Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"No More Pencils, No More Books..."

The kids don't want to go to bed because it's still light outside. Anna's already thrown out a ton of old school papers she lugged home in her backpack, and Ethan reported someone from the town library just came to talk to his class about the summer reading program.

Yup, it's that time of year again. School's almost out, the kids are so excited they can't sleep, and I'm embracing the summer with an arms-open-wide, unbridled optimism that can only spring from not actually having lived out a day of summer vacation yet.

Does this happen to anyone else, every year? When the calendar flips to June and the kids start having their end of the year awards ceremonies/pizza parties/field days, I can hardly contain my own excitement. There's so much we could do! I always think.

Never mind the already-on-the-schedule swimming lessons (two sessions), vacation bible school, trips to Maine, and weekends away with grandparents. There's also everything we haven't done or want to try again. Yes, June is blossoming with good intentions. They usually start in the back of my mind with an excited whisper: What if we...

...figured out how to make s'mores in the backyard? Chased fireflies? Camped out under the stars? Found stroller-friendly state parks and hiking trails? Found a new beach? Bought a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine (I saw them at Target!) so I could relive my childhood? Figured out how to make a tree fort? Ate breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast? Went to a drive-in movie? The list goes on and on.

And then, of course, there are the goals. Goals like this is the summer The Kids Are Going to Do More Chores, or Ethan's Going to Read Every Day or (I'm trying to hold in my laughter) I Will Finally Organize My Entire House. In June, with the cool mornings and fragrant flowers and nothing but blue sky, I feel I can take on anything. Even Pinterest crafts, God help me!

Social media doesn't help. How many articles have I already seen on 52 Inexpensive Backyard Activities for Your Kids or What to Put on Your Summer Bucket List or How to Make Socks that Blow Bubbles or The Best Organic Smoothie Popsicles?

Yes, I've got grand designs for the kids, as far as new things they should tackle this summer. Workbooks to keep their skills fresh. New chores like cooking dinner one night each week and maybe learning to do laundry (Anna). What better time than when they don't have homework and can't complain about being overburdened by the demands of school?

When? I ask. When will I learn?

This is what happens. Summer begins and we go to the library to sign up for the Summer Reading Program. Only now everything is logged online, and I can never remember how to get on, and always have issues logging the kids' books and end up on the phone with the library and can't understand why we can't hand them a darned pencil scratched list of their books. And we miss the big end of the summer party because we're on vacation every.single.year.

I try a couple of Pinterest activities, 75 percent of which backfire because I'm either inept or shouldn't blindly believe in everything I read on the internet. Every time we attempt to go to a summer concert on the green, someone needs to get to bed early or decides they want to spend another hour playing with the hose instead. The kids have a great time in Maine but we never make it to the new places I wanted to check out because they just wanted to jump off the dock.

We get the overpriced workbooks and Anna complains unendingly while Ethan wants to sit and complete the entire book in one sitting, even if that means scribbling through each page without exactly understanding what he's reading. The kids will cook dinner for a while until I realize, darn, this is more work. A lot more work. And why do I want that at a time when they're already bickering every 3.5 seconds and trashing the rest of the house without even trying?

We will have unexpected adventures and blazingly hot days and clich├ęd conversations that involve the whine, "I'm boooored." We'll limp to the finish line...and three weeks from school's start I'll remember how happy I was to have my babies home all day when summer started and how happy I will be to see them return to structure, to the classroom, to not every moment breathing down my neck (homeschooling moms, God bless you).

I'm not sure why I can't stop myself from indulging in the feast of sky-high summer expectations. I could get all deep and say it's because I feel as if I need to provide my kids with a spectacular, over-the-top childhood. Or because I miss the days myself of having a whole blank slate of summer stretching before me, and want to live vicariously through my children. In truth, I think it's just human nature, plain and simple. Although the thought of having nothing to do all day but read and read a stack of books, preferably under a big shady tree with a glass of lemonade as if I'm in one of those Country Time commercials, sets me off into a glassy-eyed reverie.

I know, down deep, that it wouldn't hurt to tamp down the expectations a little, because in reality, we don't need all of this. There is nothing to prove. There is nothing to perfect. There's just loving my kids, attempting not to lose my temper too much, and doing my best to stay in the moment. Even the bad ones.

We may not cross everything off our bucket list (or even make one). But we'll do stuff. We'll visit a museum (especially if I find a Groupon). They'll splash in warm puddles. We'll go out for ice cream and blow bubbles. We'll take walks and maybe climb a mountain (if we can find a babysitter). They'll build blanket forts that Chloe will collapse and they'll complain but end up rolling around and tickling her, reveling in the sweet sound of toddler giggles. We may not camp out under the stars, but maybe we'll (as we did the other night) venture out for a few minutes into the night and fight with the Hartford lights to find a few sprinkled across the sky. And when we do, we'll walk back through the muggy darkness, serenaded by crickets, feeling immensely satisfied.

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