Lovingly launching your kids through the school gates
Sorry, I meant to write “waving goodbye to a perfect summer." No idea how that happened.
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Barenaked Ladies voice It’s been … 77 days since my kids broke up for the summer holidays.
And, as I write this, 11 hours and 18 minutes until they’re back in school again.
But hey. Who’s counting?
Here’s the thing. We all know we shouldn’t wish away the last days of summer—calculating the remaining time until they’re finally standing awkwardly on the front doorstep, forcing out a smile, for that quintessential “first day back” photo. But you can’t help calendar-watch. I’ve had countless friends, from the UK, US and beyond, message to share their delight in being back on the school run, and having a clean, quiet home to return to.
I feel guilty thinking about it, and wrong writing about it. Because the number of summers we’ll spend with our kids is finite. Most parents will get the first 16, more or less. Some of the later ones might see your kids going elsewhere, or bringing a best friend come on holiday with you, or whatever the hell teenagers are doing over summer, of which I have frighteningly little idea (if anyone wants to write an essay about holidaying with teenagers, please hit me up.)
They get older. They always do. They move out. Maybe to a new city, a new country, even a new continent. They’ll spend time exploring what summer means on their own. But, if you do a good job during those early ones, they might be back more balmy evenings when they’re older. Not in their twenties, when they’ll clearly have more fun things to do, unless they’re broke and/or you’ve got a beautiful getaway home in Mykonos. But, when the time is right, you hope they’ll want to return and spend time with you again.
You start to say goodbye to summer as “time off” when you get your first job, and entirely leave that dream world behind when you have your first kid. Summer as you knew it—“off off”, lying in a lounger, working your way through a stack of books, waiting for the next hand-delivered watered-down mojito to be delivered to your exact location—those days are done. At least until they’re old enough to figure out summer on their own. To keep your sanity, you search for something new, amid searing heat.
Our summer was a good one. We saw family, friends, and spent quality time together. But it was too long, and too hot. My tl;dr: we went on holiday, my body realised it could finally rest, and it crashed out—hard. After a year of random ailments, inconclusive hospital visits and every kind of treatment, book and alternative therapy on back pain I could find, while away in Mallorca I admitted what had become crystal clear—long Covid had taken root. It wasn’t going without a fight.
When those closest to you tell you they’re worried about your health? You listen. So I got serious about what was going on inside. After falling down a Reddit rabbit hole (shoutout to r/covidlonghaulers for the most useful and insightful long Covid advice out there) I focused my time off on a simple idea: taking better care. I stopped drinking alcohol for a month, kicked a long-held caffeine addiction (surprisingly easier than expected, once you get beyond the second day of piercing headaches), and experimented with significant changes in diet, going gluten-free and low-histamine. I started a regimen of vitamins, supplements, and learning about microbiomes. If reading this is as boring to you as living it was for me, I’m doing my job: like that famous quote about giving up alcohol, “it won’t make you live longer. It’ll just feel like it.” But I took concrete steps to put my health first, and the results seem promising.
I thought I’d write a lot during this time off. In truth, the only time I did was one evening in England. I sat down with Padme and we kicked off our inaugural “Writing Club,” where we both sat silently for 15 minutes, me on the laptop, her with her pad and pen, and shared our stories at the end. Hers was about a beautiful dream world where unicorns and narwhals peacefully co-existed. Mine was a reflection on meeting a pair of uncles over the summer, and the unique perspective they can deliver on your history. Expect to see some form of that soon.
I was happy to come to the end of this summer vacation experiment with a memory of opening my laptop less than a dozen times, with most of those having nothing to do with work. Sadly, it has meant returning to an inbox filled with snoozed reminders and unanswered requests, and I’m slowly alt-tabbing my way between this week’s newsletter and that backlog. But it’s a small price to pay. This will be a summer the kids won’t forget. Neither will we. It provided ample opportunity (and necessity) to ask fundamental questions about how I’m doing, and where we’re going, along with enough drama, discussion and deliberation to keep this newsletter trucking on for a while.
I hope you all had a wonderful summer. Whether it was keeping older kids occupied or keeping little ones cool through those obscenely hot nights. You made it through. We all did. Bravo.
3 things to read this week
“The World Needs Uncles, Too” by Isaac Fitzgerland in Esquire. One of the best things I read on fatherhood over the break was this essay on one man’s decision not to have children, but how he has learned to show up for friends with kids differently. A few of you sent it to me because I’m sure it hit you in the same way it got me. “In certain ways, not having a child is a very selfish act on my part: it allows me great financial freedom, the ability to travel more and focus on my own life, instead of doing my damnedest to raise a healthy little one. But the non-selfish part of not having children for me is that I can literally show up for people who need the help, especially in this country where healthcare and finances don't make it easy to raise a child.”
“Three Single, Gay Dads Reflect on Fatherhood” by Alana Wise in NPR. A beautiful photo series with accompanying interviews with three dads sharing their surrogacy journies and the highs and lows of single-parent living.
“I Was Skeptical of Baby Gear. Then I Became a Dad” by Kevin Roose in the New York Times. Roose, long-time technology columnist for the NYT, dives deep into the baby gear scene, the marketing ploys of the Big Baby industry, and where your money is best spent. A great introduction to the terrifying world of everything you need to buy when you have a baby. Roose also helpfully shared a Google Doc of his recommendations, as he recasts himself as a “one-man Wirecutter” for baby gear.
One thing to watch with the kids this week
A big hit for us over the summer has been Kiri and Lou, streaming on BBC iPlayer in the UK and YouTube everywhere else. It’s a cute claymation show from New Zealand, and Kiri is voiced by Jermaine Clements, half of the iconic Flight of the Conchords duo. So, as you’d expect, it’s filled with nonsense songs that have become household favourites over these eleven weeks, with the kids constantly asking each other about their preference for "yum yum baronies.”
It’s good to be back in your inbox. By the time you read this, the kids will be at school. And I will exhale, at last. How was the newsletter this week? Your feedback helps me make this great.
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