Life can get heavy

reentry

Being an astronaut must be a hoot. Imagine living up in space where there are literally no rules! You can float around wherever you want, never have to eat Brussel sprouts and  essentially play video games to complete your missions. It would be a little like camp. Well, the good camps where no one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re finishing your vegetables and if you want to do archery for a half a day then just go for it. Showers? Nope. And you’re just hanging with your peeps, no parents in sight.

I understand the training to become an astronaut is pretty intense but so too is the build up to camp. When your kids are young they make you feel like the one night stay at Shady Pines half an hour from home, with 8 parent volunteers for 10 children, hot meals and a full bed in a cabin is akin to a month in the Gulag (look it up, it wasn’t good).  On drop-off day your carpet is sopping wet with a flooded mixture of tears and drool, and small clumps have been torn out by powerful little hands and scattered throughout your living room. As they get older time away from home moves from punishment to reward. One night can stretch into three, then seven, fourteen if they’re gamers and a full month if they’ve drunk the Kool-aid.

At that stage the whole thing changes.

Full-monthers, and full-monthers in their last year ever of being a camper before moving into a staff roll, are camp zealots. They count down the days until they can escape the boredom and monotony of regular life and get back to where life is full and rich and fun all the time. Bags are packed weeks in advance, goal-setting is sharp and directed and the list of must-do’s is longer than an NBA centre’s arm. Indeed, were university and careers attacked with the same vigour and energy of camp agendas there would be no such thing as recessions and we’d have solved climate change, world hunger and rid the world of disease.

Full-monthers live out each day in a routine that would impress most global militaries in such close proximity to their cabin mates that personal possessions no longer have any meaning and personal space is to be found in the outdoor latrines, and even that isn’t always the case. Time is measured in euchre games, sloppy joes, biweekly showers and campfire stories. Yes there are rules but when they’re enforced by people other than your parents they don’t seem quite as suffocating nor as unreasonable.

Life is rich indeed.

Which makes reentry so damn unpleasant. A camper’s home and their parents haven’t changed, but they have. Boy-o-boy. The freedoms and laughter that are a way of life when bunking with 8 people your own age are gone, replaced instead with little brothers (no further embellishments needed), mothers who remind you to sit straight and fathers who can’t seem to stop asking you to put away the peanut butter. Honestly. The weight of expectations in the ebb and flow of living with a family are heavy.

Astronauts describe returning to earth as an out of body experience where everything feels cumbersome, sluggish and overbearing. Their bodies are pulled down by gravity to the point where their tongues and lips feel unwieldy. Moving is a literally a drag. Maybe what parents of kids who love camp so desperately need are a retired astronaut to handle the immersion back to home life. Someone who can say, “I understand” at a truly meaningful level. Someone who can relate to that feeling that what was once so normal can feel so foreign. Someone who gets the practicality and freedom that comes from not having to shower.

Sometimes, life can get heavy.

I’m not sure I’d have the same reaction…

fly down

From a story material standpoint the best time of day to be at home is when the kids get back from school. The stuff literally writes itself.

Pointless

pointless

At first blush, this might seem super depressing. The reality was that this was a great starting point for a dinner discussion. My guess is that the notion of pointlessness came from an 11 year olds acknowledgement that Sunday evening feeds into Monday morning and with that the beginnings again of the weekly routine. More specifically, this means: get-up, go to school, eat a dinner that probably doesn’t make my top 5, go to bed. Repeat.

Of course each day is far more varied than that, a fact he granted after some further probing. I think this speaks more to the reality that as we grow it’s natural to question our place in life. What does it all mean? What is it’s purpose? What is my role in it all? Big questions that many adults probably can’t answer. We talked about family values, experiences, the importance of enjoying the moment and not just the end goal – all good stuff but did it resonate with the immediate feelings of a sixth grader? I’m not sure but it was a good chat never-the-less.

Making time to eat dinner together has oft been discussed as critical for all members of your family. Need a refresher? Try this story from Today’s Parent. Or this one from the Washington Post. Or how about visiting this site devoted to family dinner: The Family Dinner Project.

Enjoy tonight’s dinner and maybe even an engrossing chat about existentialism!

How’s your life?

hows-your-life

The other night as we were settling into bed my wife asked me, “How’s your life?”.  It was a fair question as we’ve both been running to keep up with our jobs, our kids and all the activities that go on between a family of four. It feels like we hardly ever see each other. I drew us smiling but I think the humour was tinged with a dose of frustration as time continues to march on at an alarming rate. September is always insane with back to school realities, fall sport and extra-curriculars starting up and generally trying to shake off the rust of summer. But this year October has stormed past us with the same break neck speed that September typically does. As I look ahead to this month, every single weekend is already booked. Most days of the week are filled. My iCal looks like a Lite Brite picture…

In the sage words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast.If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I stopped for a moment to do so, but I fell asleep. I’ll keep trying.

Going back to school after the break is tough.

backtoschool

Imagine you’ve just had two weeks off, spent time with friends and family, didn’t have to worry about rushing out in the morning or having to pack a lunch and your knapsack, played outside without a care in the world, watched too much TV, played too many video games and ate too much junk. Then, with the Christmas break over, you’ve got to go back to school and all the routines come flooding back. It probably is hard not to feel a little bleak about your future when rules and routines are the order of the day. I get it.

Eat, throw-up, repeat. Ahhh… the life of a lab.

labcrab

Yeah, so this is a great way to spend a couple of hours after school. Solution? Call in the special assistants and remove the apples by whatever means possible…

IMG_5260

And here’s a small gif created from the above sketches.  It turned out ok though I’m not crazy about the timing… Anyway here’s the lab in action!

indypuke3

You’ve done this, I know you’ve done this…

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crazy talkin'