I am not sure if I qualify for being on summer vacation, as I am not exactly employed nor am I a student. Entitlement aside, I am technically on summer vacation since my kids are and my husband is home for a few weeks too. Last (school) year I was primed for all the things I would accomplish. Life would be so easy with our little one in preschool for half the day and her sister in second grade for almost six hours. Our house would be spotless! I would be whipping up fantastic dinners every night of the week! I would be going to spin class! I’d recommit to hair color! Oh the possibilities.
What happened was nothing like that. Little sister, though previously over the moon at the prospect of preschool, hated it in the beginning, crying hard every single day. “I miss you”, she wailed, “please don’t leave me here”, she sobbed, her fingernails entrenched in my arm as I tried to politely to extricate myself. I would run to the car before my own tears started rolling, my eyes glued to the classroom camera I could stream from my phone. I watched as she sat crying first in the library corner, then at her teacher’s side, then for a few quick minutes at her desk. Toward the end of the school year she would only have one or two spells a month, usually right before she came down with a cold or the stomach flu that was making its rounds. That was the first stop; I still had to make my way through the car line for second grade drop off. An hour after I had left the house each day (an exercise in restraint with two daughters), I would go home, still tearful and unsure of what exactly I should be doing. My face would be puffy and my eyes red from crying. I didn’t feel at all like going grocery shopping, or cleaning, or doing much of anything productive. I was too guilty to go to the gym (who did I think I was – going to exercise when I knew my child was miserable and needing me?). My husband was studying pretty intensely and working a lot. Even when he was home he had a ton of reading ahead of him. It certainly wasn’t the most productive time in my life.
I had put so much emphasis on and faith in all the time I would have once school started that I hadn’t planned or prepped for anything. I had assumed it would all come together quickly when I had free time and I was completely unmoored at the reality of the situation. This summer I did a complete 180. It’s not that I had a bunch of stuff planned out, excursions penciled in and meals predetermined for each evening. But it has still been entirely different – because I reacted differently to it.
Toxic algae blooms in the ocean, while devastating to me as a human and ambassador of this planet, was not a reflection of my inability to plan non-oceanic activities. Ordering pizza for dinner one night and then picking up fried chicken the next night, though not assisting in any weight loss goals, was not proof that I didn’t love my family because I didn’t cook dinner those nights. Taking the time to pour over every article in the New York Times weekend editions, or write this blog, or comb coconut oil through my hair was not robbing my family of my attention or affection. I rarely got my 10,000 steps in each day (as recommended by the American Heart Association) because I was in the pool playing Navy Seals with the kids. Or I was out of the pool and sometimes drinking adult beverages and playing Cards against Humanity (and sitting) watching my husband break out into full body laughs. I ran up and slid down (at an astonishing speed) a gigantic water slide, squeezing my girls’ hands, caring very little about how ridiculous I looked, but very much about how my heart felt so full hearing them shriek with delight.
There were donuts consumed and cups of coffee shared on the back porch where the liquid felt cooler than the outdoor air thick with 90 percent humidity at 8:00 a.m. We let our kids be bored. (Spoiler alert: they survived and pulled out Barbie dolls and board games and birthday presents they hadn’t touched in months). There were melt downs (both child and adult) and games of go fish. I listened to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” on repeat. We cleaned out the shed and the garage and most of the planters. We got rid of a bunch of stuff we no longer needed. With less clutter, it cast a brand new light on everything we kept.
My husband goes back to work in a few days and the kids will start school in a few weeks. Feet that have been bare will need loafers and sneakers and tap shoes. I need to schedule haircuts and buy brushes and hair ties to streamline the morning routine. Many of those” coffee on the porch mornings” will transform into travel mugs clinking in solidarity and a salute as we head out the door. I even got my feet wet with a country style dinner tonight that required six pans. We are transitioning again but I have learned that fearing the change and refusing to take part in it until it actually comes is a defense mechanism I have used as a crutch in past. If I look closely at it, I can see that it has served me exactly never. So yes, it is ridiculously hot here, the kids are cranky because they are over-tired and the battle of what is acceptable to watch on Netflix will rage on again tonight. However, I have savored every minute of this time together, because we were all here, trying our best.
I will miss these days but truth be told, I have already printed out the Spin class schedule for next month and I will see you here on the blog each day, should you choose. I have big plans for next year. I just needed this summer vacation to get them started.