Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spring Fever

I'm restless, lately. My days are busy, so much so that I've been finding it a bit overwhelming when the weekend, also, is filled with plans: a trip out of town to visit friends, an outing to "Family Camp" to toast marshmallows and watch fireworks while huddling around the fire to escape the freezing-cold temperatures. It's a relief, almost, when plans get cancelled due to the inevitable sickness of one of the children (in the last week and a half, for instance, there have been only two days when all four members of my family were healthy). But that relief is followed, almost instantly, by restlessness. I can smell other people's barbecues, hear their children playing on the lawn, and it feels like I'm missing something, that life is happening somewhere, out there, and I'm stuck inside reading magazines, grading essays, and stroking my children's feverish brows.

I never feel this way during the winter. Winter provides a splendid, blanket permission to do nothing. There is no pressure to seek excitement or fill the days with activity. I may be vaguely aware that other families are out there skiing or tobogganing, but mostly I'm content to shrug my shoulders at such madness. A cup of hot chocolate and a good round of Guitar Hero are all I need to keep me happy.

Spring, on the other hand, seems to transform me into a glum thirteen-year-old, cringing in embarrassment at the dullness of my life, even though there's no one around to see it except my inner audience of imaginary spectators, that group of old high-school frenemies who pop up in my consciousness now and then to pass judgment on the narrow predictability of my life.

Part of the problem, this year, is that we still have no grass. Our builder promised us sod and a paved driveway somewhere around the end of May, but as the end of May approaches with nothing but the occasional breeze to disturb the knee-high weeds surrounding our house, I'm becoming increasingly agitated. I can look out my windows at the outdoor world, but there's a sea of mud and weeds between me and it.

On the other side of that barrier lie the normal people: the ones whose children ride bikes up and down their paved driveways, whose backyards feature things like swingsets and decks. My children seem to share my own ineptitude for outdoor life: they can't quite seem to get the hang of their bicycles, preferring to squabble over whose turn it is to ride the toddler trike. They show up to the first soccer practice of the year, the only kids wearing plain runners instead of soccer cleats and shinpads. But oh wait, that's me again, the one for whom the world beyond my doorstep is a foreign land, one I visit from time to time, but without a map and not speaking the language.


Mimi said...

Ah. As I get older, I'm getting better at outdoors. I share your winter hibernation instinct, but this year (I have trouble believing this myself) Pynchon and I de-stumped, de-weeded, rototilled, topdressed, fertilized, and seeded our own super-nasty yard. It's like suddenly 1955 and we've become outdoor yard people.

It gets better every year -- I don't feel so defeated by the outdoors, by spring.

Anonymous said...

Having small children takes a lot out of us. When your kids are older you'll suddenly find yourself interested in yard stuff because they will be as well. I was just like you until my boys were over 5, and then mulch and all that goes with it suddenly got much more interesting. My boys LOVED dirt and frogs and all things outside and through their eyes I did as well.

Winter hibernation and cancellations? The best!
(Your) Anon

Beck said...

I fail at outside parenting, too. And I also cannot even handle the basics of having a decent looking lawn, although we have MORE than our fair share of kids' yard crap. I'll mail you some.

You know what made a big difference for me? Having places to SIT in the yard. A few comfortable lawn chairs, a lawn swing and kaboom, suddenly I'm MUCH happier outside - and then I can just bring a book outside while I keep an eye on the kids. Oh, and my kids have little mini metal detectors, which is I think the perfect outdoor accessory for the non-outdoorsy kid.

Mad said...

I bought a table for the back deck and now we sometimes eat dinner out there. MadDad treats these family picnics as if they were a torture designed solely to break him down.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

We don't have very many biting bugs here (except yellowjackets) & there's no humidity. I suspect that makes all the difference.

Nora said...

I totally know this feeling. I often feel like life is passing me by in the summer.

Bon said...

i am that parent, the one who says "you can't go outside. it might rain."

it's PEI in spring. it ALWAYS might rain.

Amelia said...

I loved, loved, loved this post. It so perfectly describes me...and my life.

Anonymous said...

After many years of living overseas in apartments, last summer was the first time I owned a yard. My kids, ages two and four, love to be outdoors, so although I am naturally bookish and generally lack enthusiam for most outdoor pursuits, I really got into planting and caring for the yard. This spring is no different.

If I have to supervise my kids' ourdoor play, I might as well be doing something productive at the same time. It simply drives me insane not having something to do while I watch them (I'm bored out of my mind after about five minutes). Now, while they swing on the play structure or ride their bikes, I do yard work. I can still keep an eye on what they are doing. And I'm surprised at how satisfying it is to have plants growing. Plus, work in the garden is a great way for me to not feel as thought the summer is passing my by without having to go more than a hundred feet of the house!


slouchy said...

I get this. I feel this overwhelming guilt during the summer if I (my kids) are not outside, doing, doing, enjoying, enjoying, active, active.


When I'd much rather be inside, reading. And I think Seven feels the same way.

So where does the pressure come from?