I swear.... we moved to Mayberry.
And I mean that in the best possible way.
The boys have gotten into a routine after school. The girls are always at volleyball practice for the first few after-school hours, so the boys come home, grab a snack, do homework and whatever else I need them to do, and then they're gone.
They are back outside as fast as they can possibly be. They grab their bikes and that's it. I don't see them again until I hunt them down after I pick the girls up from practice. They ride up and down the street, or to the park that's a few blocks away, or to any number of friends' houses. If I don't spot them right away, I usually spot their bikes parked in front of someone's house - and it's never just one or two bikes. There's usually a whole pile of bikes and scooters with random footballs and hoodies nearby.
Today, a bunch of their friends showed up here, and then they all took off and disappeared. I heard them say something about going to the park. A little while later, there was a knock at my door. There was a man who looked vaguely familiar standing there, and he asked if his daughter was still here playing with Alex. I said no, that they had all taken off toward the park a little bit ago. He laughed, we introduced ourselves to each other, and then he said he was going to go to the park to get her for supper - so I asked him to send my boys back when he saw them. He smiled and waved as he got in his car and drove down the street. Sure enough they boys came zooming back a few minutes later. "Mom, did you need us?" I told them I just wanted them to check in with me and sent them back on their way again.
A little later, I looked out the kitchen window and saw them climbing the cottonwood tree and playing in the dirt.
All 3 of them were covered in filth from head to toe. I made them come inside one by one and actually gave them baths instead of letting them do it on their own - because I knew that there was no way that they were going to get the dirt out of their hair by themselves.
And then I scrubbed every inch of the bathroom, from top to bottom.
This is it. This is why we moved. This is the way that life is supposed to be - knowing that I can send my kids outside and not worry about them and they can play with their friends and have fun and get dirty and not be sitting inside with their noses stuck in a video game.
Sure, they get into arguments with each other while they're out running around. But you know what? They resolve it on their own. They know that if they have to come running to me to tattle or settle a fight, I'm going to make them come inside. They know that if anyone strange happens to approach them, they are to stick together and either come get me or get to a friend's house, whichever is closer. Same thing if someone gets hurt. They are learning to cooperate with each other and to look out for each other and to amuse themselves. They problem solve and brainstorm and meet new friends and play new versions of old games.
And they get to be kids. If that means that I have to scrub the bathroom every single day, I'm ok with it.