At the start of every summer I feel overly hopeful and enthusiastic. I decide that this summer I will be SUPER MOM and the kids and I will plan educational field trips and do crafts and science experiments and something about s’mores and water balloons and making memories!!! It will be just like summer camp at our house. We will totally Carpe Diem the whole summer long! But then summer starts, and I remember, swiftly, that with young children it is really quite hard to carpe fifteen minutes in a row – much less an entire diem. And then I remember that I forgot to actually think of any crafts and that blowing up water balloons and handing them to small people to throw at each other never ends well for anyone. The IDEA of family things is just so, so far from ACTUAL family things. So very far.
Last year, twelve minutes into the first day of summer, Craig walked into the kitchen and two of my three kids were crying and we’d already run out of fun summer activities. In twelve minutes. And so I looked at Craig and said, “You know what is so much better than “just like summer camp?” ACTUAL SUMMER CAMP.”
And so, off they went every morning while Craig and I stayed home to work. We picked them up each day at 3:00pm and we were really glad to see them — but I’ll just go ahead and mention that 3:00pm ’till bedtime is still a really long time, especially because our girls were in FIGHT CLUB MODE that summer. No happy moment left behind. All fighting, all day. All my signs that say LOVE WINS and WE BELONG TO EACH OTHER and all my standing on the couch and yelling “MOMMY IS TRYING TO START A LOVE REVOLUTION! GET. ON. THE. LOVE. TRAIN!” were completely ineffective. Nobody around here cares. They are AGAINST EACH OTHER, these people in my house.
And so Craig and I developed a summer sanity-keeping strategy, which included a daily yoga class for each of us while the kids were at camp. If I didn’t make it to yoga (which is what happened every day since I’m better at creating strategies than carrying them out) I’d do a little yoga video at home for a few minutes. Like four minutes. Mostly the lady would just say hello and I’d say hello and then I’d get bored and turn it off. But still, it counted. And so, when the kids got home and started fighting, Craig and I would look at each other and smile and take a deep breath together and say, “No problem. Totally not going to freak out. I am So Zen. So Zen.” This was our mantra all summer: “Totally not freaking out. I am So Zen.”
One day, as summer came to a close (which it does every year because Jesus loves us), Amma threw one of her tantrums that we lovingly refer to as “Amma-geddon.” Every once in a while, something goes terribly wrong in Amma’s life (like, Tish breathes too loudly) and Amma throws a tantrum that makes me feel like maybe a demon is actually being exorcised from her body. And when this happens, we place her in her room to go ahead and work it out. We live in Florida, but during these tantrums my parents often call from Virginia to ask how Amma’s doing. Because they can hear her. On this particular day, I let Amma yell in her room for a few minutes, and then I put on my riot gear, opened her door and said, “Honey, as soon as you calm down, I can start your time-out timer, and you’ll be able to join us again. You just need to stop freaking out first.”
And Amma yelled back at me- “I AM TOTALLY NOT FREAKING OUT. I AM SUZANNE!!! IIIIIII AMMMMMM SUUUUUUZAAAAAAAAAAANNNE!”
Suzanne. That’s what she thought we were saying all summer. I am Suzanne.
She didn’t even question it. She never said: why are are calling yourself Suzanne, mom? Why are you calling yourself Suzanne too, dad? Please God don’t let this be some kind of IQ test.
Yes. Absolutely, friends. You may borrow this mantra whenever you need it. Moms and dads and nannies and all the yelling children: Today — YOU ARE TOTALLY NOT FREAKING OUT. YOU. ARE. SUZANNE.
And just in case you’d like to put a face with the name, here’s Amma. This is what happened right after I called her “sassy.” I am still preparing the official transcript, but I believe she is saying: “I’m not sassy, girl, I’m not sassy. C’mon. What, what, what? Kick it. What? Word.”
I think maybe she wants to fight me. Whatever. I am Suzanne.
Originally published in 2013.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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