The kids are always all right

“I don’t think I can make it,” my four-year-old said, perched aside a steep sand dune. The sand was soft and our feet dug into the mini-mountain in an effort to cleave, lest we fall to our deaths.

“Lou, we’re literally at the top.”

It was true. I stood not three feet above where she sat, red-faced and in her bathing suit. Two more steps and she’d be there with me, looking at what I saw: blue sky, such blue sky, and hills, mountains of sand. Miles and miles of dunes. I turned around and caught a view for the first time.

All I could muster was a breathy “Wow.”

This summer. Oh, a long sabbath. We swam in Lake Huron’s 59-degree water, then Lake Michigan’s 60-degree water. We climbed dunes. Later, when ocean-like waves knocked us over in Muskegon on a red-flag day, the 70-degree water felt like hot springs. We slept in tents; s’mores, sandy sleeping bags; we did every-Michigan-thing.


We had a July.

Yesterday, the first of August, I sat under a tree at a local park’s beach and watched the girls swim and swim for two hours. Whoa — this is the childhood I wanted them to have, I thought. I would’ve chosen all this: I wouldn’t change a bit of it — family, friends, church; our sweet house with its sidewalks and our neighborhood cookouts.

Two kinds of anxiety threaten this shalom: the first, that generic peer-pressure anxiety that my kids haven’t spent the summer taking French lessons or picking up a tuba (mainly because Violet would be crushed under its weight). This passes quickly; I’m nostalgic for the barefoot, Popsicle, bicycles kind of summer of the late 1980s and I express this nostalgia through forcing boredom on my kids. Builds character.

The second anxiety is the real kind: the kind that hums on a low frequency, then ramps up to teeth-clenching when something major happens, like I have an overdue library book or the kids whine that I didn’t buy enough salami. Forgive me for thinking about heart disease.

This kind can be a beast, growling that my kids’ summers (or their lives) will be ruined because of this anxiety. But yesterday on that lake’s beach I watched the girls digging for tiny clamshells and splashing their friends, and I thought — no, actually. I would choose this. This is good. This is really good. 

This crescendo of reality wasn’t unlike the moment my brain began to interpret what miles and miles of sand dunes actually looks like, feels like, sounds like. I’d only seen pictures: I hadn’t known that wonder existed. And we’re living it. Wonder after wonder; grace after grace.


Other words:


  • Into jazz? I got to interview Rodney Whitaker, director of jazz studies at Michigan State. My favorite part was when I’d switched the recorder off and put away my notebook and he asked me there at the coffee shop’s window seat: “So, where’s this going?” “This article?” I asked, confused after we’d just spent more than an hour talking jazz. “No, no. This writing thing. Your career. Where’s this going?” The man is a musical genius, but he’s also a mentor. People said “he gives and gives.” He does.
  • And I was over at ALTARWORK — a really impressive curation of Christian artists of all media sharing their work. I’m geeked to be there. Check it


2 thoughts on “The kids are always all right

  • Erin,

    Great blog! What is summer really about–through the eyes of children and a loving mother!

    Yesterday, I forwarded your blog address to one of the students at Catholic Theological Union. She is a wonderful woman in her late 20s–who spent two-and-a-half years in West Africa as a lay missionary and exchange student, is finishing her theology/ministry studies by Christmas, got engaged to a wonderful guy last Easter, and planning to work in a cluster of Catholic parishes (as a husband-wife team) in eastern Kentucky. I thought she might appreciate your blogs. I also told her about your upcoming book.

    I returned on Saturday from 12 engaging days of work in Holland with a couple teams of women and men from around the world. I leave this Sunday for 6 weeks in S. Korea and Australia. I don’t actually like to be gone so much, but these are all great opportunities, and “this is the time”!

    Take care, Erin.

    Love and prayers,


    • Roger, the travels do sound exhausting yet amazing. I hope we get to sit down soon and talk about the highlights. Thanks for your kind words and passing the address along to the (busy!) student. Safe travels! Love, Erin

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