This blog post can also be read on BlogHer at http://www.blogher.com/those-lazy-days-summer
In less than twenty four hours I will have my kitchen back and my quiet mornings with tea and the newspaper and my voice. You see, I lost my voice as I do every summer yelling at the kids to get ready, turn of the TV, stop Facebooking, Tweeting, IMing, texting (didn’t know those were verbs), clean up your room, pack your suitcase, don’t forget your bathing suit, unpack your suitcase, go outside, and have fun god dammit! I hate summer. I hate the lack of routine that requires me to fill their days and the guilt that comes with realizing I am not providing my children with a meaningful, life altering experience that will a) get them into the college of their choice and b) keep them out of my hair. My mother can’t relate. She just sent us out the door, poured herself another Tab and vodka, and spent the afternoon lounging around with friends. She loved summer.
I did too. When I was a child, slightly after the horse and buggy days as my teenage son jokes, I never expected my mother to entertain me, to organize my playdates, or even dane to suggest what might be “enriching.” Summers were not filled with volleyball, soccer, art, math, and sailing camps. Nor were they filled with trips to Hawaii, Europe, the Galapagos. Summers were filled with trying to figure out which lotion gave you the best tan (Bain de Soleil or plain old baby oil?), re-reading Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind, or the latest Stephen King, and wondering where the boys were. Summers were filled with creating neighborhood plays and water-balloon fights, and lemonade stands. I was never tutored in the summer to ensure I didn’t fall behind and I don’t really think I ever did. By mid-July I was bored. By August, I had read my fifteenth book and had the perfect tan. I’d caught crawdads in the stream down the hill and hiked all over the mountain above my town. I’d written my first collection of poems but not the last to end in the trash. I’d fought with my brother, teased my sister, and decided I’d learn to sew. I’d given up sewing and taken up guitar and learned all the words to all the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young songs. I’d watched the clouds and found dragons and birds and buildings floating up there and finally it was time and I couldn’t wait until school started. That was what summer was for, making you want to go to school again. Funny, things haven’t changed much for me. I can’t wait to get back to the routine so I can focus on my writing (my “school”) again.
My kids? They’ve spent the summer at soccer camp and sleep away camp and sailing camp. They’ve gone to Italy and New York and Lake Tahoe. They’ve worked with their SAT tutor and continued with their piano lessons. They’ve gone to movies and won tennis tournaments and tried kayaking. They’ve had a great summer. But each and everyone of their activities has required an activity of my own. I had to research the right camp, the cheapest plane fare, the best tutor. Then, I had to sign them up, pack them, drive them, watch them, cheer them, all the while wondering where’s my Tab and vodka and pondering how it is that my summer has become their vacation? Tomorrow when school starts, they’ll be complaining because they don’t want summer to end, they were never really bored enough.
Perhaps I’m not being fair. They’ve done many things without my constant attendance.
They’ve watched the Red Sox lose again on TV and designed the perfect iTunes playlist. They’ve written letters (letters!) and missed their friends. They’ve learned Guitar Hero and re-read the entire Twilight series. They’ve had their first boyfriend and started using deoderant and wondered what gave the safest tan (SPF 25 or 45?). They’ve skinned their knees and decided that Pluto deserves to be a planet no matter what the cosmologists say. They’ve counted shooting stars and watched fireworks and even complained of being bored but only when I told them to turn off the screen and on their brains. Maybe, just maybe, they are looking forward to school and only complaining for show. Maybe, just maybe, their summer was meaningful and life altering in a way I will never know and couldn’t have planned.
Ready or not, school starts tomorrow and we will be back to the routine. I’ll pack their lunches and kiss their tilted cheeks and sigh the sigh of relief, finally I too can get back to work. That is after I have had my tea and read my newspaper and found my voice.
One last note, Office Depot has been donating backpacks to needy children since 2001. To learn more about their program and how you can help, visit the Office Depot Foundation at http://www.officedepotfoundation.org/.