Thursday, August 13, 2015

Heart of the Summer

It's mid-August. This month, our crazy summer has finally slowed down, and for the past few weeks we've been home: all four of us, no more no fewer. No one visiting, no one traveling. (Well, Andrew was away all last week, so I guess I mean that I've consistently been here. He's mostly been here.) June and July were packed with activities, and now--a break. Of course, this was the part of summer I looked to with some measure of trepidation, since there's no way to get around it now: it's just me and the girls, all day, every day, for 12+ hours of unstructured time. 

That's daunting. The only comparable thing is snow days, which always seem like the most heinous affront to a SAHM: a whooollleee daaaay insiiiidddde, alooooone with the kiiiids. Minutes seem like hours. Thankfully, this summer isn't quite this bad. First of all, we're not stuck inside. Second of all, we're not stuck inside in the basement while doing dishes in the laundry sinks with the cave crickets, as we were all winter during our renovation. Third, and most importantly, summer time seems different somehow. Maybe it's because, with days on end of unscheduled time, the time doesn't drag on so much as it does when we have a sudden, jarring spell of it, like a snow day. Each day kind of gallops along. 

Most people around these parts, even the stay-at-home parents, send their kids to camp for the entire summer, or at least many weeks of it, and we didn't do that. I probably won't ever do that. Yes, there are some really cool camps we could dip into here and there in the future, if the girls are excited about it (pony-riding camp, insect camp, farm camp, gymnastics camp, nature camp...). But besides the four days of preschool "camp" we did immediately following the school year, I just can't get on board with the all-summer choices. It's my luxury as a fulltime SAHM that I can make the choice, I know--it's me, not my office-work obligations, that dictate my summer plans. I'm sure the kids in these camps have fun and do fun things and make fun summer memories. And yet. I see the camps around town now and then, herds of kids in matching tee-shirts being escorted to the park or pool or zoo with their very young counselors, and all I can think is how much I as a kid would have hated every second of it. Hated hated hated it. And maybe it's unreasonable or unfair to transfer my own ingrained introversion onto my kids, but I can't help it. They'd rather be here. This much I know.

So what do we do instead, here together for days and days on end? We've been to the zoo a few times. We've been to the pool nearly every afternoon. The girls play in the yard. They bring out all manner of stuff--wooden blocks, dolls, ponies. We read a lot of books on the front porch. They ride their scooters in the driveway. We sometimes go to Target. (And we've developed an unfortunate habit of buying blind bag ponies each time, which has the fortunate effect of deterring me from making nonessential Target trips.) The girls play with their Legos a lot. 

I can't really account for 100% of our time, because the girls are just...playing. Just doing stuff around the house and yard. Their time is fully their own, and they are never at a loss for how to fill it. They never play with the iPad or watch TV (besides an episode or two of My Little Pony while I make dinner.) This is their natural, preferred state--unstructured, complete freedom. And yes, there are days that absolutely ruin me--too many requests, too many squabbles, too much stubbornness, too much mess, too many things to pack up and carry and remember to bring home from the pool, too many things piled in their laps in their carseats; when these full days of fulltime parenting are, fully, too much. I'll be glad when school starts and we're back to days with actual schedules, with periods of time when the kids are actually not in my care. But for now--summer. Trying hard for the idyllic free days I used to have myself as a kid. 

If I can refrain from killing them, our summer will be a success.

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