M finished year one of kindergarten about a month ago and has been home with me and A for the summer. In the meantime I’ve picked up more work as a freelance writer from home, but not enough to justify childcare (and to be honest she’d probably be enraged at me if I stuck her in daycare at this point!).
It’s been… chaos. So much chaos. I’m not sure when I actually sleep anymore, because I’m up late working and then up early with the kids. I’ve been trying to get the house to a baseline of clean so we can actually like, go outside and stay there and not touch the house and make it messy again, but I clean one room and another falls apart. If I felt like I was casing my tail before, as a WAHM with a baby who used to be content playing by himself a bit and a kindergartener, I am running in even tighter, faster circles now that he’s in a big mama phase and she’s at home!
That idea that we only get 18 summers with our kids has been ringing in my ears, of course, as I wipe the table for the fourth time in an hour, wonder if I will ever weed my garden, and reluctantly hand over the tablet while A is napping so I can retreat to my office and attempt to write. I mark my summer days by the way my garden looks, and as of right now the thistles are starting to turn purple, the sage is spilling over its boundaries and the lupines have long gone to seed. My August garden is coming in; we’re going on vacation for three weeks in August, too, and I know when we come back that will feel like the end of the season.
I think about my own summers as a kid, and realize my parents foisted us off on their parents! One month each with each grandparent, maybe a week at camp and a week or two at home then it was back to school shopping and into the routine. Of course my sister and I were a bit older than my youngest, but my summers were magical because they were really a time to roam, to do something different from the norm. And meanwhile, I can’t get my kid outside on her own for more than two minutes because she’s afraid an eagle will fly off with her (seriously, thanks Mac Daddy).
I feel the pressure to make every day magical, acutely. Especially on the days when Mac Daddy comes home at 5 p.m. and M is in her underwear, A is in a diaper, we haven’t seen much of the light of day and I am tearing out my hair. What will my kids remember of this summer?
There have been magical days. One evening we were all sweaty and miserable and yelling at each other until Mac Daddy swooped us into the car, drove into the bush, and doled out empty ice cream containers we filled with wild blueberries. We boated to a tiny, empty beach on the hottest day of the season thus far and had a sliver of an island to ourselves till the sun went down. We walked to the firehall and climbed on all the trucks, we have made it to every summer reading club meeting at the library so far, we hiked down to the lakeshore with friends, we had a scavenger hunt, we went for a long bike ride, we’re going on a road trip, we have family pencilled in to visit us, too. Some of this is magical.
And we’ve spent the entire day inside. We’ve watched a lot of nature documentaries. I’ve yelled, and apologized, probably every single day. The kids have eaten ramen for lunch more often than I can count. I’ve kicked everyone out of the house the minute Mac Daddy gets home and out of his work clothes so I can have a moment of peace because I simply cannot handle one more MOM MOM MOM MOM! I came down with one summer cold, got over it, and woke up with another one two days later. Some of this is the polar opposite of magical.
I am, as with nearly everything else in parenting, trying to let go of the ideal. I look at friends with more kids than I have, who are somehow doing everything, and I feel less than, and I let it go. I look at our calendar and the stuff we aren’t doing, and I let it go. I look at the mess and let it go. I look at my deadlines and let them go (for the immediate moment, at least). Yes, I have 18 summers with my kids. But I have a whole lifetime with them, too, and the pressure of the perfect summer is not something worth putting on myself. In fall we’ll pick up a new routine, and we’ll have 18 more shots at that, too.
I know me, and I know that my ideal actually isn’t jam packing every single day with things to do. Sometimes I love that tablet for the hour of quiet it gives. Sometimes I want to throw it out and tell my kid to get out the freaking door. The true ideal is the compromise in between, to find what works for everyone, and to forget about the idea that every single moment of my kids’ lives is going to be spectacular.