Friday, June 7, 2013

when summer arrives

the first day of summer officially arrived in our home this week.

and let's be honest, though we've all longed for it since march, it's actual arrival brings an incredible mixture of both blessing and brutality.  the children might very well whoop and holler all the way home from the last hour of school, but the mothers behind the wheels of their minivans all seem to have that deer in the headlights look.

on wednesday the last of our kiddos wrapped up their final exams and the backpacks and notebooks and school supplies were all piled high in one giant heap on my office floor. the school year was over, and summer begun.

just like that.

in a blink of my twitching eye, the school bell stops ringing and the vacation chaos begins.

it happens so fast and i find myself standing in the kitchen watching five children and all their summertime accoutrements descend ravenously upon my home and for a moment (or several hours...or maybe days) i wonder to myself, "how in the world am i ever going to keep them busy all summer long?"

because it takes less than five minutes for them to leave muddy footprints and dirty dishes and backdoors wide open.  it takes less than five minutes for the sister bickering to begin and the boy wrestling to ensue and the little one to need a third fruit snack or another cartoon.

my hands begin to shake and my heart begins to race and i desperately dash to the office cabinet for supplies. i grab rulers and different colored sharpies and leftover poster board from school year projects.  and i attempt to bring some kind of order to this already circus-like scene setting up camp under my roof.  it's only hour one of them all at home and i am already creating columns and lines and lists.  chore charts and summer reading charts and dog walking charts to calm the shake and rattle and race of this wild woman facing her five children alone on this, the first official day of summer.

it is like this every year.

there is this time of transition as we move from being so busy we don't know what to do to having so much time on our hands we don't know what to do.  no one slips into summertime easily in my home.  especially not me.  it takes a whole new mama-perspective when summer waltzes in.  keeping my eyes half closed helps a little.  playing music loudly and shutting bedroom doors and pretending not to hear every "mo-ahhh-om!"... those things help, too.   i simply cannot spend my entire day flitting around and addressing every unmade bed, unkept corner or unsettled sibling.  i have to tell myself (many times a day, in fact) it doesn't matter.  let them enjoy this much needed freedom.  let them figure it out on their own. i don't need to referee or regulate every argument or item in this house. routine isn't necessary and rules aren't all that important at the very start of summer. right?

don't get me wrong, i adore summer.  i really do.  it's just the great figuring-it-all-out-at-first which challenges me.  i look at summer and think about all the free time we have and for me that translates into all kinds of things we now have time to do....or get on top of...or organize...or accomplish...or attempt.  i want my kids to sit down and write out their summer goals (is "summer goals" an oxymoron or what?) i want them to creatively create a creative summer 2013 bucket list in their best handwriting.  here kids, use these stickers to decorate!  and we'll put that up on the bulletin board right next to the summer reading book list and the famous summer chore chart.

 isn't every child anticipating the chance to devour 20 new books between june and august?

can't we do educational bridge work every morning and happily take turns emptying out the always running dishwasher or clothes washer?  how about we -- all six of us -- sit around the family room and fold laundry together for an afternoon of fun? sort socks and tell jokes. i just know we can make this summertime thing work...

because that's just it -- summer does take some work.  and the problem is,  it seems like it shouldn't.  it seems like summer should just be about picnics and pretty days. so, we mothers are caught in this juxtaposition of summertime contradiction.  there is something in us which believes we should be frolicking and fancy free with the wee ones. we should be lounging on neon colored rafts and drinking shimmery beverages poolside. we should be worried about nothing more than the color of our toenails or the slicing of a watermelon.  AND YET when five kids are home all summer, there is just so much more to manage! can i get an a-men?  i have mentioned before, i have no brady bunch alice showing up each day to keep us all afloat.  and so...that task falls squarely into the laps of mothers.  this is, by no means, a complaint. i mean only to point out something happening this week in millions of homes across america.  i mean it only for the encouragement of the sisterhood of motherhood in this right now happening summer-hood.

moms of america, it's okay to admit that summertime can cause us to dig deeply -- not just in the sandbox, not just in the burgeoning piles of laundry, but deep in ourselves. my best advice: don't be so hard on yourself.  i remember being a young mom of young children and finding myself disappointed in how summer days were sometimes going.  somehow, i thought everything about summer should be magical and beautiful and wonderful -- full of fireflies and butterflies and never-ending fun. who is spreading this myth, by the way? we wonder what's wrong with us and our children, thinking everyone else in the cul-de-sac is having the summer of their lives.  when our toddlers throw poolside tantrums or refuse to even get into the pool (after we've woken the baby, prepared healthy snacks, squeezed our motherly bodies into swimsuits and spent two hours packing up the car) we wonder what we're doing wrong.  we wonder why it feels so hard.  well, darling girl, sometimes it just is! even in the soft haze of a lovely summer's day.  it might be hard, but don't be hard on yourself.  do the best you can.  and remember, there are other mamas all across the land right there with you.

and by the close of summer day one in the mcnatt home,  i can tell you the dishes in the sink were piled precariously high and the shoes at the backdoor had multiplied exponentially; bella had bumped her head, skinned both knees and watched too many cartoons; we had visited the pediatrician's office for tyler's running injury; we had blown through a box of bandaids, a loaf of bread and two pitchers of lemonade; someone had stolen my kitchen shears and my very last square of dark chocolate; i had driven three 13 year old girls to the mall;  hauled my teenage son and his kayak to the lake; rescued teenage son and his kayak when it began to rain and thunder fifteen minutes later; and cleaned up some cat throw up.

oh yes, summer was officially here!

bella on her 7th hour of cartoons -- AND the dog up on the couch! WHAAAT?

i did make the dog get down from the couch -- after snapping the photo.  (of course)!

my final story to illustrate our illustrious first day of summer happened when i left tyler and bella at the house while running to the market for dinner late in the day. (just a few hours of summer and the cupboards were already bare). while there i got the famous summertime call from tyler, "mom, call me as fast as you can!" while he and bella were playing ball she fell back and hit her head on a chair.  heads bleed a lot and tyler did his very best to take care of it all.  i was at the market.  by the time i raced home she was happily perched on the couch watching little einsteins (yet another cartoon) and munching on goldfish crackers. all was fine. bella was okay.  the cut was not too bad and the bleeding had stopped. i thought about running into the pediatrician's office.  mind you, we had already been there once today, but was confident bella would be fine.  these kinds of things happen in our home -- especially in the summer! but i have to tell you that in the middle of all this drama, i was also receiving rapid texts from my unaware daughter (the one i had dropped at the mall with her friends).  as i was trying to discuss bella's head injury with tyler over the phone i was simultaneously fielding the following messages from 13 year old daughter:

"mom, can i please get my ears double pierced? plzzzzzzz."

"mom can i get a pink bedazzled phone case? it's so, so, so cute! plzzzzzz."

"OMG mom, we are at bath and body works and they have this product which bronzes your hair....and oh mom, can i get some and like it is so, so, so cool and the lady is putting it in our hair right now and it's like so, so, so great and it washes out...i promise...i'm sure...i think, can i do it? can i get some, mom? plzzzzzz. "

folks! i tell you, this is the glorious stuff of summer!

and to think,  all i wanted was to pick up some chicken and green beans at the grocery store.  just in case you're wondering, my teenage daughter is now banned from the mall until she's 35.

so summer comes. not so softly. not so gently. not always so easily....but STILL there's this thing in all of us, mothers and children alike, which welcomes it eagerly and with great expectation.  i encourage you to embrace it and just accept the little truth that it won't be always kind and it just can't be completely smooth, but it will be strewn with moments of sweetness: a first bike ride without training wheels, a cartwheel mastered or a back dive perfected, sidewalk chalk messages from daughters to their dads, late night movies with big bowls of popcorn, board games that don't end because bedtime isn't important, watermelon in the yard and pink lemonade on the porch, bike rides and ball games and belly laughs...

so, load up on popsicles and bandaids.  turn up the music.  close the doors of messy bedrooms and close your eyes when needed.  learn to count to 10 or 100 or 1000 and take a deep breath.  mothers of america, unite!  the children will head back to their classrooms in a mere 80 days!

em cleaning out her junior year notebooks this morning!
lots and lots of paper.  bonfire anyone?


Simply LKJ said...

I am laughing and crying at the same time. Great thoughts on dealing with the kiddos all summer. And yes, we have already learned to shut the bathroom and bedroom door of the one who returned home from college! I just laugh and wonder how she ever survived in the cubby hole of a room she had shared with her roommate!! Enjoy the break. Especially Emily..senior year goes by way too fast.

Anonymous said...

Loved this! It made me cry. So true, so comforting, so funny!! Thank you! Happy Summer!
~JEnna Feit