It’s that point in the summer. Camp is over, and my kids are sitting around arguing about whether Paul McCartney’s bare feet on the Abby Road cover prove that Paul is dead and that guy whose been collecting his royalties (and paying his alimony) all these years is just a big faker. By the way, did you know that you can listen to Beatles songs backwards on Youtube? That’s just one of the things I am learning from my ten-year-old these days.
It seems every August I write a blog post about how I feel called to both motherhood and writing, two callings that chafe quite a bit this time of year. This year the kids are quite a bit better at amusing themselves, though arguably, not always productively. (How many times does a responsible parent let their kids listen to the Beatles backwards?) And this year my desire for writing time comes not just from my own inner need, but also from the fact that I have a book coming out and more writing opportunities than in past summers. For example, the Washington Post Online On Faith section has invited me to write a guest column for September—a great opportunity, not just for me, but on behalf of Quakers, whose voice isn’t heard in the mainstream media that often. Unfortunately the only writing time I’m likely to get between now and when it’s due is early in the morning and on the car ride to Montreal next week, when it’s not my turn to drive.
The other annual August tension is between my children’s desire to buy crisp new school supplies and my desire not to waste money and trees by getting sucked into the consumer culture. We have at least eighty-four half used pencils at home, but the lists from the teachers recommend three new pencil packs per kid. My seventh grader wants mechanical pencils, arguing that they can be reused, though if they are reusable, I don’t see why she needs a pack of twenty of them. My fifth grader agrees to use some of the old pencils, but convinces me to buy him one new pack made from recycled cedar, which I’m glad to find in Target, though I know the newly touted recycled options aren’t as good for the environment as simply using up our old stuff would be. I am reminded of the panel on sustainability at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting last week, where speakers pointed out that our love for our children is poorly expressed if we continue to provide them with things that will ultimately destroy the planet they should rightfully inherit, a message that's been working in me ever since.
The good news is that I am calmer and more centered than Augusts when my kids were much younger. I have accepted the tensions and that all I can do is my best to live in them. I feel called to do more on the earthcare front, but even there I think it is a good tension, the kind that points in the direction we need to grow.