Random Jumble

Subtitle: Me. Recently, I’ve copied a couple of people’s blog post ideas (including a summer wish list of things to do: I mean to go back and mark it up like Damaris at bebeloo has done. Haven’t so far. I’ve managed to complete number 3—although I got soaked by a rainstorm while on my bike, it was indeed all the way into my shoes—and invited Remy and Saskia to go out into the rain, which they did to sheer delight. Afterwards, I gave them a warm bath, the whole thing blissfully fun. I completed number 8, but alas number 13, the blueberry picking at our friends’ didn’t happen due to birds and hot weather truncating their harvest “season.” I’ll write a whole post revisiting my list. Maybe.)

I aspire to write complete little (or too big) essays for this blog. I’m a writer and I like to write well. But this isn’t an essay; this post’s a window into the random jumble called my brain right now.

Up front: my little guy, the moody, shining seven year-old went off to overnight camp on Sunday. I’m exceedingly proud of him and equally delighted for him, because he’s chosen such a tremendous place to go, Journey’s End Farm Camp (click, go ahead, you’ll be ooh, wow). This camp has such resonance (for me) because it seems like a smaller, more homespun version of Farm and Wilderness camps (really, Journey’s End is its own thing). F&W was a game changer (for me).

To follow this post’s waywardness, I also attended Germantown Friends School and while I am not Quaker, I found the experience of attending two Quaker institutions very profound. That, too, deserves some thought (and its own essay).

Anyway, deep down, I know he’s doing great. Missing is its own thing, apart from the realities of a good kind of missing (boy at camp, surely having fun and possibly his own moments of missing his mama, papa, brothers and sister and pals) or a sadder kind of missing. This melancholy is part of the camp experience. Still, it turns out that missing one’s seven year-old is rather distracting.


Meantime, although it would seem that all we do is struggle over the tweenager’s middle school dilemma (not the case, in real life, more so if you read this blog regularly), we are working pretty hard to reframe the moments we struggle (read, tangle) most with him in order to figure out how best to parent him, so that we help him more (and ourselves, too).

Is there such a thing as a lazy kid? In a way, yes, lazing around, loafing on the couch maybe reading a book, that’s a real thing. In another way, no, what could be deemed laziness may more accurately describe a reluctance to show up. The pertinent question is why aren’t you willing to be more fully present? Are you afraid; are you lacking in self-confidence; are you unwilling to mess up? In moments of frustration, we forget that all those things are very likely at play for our fabulous, smart, empathetic, sensitive, and oft-times struggling guy.

Almost every day, I have one or more moments when I think to myself I’m not being the parent this kid needs and wonder whether I can become that, and wonder if becoming that means I—the mama who wishes to get out of the way of my kids’ tween and teen-ness—will be way more in there than I exactly want. If that’s what’s required, of course I want to do it (except during the moments when I don’t). My gut says “free-range” him more and then my gut says hold him close.

Since I’m train-of-thought following, I saw the movie Babies. One take-home message: we talk about benign neglect in this culture and we don’t begin to actually “get it.” The second thing I’ve been mulling, largely in connection with my tweenager, is how in some other cultures, kids grow up squarely in the orbit of their parents’ lives. Everyone’s worlds stop less for childhood and children are simply absorbed into plain old life. There is, in a way, less “parenting” (as in classes and schedules and special food and tons of stuff).

What if one thing my kid needs is just more time in my orbit? I made a potentially related observation recently: he’s really good with the toddler, especially when I leave him in charge of her.

Is an essay about this fermenting?


What else? I’m thinking about the critical nature of nurturing community in about ten iterations these days. Everything from sustainability and children’s theater that encourages literacy and a love of stories and the power of stories to change us and the aesthetic of prettiness in farming and of my beloved, quite-tender-today college and how the most concrete game-changer I personally gleaned from my F&W experience was its providing an introduction to Hampshire (I was invited by my sister’s counselor to stay with her when I visited). I’ve been a student and a staff person, a trustee and trustee spouse there, and was involved (a founding trustee) in the creation of its sweet neighbor, the Eric Carle Museum. I even worked at its other sweetest neighbor, the Children’s Center. I love this college.

When I feel this way, out of sorts (thus, sleepless), I tend to worry about all kinds of things that aren’t so fruitful, like is my writing “career” (even though that word doesn’t seem to apply) on track? How can I do better? I fret about whether I’ve attended to everything else enough. I think about how much too much I’ve taken on and wonder why and panic that I won’t do well enough by anything. That’s to say I spin a bit out of control, the worries swirling and fomenting. I don’t spin with the same panache I used to, though, that’s the very good news.


Oh, and about a hundred times I kid you not this past couple of weeks I’ve had some variation of this thought: why don’t they tell you when you have a baby that all the baby stuff is easy and the adolescence stuff is so hard? Then, as I am whining, I think about Katie Granju and know I want to meet challenges with joy, because even dealing with unmitigated annoyance is a gift. Although he might not want me quoting him, I loved my eldest beyond measure when, during a moment of struggle, he complained, “Adolescence is stupid.” He made me smile. I replied: It’s just a stupid thing everyone has to go through.

Enough said, huh?


But I have one more thing to add: over the same past couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded of how powerful friendships are, my nearest and dearest, my lovely upstairs’ neighbors in the wonderful thick of how comparatively leisurely twentysomething friendships are reminding me of that quality from my long ago pre-spouse and kids days, and even yesterday meeting a new friend I’ve known virtually and spoken with over the phone, writer Kyra Anderson. I want to tell myself one hundred times over these next two weeks to appreciate that incredible gift, friendship, one Remy’s receiving at camp, and me here.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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