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A little over a year ago, I whined to anyone who would listen about how devastated I was when my younger daughter departed for college, leaving my husband and me with an empty nest. It’s hard to say this aloud, much less put it out there in writing, but I now have to confess that I don’t miss my kids. I don’t miss their clothes draped over the furniture, wet towels on the bathroom floor, inability to put dirty dishes into the dishwasher, lack of advance planning, limitless ability to spend money and hugely annoyed tones of voice when I happen to comment upon any of the above.

I don’t miss them as condescending young adults, quarrelsome teens, moody preteens, or temperamental little ones. I might possibly miss them a teensy bit as very small babies in the magical few moments after they started sleeping through the night and before they were old enough to whine, throw tantrums in the supermarket, make fart noises with their armpits, utter the words ”It’s not fair,” refuse to eat what’s served for dinner, fight about bedtime, think that if a joke is funny once, it must also be funny five hundred times later, and do any and all of the myriad other aggravating things that accompany each developmental stage. I don’t miss having to exercise the superhuman and entirely unnatural patience it takes to be a parent.

I don’t miss my kids when they aren’t around and, be honest, I bet you don’t miss your kids either.

It is mid-August, and children are returning to Scarsdale. Our village will once again shed its resemblance to a post-apocalyptic world in which everyone between the ages of 8 and 17 has been vaporized. Summer camp is ending, and teen tours are disembarking at JFK. Our legacy is returning to town and it is hard not to be ambivalent.

People in the rest of the world, the nation, the state, or even the county don’t necessarily ship their kids out for seven weeks every July and August. We do, and so do some fortunate folks in Miami, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, LA, and Buenos Aires. Even those parents among us who claim to regret the wholesale migration of our kids to Maine, New Hampshire, and Europe, nonetheless pay the tuition, label the tee shirts, and ship the duffels with a mounting sense of liberation as departure day draws near. Once we get rid of them for the first time at age 8 or 9 or 10, and they and we survive the experience, most of us can’t wait for the chance to get rid of them again.

The first time we send them off, we tell ourselves that camp will be good for them. And it turns out that, for the most part, camp is good for them. But their fun and the ways in which they mature away from us are not what make summer camp a luxury that we treat as a necessity. As good as a summer away is for our children, it is even better for us, their parents.

I can’t say with certainty what my kids miss about me when they are not home, but what they don’t miss about me is pretty damn obvious. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. I inquire (nag), offer (push), suggest (boss), comment (judge), and otherwise generally frustrate them as we try to navigate the treacherous waters of parent and child occupying the same space at the same time. I have long been exhausted by all that I do feel that I have to do, most of which is wrong in their eyes, and I now know myself to be relieved by their absence and restored by how much they love me and I love them when they are gone.

We work hard to become muscle-hard and match-ready to raise our kids according to whatever record breaking standard we set for ourselves. How many of us have felt like a pro at the stage of childhood or adolescence that has just ended, and a complete neophyte as to the challenges we are about to confront? We scramble to get up to speed, to whip our skill sets into shape as we buy advice books, attend parenting groups, confer with counselors, and take comfort from friends whose children have also transformed them in a matter of seconds from rational adults into screaming nutcases.

And then we quickly we tumble out of shape between parenting one child and the next. The ferocity with which we take on the issues the first time through doesn’t necessarily sustain us the second or third time we go out to run the race. “No, you may not watch three hours of TV, have candy for dinner, go to the mall alone, see a PG-13 movie (at age 6), or ride in a car with your friend who got his/her license yesterday/last week/last month,” somehow morph into fuzzier responses for a younger child.

How do we soften up so fast, when it has taken us years to get in shape in the first place? Maybe we persuade ourselves that, since the oldest child survived the scary parts of growing up, the younger ones will make it too. Possibly, we stop trying to compete to be the best parents, with the best children, because after a very short while we just don’t care about what other people think about us or our offspring. Mostly, I think, we get really, really tired.

I don’t have much parenting muscle anymore. In addition to being the mother of two college age women, I am grandma to three kids, ages five, eight, and ten. My younger daughter is only nine years older than my older grandson, which is another way of saying that I am not that far removed from my days of daily parenthood workouts. Nonetheless, I am woefully out of shape, a fact that was brought home to me last month when our three grandkids spent a week with my husband and me, without their parents.

It was grandparent boot camp. We raced around from morning until nighttime, trying to keep the kids entertained away from home, their friends, and their routines. By the end of the week, or to be frank, about midway through, we were all totally fried. That’s when the grandkids let down their guard and started freely misbehaving and my husband and I had to figure out if we still have the right stuff. We don’t.

We found ourselves digging our nails into our thighs as the kids roared in the back seat of the car. We couldn’t summon up the energy to employ the diversionary tactics we used when our own kids were small a few short years ago. After spending decades sticking a metaphorical sock in my mouth so that I didn’t use vulgarisms or curse words in front of my young daughters, I didn’t manage to get through six days of grandparenting before I heard myself say an expletive that would be bleeped on network television. A couple of hours later, my husband ostentatiously read emails on his blackberry while the kids took turns “tooting” noisily and intentionally (who knew this could be accomplished on cue?) to the horror of every other patron of an ice cream parlor because he didn’t feel, and wasn’t inclined to fake, the moral indignation required to shut down their scatological shenanigans. It’s a good thing we have those kids to ourselves for only one week a year. That’s just about how long we can hold it together, and we need the following 51 weeks to recover.

So, no, I don’t miss my kids when they are at college, or my grandkids when they are at home. I enjoy them – mostly anyhow – during our times together and then I enjoy the relaxation that follows their departure when I don’t have to be a parent or grandparent every moment of every day. You must know this too, as your kids are invading your home again, coming back from camp or trips, sucking up all the available oxygen that, for a few short weeks this summer, fueled your dinners out, your quiet Sundays reading the paper, your chance to watch R-rated movies, your guilt-free tennis matches and rounds of golf, and your opportunity to reconnect with the part of yourself that is not a mom or a dad.

Take heart. Love and enjoy them while they are home. You only have to survive 45 weeks until they leave again.

Stacey Brodsky has practiced law, taught middle school English and been a stay-at-home mom during the 18 years she, her husband and her children have lived in Scarsdale.

The Scarsdale Recreation Camp held a carnival night for the campers and their families at the Scarsdale Middle School on the evening of June 20th. Once held during the daytime, the camp stopped holding the carnival for a period of five to six years, then brought it back as a night time event last summer. According to Vicky Laoutaris, the nighttime setting was optimal because it allowed the carnival to become a family affair- the parents and siblings of the campers could go and have fun as well.

This year, seven to eight hundred people turned out, and once they arrived there were a number of activities to participate in. There was an array of booths for kids -- featuring face and spray paint to basketball and knock down the bottle games. The kids could choose to do Velcro Olympics, jump around in the bounce house, slide down the slide, or ascend the rock-climbing wall. While the Scarsdale rec campers participated in the activities, their parents had an opportunity to meet and interact with the staff.

Counselor in Training Tshara Barnes thought the carnival was a success. “It was pretty organized-the kids are having fun going around with their parents and introducing them to their counselors.”

Apologies in advance to everyone who is rushing to slather sunscreen on three children and pack up camp backpacks on their way to their job. In fact, don't read this. Please. When I was growing up my mother was a master at honing in on the child that was comfortably relaxing, minding their own business, and disrupting them.
Mom: Did you finish your homework?
Me: Yes.
Mom: Put away your laundry?
Me: Yes.
Mom: Did you start your book report? It's due next week.
Me: Yes.

This would go on until she would find something, anything, that I had not done.
Mom: Did you plant a vegetable garden?
Me: No.
Mom: Well maybe you shouldn't be laying around when there's stuff to be done.

And so began my difficulty with just doing nothing. To me relaxation equals laziness and irresponsibility.

I have a friend who can sit outside during the day and read for hours. Or nap. Of course she does a ton of stuff for her family, always has a fully stocked fridge and finished laundry. But she also gives herself permission to take those unaccounted for chunks of time to just "be." Even now, while my son is away at camp, and my "Have To’s" list is pretty sparse I have such an uneasy feeling doing nothing. After all, there's always a vegetable garden to plant.

Today is a good example. I booked a massage for this afternoon and have dinner plans with a girlfriend tonight. I don't have to wake up at a certain time or take care of a ton of stuff, but when I woke up, my inclination was to leap out of bed, shower, eat and get out the door. To go where?

Well, I'd find something to do. A trip to the post office or a return at Target. Or at least sit down and write all my Cool Mom Picks posts that I have waiting for me. Work on the weekly e-blast for my pool club. Call my surgeon about my upcoming ankle surgery. But I'm trying to, at least for one day, give myself permission to stay in bed. Watch America's Next Top Model (even though I never do). To relax over coffee and yes, maybe even read a my book. (Horns, by the way, which is fantastic).

And you know what? It's only 10:45 and I'm so uneasy. An endless loop of "You should be...you should be...you should be..." is playing in my head. So, I turn to my trusty, neglected, blog to try to exorcise these feelings by putting them into words.

It reminds me of a great All in the Family episode where the doctor tells Archie that he needs to relax. Not lose his temper. Everyone around him tries to help by trying desperately to not set him off. And in the end he can't handle it. Remaining calm and relaxing is not who he is. He needs his tirades to blow off steam.

Maybe relaxing is just too stressful for me. Or maybe learning to relax should be at the top of my "To Do" list today. What do you do to relax?

Read more at Gray Matter Matters:

Visitors can win one of three Fujifilm cameras at Van Cortlandt Manor’s River Day on Sunday, Aug. 1, by taking pictures and posting them on Flickr.com. The festival-style River Day, which takes place from 12-6 and is sponsored by Fujifilm, is devoted to the history and ecology of the area’s watershed. It features kayak rides, performances, and hands-on activities for all ages that teach children and adults about the area’s fragile watershed.

Visitors are encouraged to bring their cameras, capture the event, and post their best work on Flickr for a chance to win one of three Fuji cameras. Top prize is a Fujifilm FinePix HS-10. Two runners-up will win a Fujifilm FinePix Z700EXR.

River Day includes two theatrical performances. From 3-4pm, the Hudson River Ramblers will be performing “Once Upon the Hudson,” a tour of more than 400 years of river heritage in authentic songs and primary source based stories. Comprised of Jonathan Kruk, the raconteur renowned for telling “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and folksinger Rich Bala, the Hudson River Ramblers put on a rollicking show featuring a cast of characters that includes a mythical giant, a doomed explorer, an obsessed inventor, a humble general, a pirate, an imp, a “spitting devil,” and a mule named Sal.

From 2-3pm, the Arm-of-the-Sea theater group will be performing “City that Drinks the Mountain Sky.” The group uses poetry, lusciously painted puppet figures, and beautiful mask characters in this production.

Local tree service experts SavATree will be offering a wood-sawing activity throughout the day.

Hudson River Recreation will be performing kayak demonstrations during this celebration of the environment, allowing experienced kayakers to test drive new models while beginning kayakers can get their feet wet learning the sport.
“Both the Hudson River and the Croton River have been a source of commerce, travel, food, and recreation for centuries. Through games, workshops, and demonstrations, we’ll delve into the past and present uses, thoughts, and concerns about these rivers,” said Althea Corey, site director of Van Cortlandt Manor.
Costumed interpreters will demonstrate how 18th-century Hudson Valley residents performed such marine-related tasks as fishing and net making, and will demonstrate 18th-century tasks such as open-hearth cooking, coopering, brick making, and blacksmithing. Visitors will be encouraged to lend a hand.

Children's activities include tinsmithing, origami figures, pottery, bookmark making, and watercolor painting. Project WET organizes a children’s game called the Incredible Journey.

The Croton River, which empties into the Hudson River about a half-mile past the Manor House on the Van Cortlandt estate, was used in the 18th century as a dynamic water source, powering gristmills and sawmills. The Van Cortlandt family kept its boats moored just beyond their icehouse, enabling the transportation of people and goods down the Hudson River. Today, the Hudson River still carries great cargo ships to and from New York City and other stops along the way, but both rivers are also abundantly used for fishing and boating throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

Admission to River Day at Van Cortlandt Manor is $12 for adults; $10 for seniors; $6 for children 5-17; and free for children under 5 and HHV members. Tickets are available online at www.hudsonvalley.org . Van Cortlandt Manor, a Historic Hudson Valley site, is at 525 South Riverside Avenue (off Route 9) in Croton-on-Hudson. For information: 914-631-8200.

The Scarsdale Little League season came to an end when the top teams, the Angels and the Mariners played on June 21, 2010. The Mariners starting pitcher Jeff Lutzker pitched brilliantly, as did middle reliever Caleb Krohn and closer Jake Levitt, holding the high powered Angels offense to only two runs. The entire Mariners offense contributed with a solid hitting display that ended up producing 11 runs to capture the championship. The teams are comprised of sixth, seventh and eigth grade boys from the Scarsdale Middle School.

A large and supportive crowd was on hand to watch the game and to see the two teams shaking hands on the field at the end of the game. The mutual respect shown by these Middle School competitors served as a reminder that win or loose, they are all part of the community. Everybody felt like a winner in the final game.

Mariners Team List:

Andrew Fite
Jeffrey Lutzker
Quinton Landsberg
Erik Bostrom
Jake Levitt
Spencer Planit
Griffin Dunne
Caleb Krohn
Arthur Noulas
Alex Rakoff
Armaan Shah
Matthew Silfin
Preston Brehm
Alex Visnius

 

Coaches

Evan Noulas
Ira Silfin


All photos are provided by Jon Thaler. View more photos and purchase snapshots at: http://www.jonthaler.com/

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