.

And, in the meantime, I’ll be busy thinking about and planning our next vacation. Because I don’t think we will make it on our own this summer, without another one or two thrown in over the next eight weeks, during which we can once again take advantage of “our village” and a setting more serene than that which exists within the walls of our own home. ‘Cause things are pretty wild and crazy here right now.

Top five signs we are living among elves.

I’ve been collecting images on my camera of evidence of little elfish behavior in our home. I suspect the results are the work of elves because I never actually see or hear the little creatures going about their tasks. Instead, I am surprised by what I find. Sometimes I am mildly annoyed by what I see. Other times I am infuriated. Most times, though, I have to shake my head and laugh out loud at my discoveries. OK. So here we go, in no particular order.

#5: Every. Single. Time. I go to put the baby in either his car seat or his bouncy rocking chair, I find that someone, or some-two more likely, have fastened the buckles together. This one drives me crazy! Like I don’t have enough going on already. I finally get the baby ready to go out the door, lay him in his seat—after many, many minutes of schlepping out bags of random shite, and the two girls—only to find that I can’t get his damn arms inside the straps, because the elves have buckled them together! Grrrrrr.

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Trying to undo Mommy’s sanity, one freaking buckle at a time. (It’s working!)

#4: No matter how many times I remove the strings or hair ties I find attached to the puzzle cabinet doorknobs—essentially preventing the doors from opening—they always seem to reappear. Could be minutes, hours, or days later. This is one that falls into both the shaking my head and mildly annoying categories.
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Maybe one of our elves will be a girl scout one day. Or a sailor.

#3: I never know what kinds of things I am going to find in the various drawers in our home when I go to look for something or put something away. The other afternoon, after I had folded the laundry, I discovered these two babies, presumably napping, when I went to put the clothing away. Sorry to have disturbed you, babies!

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#2: This one is similar to #3. I guess I should have written, I never know what kinds of things I am going to find ANYWHERE. Like when I went to retrieve the camera bag and charger to get ready for our upcoming vacation to Georgia. I finally found the bag behind the rocking chair in my bedroom (it had gone missing from its spot on the desk), and this is what I discovered inside:

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Some felt bread and cheese, paired with a piece of lettuce, one mushroom, a pink plate, and a shakable jar of chocolate sprinkles.

And then, not to be outdone by the bigger pocket, I found hidden inside the battery compartment, two little wooden cookies, waiting to be devoured by someone at some time.

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And just last night, as I was adjusting my pillow, my hand stumbled upon a crumpled up paper airplane. I swiftly removed it from its hidey spot and tossed it on the floor.

The bed is actually a favorite dumping ground for our elves. I’ve been poked in the ass so many times by princess crowns, wooden veggies, and baby doll hands, I should almost be at the point now where I’m checking under the covers nightly like Fraulein Maria looking for spiders before the thunderstorm.

And the #1 sign we are living among elves: Stuff goes missing. All the time. When in doubt, we simply check one of the girls’ purses/tote bags/backpacks/baskets etc. Or, head down to the basement, where after a week or more of unsupervised play, treasures—among trash—abound.

Just this morning, I was searching for Nora’s backpack, in which to store some playthings for our trip. Again, when I finally located it, I had to dump out its contents to make space for the stuff I wanted to put in it. Among the stash—probably used for a recent make-believe game of school—was a pile of coins, several puzzle piece cubes, a James Joyce novel, some kind of prayer booklet, a stripey-orange stuffed armadillo, one sandal, and a bathing suit. Hmmmm. Must’ve been an interesting day at school.

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Flash Update: As I was typing out this post today, I had to take a break to retrieve the baby from his bouncy seat. After I did—and I mean IMMEDIATELY after—Frances, who was getting ready to come color with me at the table, said, “Hole on, mama. I be right dere.”

And for the first time, as I glanced back over my shoulder (I almost didn’t bother to look!), I finally witnessed one of the elves at work. I strode across the room in an effort to reach the camera in time and—SNAP! Gotcha, elf! Totally busted.

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Should I be worried that my children are likely already developing compulsive behaviors???

How many t-shirts should one man own? Really. Please tell me what’s reasonable.

My husband has seventy-two t-shirts. 72! (Yes, I counted). Granted, these include both long sleeve and short sleeve, as well as white undershirts. But still! He could wear a different t-shirt each day of the week for two-and-a-half months without having to do laundry. Ree-DIC-u-lous. Absolutely ridiculous. (Incidentally, when I point this kind of thing out to him, he always mentions how it’s kind of brilliant, given our tendency to fall behind with the laundry. What a wiseass.)

Now, I will be the first to admit that I love a good t-shirt. The super, super soft shirts. The ones you’ve had forever that are worn down just perfectly. The oversized ones that are great for sleeping in. The classic summer white tee. The tees that represent beloved sports teams or favorite vacation spots. I could go on, but I won’t. Because no one should own as many shirts as my hubs. As our four-year-old would say with a bunch of sass—seriously.

Here’s the thing. If we had a big house with a walk-in closet, or room in the bedroom for more than one DPP (dresser per person), I’d be OK with the outrageous number of shirts. But, as it is, we do not live in a mansion. We have a small house with two small closets and two small dressers which overflow way too easily.

Now, with the exception of the cloth diapers—Liam helps to wash these all the time, God love him—I do the laundry in the house. And, I fold and put away clothing too. Why is this significant?

Because when you try to stuff seventy-two clean t-shirts in drawers that are only meant to hold half that number, and you’re impatient like I am, you start to easily lose your shit when putting away the clean clothes. And then, you wind up doing wildly immature and nonsensical things when you, in fact, do lose your shit. Like throwing a stack of neatly folded tees into the deepest and darkest back corner of your husband’s closet, after you’ve asked him nicely, forty-six times, to please, for the love of all that’s holy, pare down the collection because it’s driving me INSANE. 

Every now and then he will start to look through the shirts in an attempt to get rid of a few, but he never does. The man doesn’t hang on to much, but he does love him some shirts.

Why does he feel the need to hang on to every running race shirt he’s ever received? I don’t know. Or all the sports ones, many of the same teams. Or the ones from all the pubs and taverns in every town he’s every lived and likely visited. If he’s so attached to the words on the shirts, surely some of the plain color tees could go out to the curb? Or bring us a buck or two in the upcoming yard sale? I mean, come on!

I’ll give him credit. A time or two he has removed some shirts and relocated them to a bin in the basement. His plan was to keep them on some kind of rotation. That never happened. 

I probably should just start sneaking some into the trash now and then when he isn’t looking. See if he misses them. I’ll only take from the way bottom of the drawer. Grab the ones that haven’t seen the light of day in a year or two. Because even in our darkest laundry moments, when I’ve neglected the growing mounds for well over a week—maybe two—the man still had two drawers nearly full of shirts. 

I mean, is this normal? Is this just a guy thing? If so, somebody please let me know, and I’ll try to be more tolerant. Or, find alternative spaces in our home in which to store the damn things. Or, alternative uses.

Off the top of my head, I’m thinking replacements for hand towels in the bathroom. Pillowcases maybe. Dish rags. Blankets for the girls’ baby dolls.

Guests in the home mention we are nearly out of toilet paper? Here, use this shirt. It’s OK. He’s got a duplicate. Yes, I know. Isn’t that silly, hanging on to two of the same shirt? Please, use it. Your ass will just love it. 

Keeping priorities straight: It’s not an easy thing for me to do.

When I started the ‘Roost’ back in January, the purpose of the blog was to create a space for intentional ‘daily’ writing practice. And also, maybe, along the way, to record some anecdotes for the good old family memory book.

The blog got off to a well enough start, but creativity and productivity have stalled somewhat in recent months. I guess that’s to be expected, given we have a new baby in the house. There’s really not a lot of free time during which I can just run off to the local coffee shop to sit and stew with my thoughts each day, typing away at the keys. What with swim lessons, and nursing sessions, and inconsistent nap schedules—and—have I mentioned I’m now a mother of five two-to-three days a week, since I’ve agreed to help my sister by caring for her two kids this summer? (They are actually quite pleasant and helpful, so, so far, it’s been a pretty nice arrangement).

I’m a person who thrives—creatively—only when she has time to herself. Moments of quiet in which to daydream, or simply, process. The moments don’t need to be very long, but they do need to happen. Otherwise, I get cranky. I feel stale and overwhelmed. Defeated. Which is how I feel now.

I find it terribly disappointing when 8:30 p.m. rolls around on any given day when I haven’t written, or at least thought of something to write for the blog. Because by that time, if it hasn’t gotten done, it’s just not going to happen. Sleep is way more necessary than writing is important right now.

The truth is, I probably do have time each day to write. I just don’t make it my top priority. I choose to spend my time doing other things instead, hoping I’ll be able to write later. Always later. How is it that the things that quite possibly nourish and fulfill us the most—in my case writing and exercise and meaningful time spent with my kids—get pushed to the side in lieu of other, less important, but still urgent-seeming tasks nonetheless?

It’s like I have this mental checklist of things I need to accomplish before I do the things that I find pleasurable. 

Take a walk with the kids in the morning to get fresh air and much needed endorphins to start the day? Nope, gotta start in on the growing laundry pile. Play house with the kids, or make art at the table? Not yet. Kitchen’s a mess. Gotta clean it up. Get out the computer and write while the kids nap? Or, better yet, take a nap myself? Are you kidding? That’s the only time I have to tidy up the place and run the vacuum across the floor.

Liam has always tried to help me see straight. “Sit down and rest. Does that [insert meaningless chore] really need to be done right now?” Of course it doesn’t. Don’t people always advise: The vacuuming can wait. Right? It will always be there.

That’s the problem! It will always be there! So, it needs to be taken care of! Immediately! Every time! 

For only when the floors are clean, the dishes put away, the laundry folded and stashed in dresser drawers, can I permit myself the space within which to write and create, go on walks, to sit down and breathe.

Pretty effed up, huh? This is the way I work. The way I rationalize and compartmentalize. It’s compulsive, I know. So, as life with three little ones is extremely messy and loud, and relatively inescapable, you can understand why it’s been awhile since I’ve written, and why the posts have been infrequent. I’m trying to work on the priority thing.

I’ve started setting the laptop on the table in the mornings as a gentle reminder that I should sit and write whenever I have the opportunity. And, I’ve been trying to carve out some time to play with the girls a bit each day, to let loose and just have fun with them both. And, to talk to, make smiley faces at, or simply stare at the baby (he’s getting so big!). I even let myself give in to reading a nearly 500-page John Grisham paperback this past weekend. It’s pretty much all I did from evening Friday until I finished it on Sunday afternoon, thanks to the hubs for picking up some major parenting slack.

I do know how to relax, you know. It’s just that I have to do about thirty-seven things first, before I’ll let myself cave. I’m working on reducing that number substantially, or simply being able to say to the girls, “You want to have a tea party for the next five hours straight? You got it! But what about that mess in the living room? Oh, don’t worry about that, sweeties. In fact, fuck it all! Who’s pouring first?”

Well, minus the whole ‘fuck it all’ part. I imagine that part I’ll say in my head. You get the point, though.

Heard around the house.

Me: Nora, what did you have for snack at school today?

Nora: Pretzels. They were yellow. Circles and sticks. They were gluten.

Me: You mean they were gluten-free?

Nora: No, I mean they were gluten, not free.

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Nora: Mama, have you ever seen or heard of a scooter without handles? ‘Cause I just saw a brown shirt boy riding by on a scooter without handles.

Me: Yeah, it’s called a skateboard.

Nora: Oh. (giggles)

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Me: Frances, where’s Baby?

Frances: (sadly) Dunno. Me lost her!

Me: Oh no! You did?

Frances: (looking around, spotting Baby) Me find her!

Me: Oh good! Where was she?

Frances: She hiding. Under book.

(Love me some cave girl speak!)

—————

Frances: I ludge you, mama.

Me: I ludge you too, Franny.

Anxiety episode # 12: One or more of the kids fall off a jungle gym, get kicked by an aggressive child on a swing, or slide incorrectly down the slide, thus requiring urgent medical care.

It’s summertime—or nearly, at least. And that means it’s time for parks and playgrounds and all kinds of outdoor fun, and accidents waiting to happen. At least, that’s my fear.

My husband and I took the kids to one of the local parks a few weeks ago to burn off some energy after dinner. At first, both girls stayed on the ‘toddler’ side of the playground—the side where I am able to play the role of relaxed mom—climbing up stairs and sliding down gradual, slow-moving slides. They crawled safely through tunnels and crossed a short bouncy bridge, all of which they handled nicely, considering there were no big kids running around and jostling them all about.

The big kids were all on the ‘big kid’ side of the playground (where my role shifts quickly to that of extremely uptight mom)—the side that the girls wanted to move to, of course, just moments after I had settled into an easy rhythm of bouncing the baby in the sling and joyfully watching the two of them play.

Now, I should say, that I am all about letting the girls take risks and be brave and build confidence when it comes to using and refining their gross motor skills while playing on playground equipment. It’s just that I can’t stand to actually watch them do it. It’s terrifying. I prefer to close my eyes, or simply look away, when things become too intense for me. Like, when my kid’s climbing the big rock structure, makes it all the way to the top, and then bounces around slightly with pride at her accomplishment. I, of course, just see her, in my mind, falling from the top and landing unconscious, or at the least needing stitches or even suffering from a concussion. 

Gratefully, I don’t say or even yell things at the kids, like that which I’m really thinking: “Oh sweet Jesus, get down from there this instant before you give your mother a heart attack or crack your skull on the pavement!” So, I think the kids are able to take risks and feel confident because I’m fairly good at hiding my fear. They do get quite a few Be carefuls! though. I’m working on this. I really am.

Still, when I see the girls tackling steep stairs or ladder rungs with lots of big kid bodily commotion around them, I am not able to look on fondly, watching them hold their ground; instead, I must hold my breath and count to ten and pray they don’t get pushed around and fall ass over teakettle off the jungle gym. Incidentally, why do playground designers deem it a good idea to build jungle gyms without side rails, especially on the way-up-top parts?

Another playground hazard is the running, or crossing in front of, high-swinging swingers. My kids love to do this. They either run from the swings without looking, or run toward the swings without looking, narrowly missing getting kicked in the face and knocked to the dirt every time. Although, I suppose if this were to happen, they’d likely be more careful about the placement of their wild bodies the next time they chose to dart to and fro across the mulch.

Once, about a year ago, I was at a different local park when the girls were even younger and less capable than they are now. We went to a playground where two other women were sitting on a bench while their two girls played. The girls looked to me to be about four years and eighteen months, not very much unlike the ages of my girls. The two women chatted busily away while the four-year-old and the toddler were on the jungle gym. The four-year-old spent much of the time carrying and lugging the toddler about, lifting her over obstacles and helping—well, forcing—her down the slide.

I looked on both in horror and amazement. I was horrified because at any moment the toddler could have fallen to her death and the mother—whichever one she was—seemed not to notice or care. And, I was amazed because at any moment the toddler could have fallen to her death and the mother seemed not to notice or care.

I wish—truly—that I could’ve been as trusting and unbothered by playground shenanigans as that mother was. Instead, I stayed near my toddler, helping her about when necessary, and not trusting her slightly older sister to do that for her. 

I think, if I do nothing else in my life, but can manage to relax even half as much as that mother that day in the park, I will have won at life. 

How is it that one mother can be so free from anxiety when her preschool daughter hefts her barely walking other daughter about many feet above the ground, precariously perching her on the edge many, many times, while another mother, faced with the same scenario, freaks out and only sees disaster at the end of the tunnel?

It’s a mystery to me, but I wish I could solve it, so I could apply some of its magic to rid me of my fears.

Most times I need only to remind myself of my own childhood experiences for reassurance. Like all the times I swung upside down on playground bars and then did a sort of flip-like dismount. Or the climbing of rickety old pine trees that took place behind my grandmother’s house with my cousins—which I’m sure no adults ever knew about. Or all the round off back handsprings, the diving board back flips, and the fierce games of playground dodgeball. Surely, if I didn’t break my neck from falling back then, I don’t really have all that much to worry about with my own kids, right? Right? 

That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself, like some kind of mantra, to prevent me from being a hovering helicopter parent, and to reassure myself that the kids will be all right. 

The kids will be all right. The kids will be all right. The kids will be all right!