Guess what? Our summer is going really well. Really, really, well. So well that I am almost afraid to admit it for fear of jinxing things. I know! I can't believe it either. I've done so much complaining about summer in the past that I had pretty much resigned myself to another stress-filled 10 week roller coaster. But, something has happened here. A perfect mix of maturity and structure that is enabling us all to enjoy these long summer days.
The irony is that a ton of stuff has gone wrong, too. We've had a bee sting, a badly skinned knee, kids not going to sleep, a late night trip to the ER for an asthma attack, and a renewed fear of fireworks, among many other things. In fact, just yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone trying to fix a banking problem, then another hour deciphering why my new sensor wasn't connecting to my Nike + account and then, right after she fell asleep, Jane threw up.
All that and the normal summer annoyances, like kids who fight and no time to myself, complaints about what's for lunch and who gets to play at Grammy's, anxiety about new situations. Sunscreen. Bugs. The list goes on and on.
But none of that matters because what we do have is a typical summer. Kids who swim and play with other kids. Who can entertain each other and themselves. Enough of a routine to keep things sane and plenty of flexibility to have fun.
It is as if the atmosphere in our house has changed dramatically.
For years now I have been frantic and anxious. Wondering how to get through each day, worried about what new challenge would come up. Take last summer for example, Scott wouldn't put his head back in the water and Jane wasn't potty trained. I spent all summer stressing that he'd never make it through a full day of school in first grade and she'd never be able to start preschool still in diapers.
And all I'd hear from everyone around me was, "Aren't you glad to have time with your kids? They will be grown up soon enough and you will miss them. You should enjoy summer when you can relax." Except summer never felt relaxing at all. It was more about me trying to figure out how to get a break from the kids and how to get them to comply as it seemed they should.
The other day I was chatting with one of the moms at the playground next to the pool complex and I admitted that this summer is finally like I had always hoped it would be. I was explaining how Scott is now, after three previous summers at this same place, going in to swim lessons on his own. How Jane plays with other kids and barely even looks for me.
As we talked, the mom confided that she understood all too well. That her older, twin boys, had spent two years in an autistic support class. That she knew what I meant when I explained how I had felt self-conscious. Like all the other moms were wondering either what was wrong with my kid or why I was such an awful parent.
But time and understanding has not only changed the way I look at Scott but it has also allowed me to see myself more accurately. Just like everyone else. Doing the best I can. And because of that, I can now feel comfortable. I realize that we do fit in. That summer can be for us, too!
My book group just finished reading Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. While it certainly wasn't the best book I've read, I did relate to several of the characters. In particular I was drawn to the idea that these children of mine, the ones who hug me and tell me they love me 20 times a day, will soon be off in their own worlds. They will be much more interested and influenced by their peers and will no longer want me to hang out with them. While I know this is the natural order of things, it pains me to the core. Suddenly the idea that I am so lucky to have this time with them, to enjoy our summer with lots of free time, becomes crystal clear.
Perhaps I needed Scott to be in full day school last year to truly appreciate the summer. As I had suspected, I missed him. And possibly I also needed to grow up a bit myself, too. To see that even though racing for certain goals has merit, there are also times when not having high expectations, to just going with the flow, is equally valuable. Last year I vowed to embrace summer, but I couldn't force myself to do it. This year it is happening all on its own.
There are reminders everywhere that I should have a tiny baby to care for in addition to these two children of mine. That this summer was also supposed to be about welcoming a new member to our family. My heart hurts when I see sweet newborn babies. But then I refocus and look at my kids. The ones that are sporting tans and sun-bleached hair. Who are begging me to play with them.
And I feel fortunate once again.
To be their mother.
To have this time.
To create these memories for them and for myself.