Look. We were bold in the Laying Down of Summer Plans. If I said that the kids have now successful built models of Frank Lloyd Wright's most enduring designs and written UN peace proclamations that they intend to take to the student government for resolutions in the fall and that our house had a brand new mural, I'd be lying.
I can't say the plans have backfired -- but one look at our house might make you think that the house itself has backfired somehow -- a mess of glue and nail polish and fallen Barbies and fabric and tools and blueberries and dog fur and DVD cases and bent books and lost iPods and some woe and some joy and some shouting of "Do you think I'm air conditioning the whole neighborhood?" and "Working hard? Let me tell you what hard work is...," and lots of smoke, depending on the wind (heard the news? some stuff is on fire) and dishes and laundry (smeared with asphalt from an old asphalt factory where the boys were on set for three days) and glue-hardened strings wrapped around balloons hanging in the breezelessway and wet swimwear and a random ab roller kind of thing and mismatched flipflops (my friend recently said, "I'm no going to call your place The Home of One Shoe. Look, there's one. There's another one. There's another.")
The front yard? Well, the garage was cleaned out, the babyish toys housed down to give away, and now they sit like refugees in a clump on the front lawn, which is home to a massive actual-size soccer goal bounce back decorated by a faded patch of lawn in front of it. There's the tired sprinkler that's supposed to bring that patch back. (Even the sprinkler knows it's over.)
And the yard itself is dotted with brightly colored soccer balls -- like some Easter egg hunt on steroids, that's been abandoned. See the metaphor -- our bloated hopes...
And do I sometimes want to abandon this quest myself? I do. I'd rather go out in victory like Bjorn Borg -- but sometimes you think, well, let's drink soda and watch 80s movies -- all day long.
But then I walk in and one kid is making something in the blender -- don't ask -- and another is reading Hounds of the Baskerville and saying that it's actually pretty good -- he's imagining Law and Downey Jr., fine by me -- and another is making a yarn ponytail and another says, "I know what I'm going to be for Halloween next year," and he goes on to explain that he's going to be a compass -- but -- get this -- a WORKING compass -- now THAT is an idea that could only come from the brutality of limited-screen-time, open-hours-on-end summer boredom bearing down on a child's soul -- and it's okay again. I don't know how the hell to help a child make himself into a walking compass, but it's going to be okay.