Change of Heart

Mmmmm, summer.

Longer days, swimming, sun. Who doesn’t love summer??

Well, actually… me.
But wait. Lemme ‘splain.

The activity parts of summer – the beaches and the splashing, the ice cream and stargazing – I’ve always loved those. But the rest of summer, with months of days and nights with nothing to do? Not really my speed, especially once the kids came along.

When the girls were babies and toddlers, summer was nice enough as a season (yay, warm!), but – other than increasing our intake of watermelon and icy pops – little else really changed. Bedtimes didn’t get later, no one slept in, no one went to camp. In fact, summer was almost more of a hassle than the rest of the year because of things like sunscreen and bathing suits and swim diapers and preventing drowning and OH MY GOD SHE’S ABOUT TO FALL INTO THE FIRE PIT.

As preschoolers, Annie and Ella ditched the Little Swimmers diapers, but activity- and schedule-wise, summer mimicked spring except with more bug bites. Once Ella entered elementary school, things began to shift a little. Suddenly, summer became a time of NO SCHOOL! – which meant delirious mayhem – but also NO SCHOOL!, which meant bittersweet sadness. The change of routine was jarring; she missed her classmates and her teachers. For as much as she and Annie liked not being in school, they – like their mama – weren’t so good at just hanging out. Two days in, they’d be at each other’s throats, and so to ensure that all of us actually made it through summer alive, I did a lot of refereeing while secretly wishing I could just let them go at it Hunger Games style.

Plus also? They were home. All the time. With me. (Or at the lake, or on a trip, but still… Not at school. With me. ALL THE TIME.) The schedule I’d so carefully created during the academic year flew out the window, and for the life of me I couldn’t quite get back on track. I will be the first to admit that I, too, like routine, and that endless of stretches of nothing make me itchy. Despite how much I loved homemade popsicles and exploring creeks with hidden rope swings and creating – and completing – our Summer Fun List, summer was not really something that I looked forward to.

This year, things feel… different. As the school year wound down and the first day of summer break – omg! – loomed on the calendar, I felt almost none of the all-too-familiar apprehension. My entire attitude seemed to have shifted, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Last night, after the girls went to bed, I began to think about what needed to be done for today… and realized how little needed to be accomplished. No lunches to be made. No white board notices to write. No backpacks to check. (Have I mentioned no lunches to pack?) I was practically giddy.

The pieces started to fall into place: for the first time ever, we have been running around so much during the school year that summer break is actually that – a break. A respite. A reprieve. No more rounding up cleats and water bottles to get to soccer practice on time. No more being unable to eat dinner until after 7:30 because of swimming. No more making sure that math facts are practiced and reading logs are filled in. No more arguing over hairstyles every morning. No more IF YOU DON’T LEAVE RIGHT NOW YOU WILL BE LATE WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T FIND YOUR SHOES.

It also dawned on me that, for the first time in seven years, I was coming into my own summer break. No lesson plans to write. No early-morning texts about potential jobs. No worrying about looking professional (you laugh, but omg, having to dress in “real” clothes is just exhausting). No childcare arrangements for particularly early or late subbing assignments. Whenever idiots people complain about teachers or say that teaching is a cushy job (HAHAHAHA), they always bring up summer break. You’re done at 3:00 (HAHAHA) and you’re off all summer! Trust me, no one teaches simply to have summers off; that lovely perk does not begin to outweigh the difficulties and challenges of the job.

But it is still an awfully lovely perk.

As I unloaded the dishwasher but did not make lunches (thank you sweet baby Jesus), I thought about how easy the afternoon and evening had been. Instead of trying to cram homework in before sports and dinner, we lounged. The girls forgot to put away their clean clothes last night, but guess what? They could do it this morning because – surprise! – no school! All of those things that we’ve been putting off because there’s no time, when will you do your homework?, you can’t do that and get to bed on time… we can finally get to. It feels glorious.

And so, whereas the ten weeks of torture summer used to stretch before me as an anxiety-producing collection of NOTHING TO DO, I am now very much feeling how incredible it can be to have NOTHING TO DO!! This was a very good year – a busy, exhausting, happy, fulfilling year; I wouldn’t change it, and am excited to start up again in the fall. But I hadn’t appreciated how very much we all could use a real, honest-to-god break.

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Yeah, I’m still a bit apprehensive about the whole They’re With Me All Day thing, but I’m not nearly as worked up about it as I was in the past. While I know there will be plenty of refereeing moments, Ella and Annie are just a bit older now, that much more independent (even though they still don’t sleep in worth a damn). Also, we’ve done this summer thing before, and I know that – needing a break aside – some structure will be good for everyone, so our days aren’t going to be complete free-for-alls. We have camps and trips and family visits and the lake and I imagine we will still make our Summer Fun List; but also, we have time at home to just hang out and for once, I’m good with that.

This ain’t my first rodeo. Five minutes ago, Ella declared that she was bored. She and Annie will be having fistfights by Monday. There will be tears (theirs? Mine? All of the above?) by midweek. By the Fourth of July I will be counting down the days until they go back to school. But, right now, at this very moment, summer holds delicious promise. (Remind me to check back here in a month to laugh at my foolish naiveté.)

This morning, for the first time, Ella joined me in taking the dogs for a walk, riding beside me on her bike as we traversed the neighborhood. It was raining slightly, but neither of us cared; if anything, it felt refreshing. As we neared home, Ella looked over her shoulder and flashed me a huge grin.

“Mama!”

Yes, love?

“If this were a school day, we’d never have time to go for a bike ride. And now we’ve walked the dogs and it’s not even breakfast yet. Summer is the BEST!”

By August – hell, by July – I may deny I ever said it… but this morning, I couldn’t help but call back, Yes, indeed. It is.

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5 thoughts on “Change of Heart

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