At the end of the school year, as the anticipation of summer grew, the expectations of the fun and freedom and action grew as well. These rose-colored projections fed my excitement about this magical time of year, a time where my kids can become more feral, dig in dirt with abandon, splash in creeks, climb trees.
For some reason, the flip side of summer was completely blocked from my memory. The reality of being exhausted from being outside so much, the tightness of a camp schedule, the constant last-minuteness of plans, the even more constant lack of at least one essential item (sunscreen, water bottle, towel, bagels, pull-ups).
It took a few weeks for me to realize the futility of my struggle to battle the entropy that has been invading my house. To adjust the bar of my minimal expectations. To be kind to myself when I inevitably fail to meet even the low standards I set.
I’ve been spoiled during the year, having become accustomed to a certain level of order. My youngest is nearly three, and all my kids have been out of the house for at least a few hours a day. It was a hugely liberating shift for me. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in eight years.
My children are all in camp this summer, which is luxury, I know. They are in camp and even though they are out of the house I am not accomplishing anything in it because there are errands to run and coffee to have and people to meet and, honestly, who wants to be inside when the sun is shining?
In the afternoons, when my children are home I want to be outside with them. I want to enjoy them enjoying the summer. I want to make teepees and splash around and dig in dirt with them. And we do. And it’s fabulous.
But then in the mornings I find myself rummaging through the piles of laundry in the basement, muttering frustrations as I try to find some vital item – a swimsuit, a dry towel, underwear. I don’t like it. I like things being in their places. I really, really like it. I start to snap when things become too chaotic.
I want to fully embrace the hectic rush of last-minute plans and savor the benefits of impromptu trips to sprinkler parks or hiking trails. I see the smile on my children’s faces and feel the deep gratitude of this life. I hold that feeling tight, knowing that there is certainly a round of bickering and complaining that comes with tired, wet, hungry children.
My head is not always afloat on this sea of chaos and noise. I also bicker and complain when I am tired and hungry and have been in the sun all day. Last night I fell into bed without even brushing my teeth. I couldn’t move. The ever-lengthening list of all the things I need to do and have still not done ran through my mind, but I was too tired to even feel anxious about it anymore.
It was at this point that I was able to embrace the summer fully. Yes, I am pulling laundry from wrinkly piles. Yes, I can barely see my kitchen counter. Yes, there is more whining than I can actually deal with. Yes, it will eventually end and I will miss it.
Until then, I am trying to hold my arms open to the summer. To turn from the inner chaos of my house and let the sun shine on my upturned face. I pass out slices of American cheese to my dripping wet, sticky-handed children and sit in the shade as they splash on the slip’n’slide on the lawn. I try my best to keep them in sunscreen and express silent gratitude for rash guards.