I try not to be jealous of my kids, but this time I cannot resist. Summer is coming and I can’t help but miss my youth the most this time of the year.
My eldest daughter “graduates” kindergarten next week. Then she’ll escape the grasp of the educational system and be released back into the wild, where essentially we’re the only ones responsible for keeping her entertained. This will be a challenge. Because although her schedule will change completely, her parents’ schedule will not.
Summer for us nowadays aren’t much different than any other time of the year. We get up five days a week, get ready and go to work. We come home exhausted, feed and spend time with our children, put them to bed and get ready to do it all over again the next day. Weekends revolve around errands and a never-ending to-do list that never gets accomplished. This is just life, 12 months out of the year.
I miss the days when that wasn’t the case, and with two daughters in the early stages of their education (my youngest starts preschool in the fall), we’re just starting to see what summer means to kids again.
After my eldest’s graduation, she’ll be off, handed back to us, for three months. No more homework after dinner, projects to plan and responsibilities handed to her outside of the house.
We got so used to knowing she’d be challenged intellectually every day by her teachers, and physically by her friends on the playground. We enjoyed knowing she was learning how to become social around her peers, discovering how to be both a leader and a follower, while deciphering the difference between right and wrong in scenarios we cannot build in the home.
Now that falls back on us, and while it never was fully out of our hands during the school year, the pressure felt lifted the last nine months, even if just slightly.
I’ll try to be patient when those dreadful words come out of her mouth: “I’m bored.” I’ll try avoid the urge to teach my 5-year-old how to mow the lawn, or my desire to produce the longest list of chores I’ve ever made in my life for her. I’ll try to remember that at one point we all did this, and that it’s my job as her parent to keep progressing her abilities in the months she’s “off.” Because when you’re raising kids, there is no “off.” Every day is a lesson.
I’m already thinking of ways to keep her — well both of my kids, actually — occupied. We’re planning playful book reports — my eldest loves to read and tell us what her latest book was about — with reward systems in place. We’ll have to set up play dates with her school chums. I’ll have to get off my butt on weekends and go for bike rides (yes, I should be doing that already). Maybe we’ll go camping, even if it’s just in the backyard. Maybe, and don’t tell my wife I promised this, we’ll even go on a vacation.
And maybe along the way I’ll discover I still have some youth left in me, at least until I have trouble getting out of bed the next morning.
I know eventually our summers will be filled with soccer tournaments, summer camps and the like. We are getting a small taste of that now as her dance class prepares weekly for its big group performance in June.
But for now, this summer, we’re going to have to be creative. Because the energy these kids have, and the structure and focus they’ll need from us, will make for an interesting three months.
E.C. McKenzie said, “Schoolteachers are not fully appreciated by parents until it rains all day Saturday.”
While I doubt we’ll get much rain this summer, I fully expect to be as excited for fall as my kids are for summer. Until then, let the wild rumpus start!
“Like all parents, my husband and I just do the best we can, and hold our breath, and hope we’ve set aside enough money to pay for our kids’ therapy.” — Michelle Pfeiffer
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.