Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Viktor Frankl summer plan

Summer is supposed to be a time of fun, relaxation, and merriment.  It doesn't seem like the time to invoke the name of Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust Survivor and author of the influential book, Man's Search for Meaning.

And yet.

And yet, here in the Miser Mom household, summer is not always the carefree and joyous time that it is for other families.  The upcoming summer doesn't threaten to be as overwhelmingly oppressive as the summer we took care of a troubled teenager (C-son), who turned our days and nights upside down and eventually left our home under police escort.  But even so, both of our boys have a heck of a lot more energy and a heck of a lot less impulse control than our daughters ever did.  Caring for them during the summer takes a lot of pre-planning, and it takes a lot of hands-on time.

And even with pre-planning and hands-on time, the boys can spiral into really rotten behaviors.  The swirl of stealing and other bad behavior that J-son got into two years ago during that time we still call The Horrible Week-- that swirl of behavior started in August 2013 when he was getting bored and looking for something to do.  The Something-To-Do he stumbled upon was Not Good Activities.  With time and energy and effort and drugs and locks and persistence we managed to drag him away from these, but the lure of Not Good Activities occasionally still beckons to him.

Compounding the boy-care problem is that my husband and I are each facing transitions of our own.  Me, I'm still climbing up out of a boggy cave of insanely mucky and intensive committee work, and I'm turning my face toward the glory of a sabbatical shining down upon me.  My husband, he's facing a retirement that officially begins June 30, a date we expected, but that is not entirely of his own choosing.  The transition to retirement has its own psychological challenges, and my husband is currently battling some of those particular dragons.

So the approach of summer creates a kind of an existential crisis for my family, particularly for the guys.   My husband wonders, will he throw away his last few bike-racing-years guarding hooligans?  My sons wonder if they will ever have money, or the ability to drive, or the kind of social lives they imagine that their friends have, or control over their own lives.  Even me, I wonder if I will finally have a chance to do math anytime soon, or whether I will have to wait until school begins to re-kick-start my research.   So we're not exactly saying, "Woo-hoo!  Beach, here we come!"  Instead, we prepare almost as though for hurricanes.   In spite of all my best attempts at bubbly-ness, the past few weeks of anticipating the end of school have been dreary and dreadful for my guys.

Enter Viktor Frankl.

Frankl wrote that the will to continue through rocky times (like camps, either concentration or tennis) follows from having a greater purpose in life.  To buoy up my guys, I've been interviewing them about what it is they want to get out of the summer.  I will be rounding this out by asking my daughters the same thing.  I've been taking Frankl's advice a step further, sharing the answers around the family, having us pledge to try to support one another in our goals.
  • My husband wants to race bikes.  He wants to train to the point of exhaustion, to throw himself into competition and camaraderie.  He also wants to learn Russian and to write a book and to go to coffee shops with friends.
  • J-son wants to get a job, to learn to box, to go to the library, to play Lacrosse, and to hang with his friends.
  • N-son wants to play with J-son, he wants to join a drum line, and he wants to ride his bike.
  • Our recent addition, Y, new to our city, wants to do local-county things: yard sale, go to Farmer's Markets, pick peaches. She also wants to prepare for her InterVarsity ministry.
  • I want to repair broken things around the house, and garden, and do some friggin' math.
I observe that nobody wants to clean the house or make dinner.  Notice that? So we'll all share in these chores.

Just knowing this, just naming our various aspirations out loud, it helps.  My husband and J-son were both surprised (in a good way) at each other's lists.  We are, perhaps, not quite as apprehensive and maybe even a bit excited about working on projects we all like.  We've worked with J-son on applying for jobs.  We've made a bit of time for my husband to ride his bike unto exhaustion.  The boys have planned meals they will cook.

The summer for us officially kicks off on Friday morning, when the boys wake up to their first day of of school-less-ness and my husband heads to army camp for two weeks.  I'll do my usual stint of solo parenting as the boys transition away from a daily institutional schedule into a self-determined calendar, and after that we'll figure out how to navigate the wide open, scary spaces of free time.  

1 comment:

  1. Proactive is a much better choice for living than reactive. Good job, Mom.