Summer Vacation

Here’s the thing about summer vacation: it’s not. Okay, you might take a week (or two if you’re lucky) and travel or do nothing in your own home but read and drink and write and sleep and eat, hopefully with relish, but (I’ve always got a but, don’t I?) gone are the days of our youth.

But summer still feels bright and open to me. I have this theory that the season you’re born into makes you a bit. Summer on a farm means work. You work more then than you do all year. Our farm was small, but I knew about the work. When I was old enough I left for a bigger farm and did some of the things they didn’t need me for at home: truck driving, fence mending, milking, plowing. It occurs to me now that summer’s openness connects me to work in a way that makes me relish it.

So if the days of our youth are gone, at least there’s the possibility that we might gain enough wisdom—really, just a smattering will do—to recognize just what it is we’ve got. Because here’s where I’m at right now: my kids are driving me a little nuts. They need far too much entertaining; or is it just that I’ve supplied them with too much screen time, too many “special” trips and surprises? Or is it that I’m weary of mollifying their every agitation? That hits closer.

Granted, my eldest has spells of (what are to him—and I understand, because I felt those feelings as a child) terrifying anxiety. And summer is great—Swimming! Swinging! Trips to see grandparents! Visitors from Kansas! Visitors from Texas! Saturday every day for three months!—but the lack of a more structured schedule takes a toll. More meltdowns. Behaviors bordering on the obsessive. And regression, I’m starting to see, is always an issue. All kids lose some skills over the summer. Jonah’s loss moves twice as fast. More days than not I recognize that certain areas of his life will be uphill all the way.

And the other one. The other one. Stubborn he is. Recalcitrant. A brilliant player and escape artist and nabber of inappropriate tools. He still puts everything in his mouth. I found him chewing on the DVD player cord the other day. He wants what Jonah has, always. Nothing less will do, and his incessancy can surpass that of his brother. Some days he hardly eats. He lives on limey juice and fruit.

John spoke what I have been feeling, but not consciously acknowledging, for the last week or so—right before Gabriel slipped out the gate and made his way around the block before we found him coming back ’round (Thanks to his archangel, once again. I mean it.):  “I just want to neglect them sometimes.” How’s that for a parental confession?

Because hey, it’s our summer too. And let’s face it, summer’s a whole ‘nother story when you’re a parent. Come mid-July the thought of the coming school year brings coinciding feelings of dread and relief. I love these boys just as they are, right now. I try every day to enjoy their little boys’ bodies and affections, but I wish sometimes they could pee without telling me, or poop without needing a wipe. Or fix their own food and keep themselves occupied (without a screen) for more than five minutes.

I initially titled this post, “Blame the Meds.” But as the day progressed—and it did so for me in a hazy, grouchy, short-tempered kind of way, due in part to two strong margaritas John made me last night, which I’m learning don’t at all mix with my sort of antidepressant (Celexa)—I came to see by simply living through my own dark mood that while the drinks affected the meds, which affected me, it’s still me in here. I’m the one learning and failing to learn how to live with myself, as myself. Personhood is tough, don’t let anyone tell you different. I’m sure I’ve written on this blog more than once that being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but right now, I don’t think that’s right.

I think being a real person is harder. Which is why summer will always be my favorite. I need bright days to rest in, to turn myself inside out in—whether it be through work or leisure. I have a decent understanding of work, but leisure… Sitting still with yourself, letting be (sometimes in the dark) requires not only courage, but also wisdom. I gotta know when to walk away.

Today Jonah asked me (in his attempt to get me to concede that light sabers actually are real and can be made—because hey, if a DK book shows it so, it must be): “Mom, are you thinking wiser yet?” Not quite yet. But thanks for reminding me to work on it.

saber 1 saber 2saber 3 saber 4saber 5 saber 6[Jonah’s new light saber, made from scrapped shower parts. We call this his Saber Dance. The pursed lips denote the making of light saber sounds.]


One thought on “Summer Vacation

  1. Jennifer, thanks for this post. After a week’s “trip” down South with the boys (I cannot call it “vacation”), I feel in an amplified (to say the least) way what you describe here. Vacation has made me way too nostalgic for my too-easy youth. I’m realizing how much I rely on routine to sustain my (what feels like barely-there oftentimes) sanity. Maybe I’m becoming a believer in year round school 🙂 this craziness is why we bolted from church yesterday. Lord have mercy on mothers, on children in summer! And always!

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