Summer and I have not always gotten along well. As has been well documented in years past, there are two main problems with summer: 1) my own expectations, which are never quite realistic and, therefore, are never realized and then there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth and Xanax, and 2) my discomfort with the lack of schedule and predictability that comes with summer, also resulting in much wailing and gnashing of teeth and Xanax.
Basically, as soon as the kids head back to school, I split the time between my dentist and my therapist.
This year, I was hesitant to even attempt to envision what our summer would look like. I have learned from my past mistakes. As soon as I would I declare that I was going to let go! and enjoy! and just breathe!, the girls would be fighting again and I’d realize that my to-do list was getting longer, not shorter, and the familiar disappointment that summer was both too long and too short would settle over me. So this year? I just didn’t really think about it at all. I lay forth no expectations or dreams for The Great Summer Of 2015!! What would happen would happen.
Also, I knew this year would be different. Given that we’ve spent virtually every single summer (since moving to Rochester) visiting my grandma at the lake, I knew that her not being there changed things significantly. It’s not that we couldn’t visit, but rather that it felt so very odd not having her there, so sad and just plain icky, we didn’t get down there as often as in the past; the change was noticeable and jarring.
And so I approached summer feeling… detached. I knew that the girls would be spending time with their grandparents while Nick and I went to Mexico, and I assumed that we’d all enjoy ourselves but I didn’t know if the change in routine would be a problem upon our return (as it has in the past). I knew that both Ella and Annie were signed up for only one week of half-day summer camp and I didn’t know if those few “free” hours would be enough for me to accomplish all that I wanted to, nor if only a single week of scheduled activity would be enough to entertain them.
I simply didn’t know.
So there seemed little left to do but take it in stride, one day at a time, and see how things went.
The result? Well, pretty much awesome. See, Ella and Annie are older this summer than they were last summer. I realize that this is kind of how life goes – miraculous informercial claims aside, people do tend to age – but still, I don’t think I was prepared for just how much their older-ness (yes, that’s a word) would impact things.
What I’m saying is, I think eight and ten are pretty terrific ages.
Riding the Splat-O-Sphere (aka the Up And Down Ride) at the Mall of America.
Without me. Because I don’t like up and down rides. So they went, just the two of them, and loved it – while I got to sit on the sidelines and locate the nearest Starbucks. CAN I GET AN AMEN.
We did, however, do the ropes course thingy together.
They’re old enough now to bike with friends around the block and to spend entire afternoons flitting between several neighborhood houses. When they’re hungry for a snack, they get one. By themselves. Sometimes, they even put the dishes away, too.
Sure, they needed refereeing now and again – and if I never hear another one-finger piano rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” or another verbal retelling of the cartoon “The Amazing World of Gumball”, it will be too soon – but, for perhaps the first summer ever, they didn’t need me to provide entertainment. They didn’t even look to me for guidance; in fact, most days, they preferred that I not intervene at all. They can even stay home alone for short periods of time (let us all enjoy a moment of silence at this incredible advancement) should I need to run a quick errand.
All of this is pretty much a win-win for everyone. The girls are happier because they’re doing what they want, on their own, without me hovering over them. I’m happier because I actually can accomplish things in my To Do Book, so this summer was much less of an empty vortex than previous summers (meaning I spent less time writing here, too).
We still have our Summer Fun List, of course, and have checked off many items. Unlike in years past when, a few days prior to the start of school, I would glance at the list and panic because we hadn’t gotten to everything, this year it hasn’t bothered me nearly as much. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I still feel that familiar anxiousness catch in my chest when I look at all that hasn’t been done, all the wonderful crafts and adventures and foods (how have we not made root beer floats this year??)… But the girls have made it clear that they’re happy with their summer. They don’t care that we didn’t make root beer floats. If we don’t manage to hike up a glen, that’s fine.
If they’re content with not making glow-in-the-dark slime, why should I feel bummed that it never got crossed off the list?
The time we’ve spent together – and there’s been plenty of it – has been lovely, too. They’ve become some of my favorite shopping buddies; they are a true pleasure to take out to lunch. They are wonderful boating companions and Harry Potter audiobook partners. Our conversations are multi-layered and filled with giggles and shared jokes and sarcasm (which I speak fluently, so this is a bonus). They’re just really super people to hang out with, which makes everything more enjoyable, really.
Playing with the moon.
Ten and eight have created something magical: the most perfectest summer. The perfect mixture of doing and nothing, busy and relaxed, planned and spontaneous, me-time and them-time and us-time and family-time. Our travels didn’t phase them. Only one week of camp was all that any of us needed. The Xanax has been untouched and my teeth are still in good shape. We have had ten blissful weeks of summer and in the end, it was all… just right.
Today is the first day of school. While, as always, I find that I’m dumbstruck and sucker punched by how quickly the days have flown by, this year – for the first time – I’m neither mourning what could or should have been nor am I gleefully shipping them back to class, embracing the return to routine. I’m just loving who Annie and Ella are at this moment, grateful for our Great Summer of 2015.
They’ve got two days of school and then four days off for Labor Day weekend (I know; it doesn’t make sense to me, either), which – I’m thinking – will actually be a nice way to ease out of summer and into third and fifth grade. Plus, if they have trouble with the transition, I’ve got some glow-in-the-dark slime supplies just waiting to be opened.
We went to a local amusement park on the day before school as our Last Hurrah (we do one annually; the activity changes from year to year). A good time was had by all, even when I was totally holding onto the ride’s handlebar for dear life so as to avoid squashing my children.
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