It’s hard to believe summer break is right around the corner — but it is. The final bell rings, and the much anticipated stretch of vacation begins.
As a stay-at-home mom of school age children, this break is something I look forward to. It’s a time when we sleep in (for those of you with babies and toddlers, I promise this time will come), and our hectic schedule hits the pause button for a brief period of time. We wake up and decide together where the day will take us. Some days are for lounging in pajamas while others are for splashing in the pool. The kids are bigger, so outings aren’t as complicated as they once were. This is how summer vacation is for me now that the kids are older.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
I didn’t always look forward to the long days spent in our pajamas. nd there was actually a period of time when I dreaded going to the pool. Why? Because sometimes the days stretched on endlessly. And it didn’t seem like a break was in sight. Sometimes I felt like I was stuck in the movie Groundhog Day repeating the same activities over and over. And it wasn’t that I didn’t like staying home. Some days were just longer than others.
Ok. That makes some sense. But why not the pool, you ask?
Because it was a whole lot of work and minimal (possibly even zero) relaxation. I vividly remember having a feeling of pool-dread when I had a group of moms and their kids over to swim in our neighborhood pool. It seemed like a great idea when I hit the send button on the invite. But it felt not-so-great when the time came to head out the door.
The reason? I had three children ages four and under. A trip to the pool meant a lot of preparation, packing, and nonstop head counting. Water can be very unforgiving in the company of young children. The reality of this always left me on the edge of my seat. I like to do cost-benefit analysis, and (at that time) the benefits of a trip to the pool did not seem worth the cost.
The plan was to meet at my house and walk to the pool. The moms arrived, and as we were visiting, I remember saying, “I really don’t want to do this right now.” Hanging out at the house with my friends while the kids played sounded so much better than lugging everyone (and all of that stuff) out the door. My friend, who was there with her son, looked at me and said, “It’s only the pool. It’s not like it’s a trip to Disney World.” She said it with a smile and zero malice. She wasn’t trying to be hurtful. However, she just couldn’t understand what it was like for me and my three small children (none of which could swim independently). It may not have been a trip to Disney — but it kind of felt that way.
After she said that, I felt embarrassed and wondered if maybe there was something wrong with me. Why did this seem so hard? She was right. It was just the pool, after all. Isn’t a trip to the pool supposed to be fun?
Looking back, I realize there was nothing wrong with me. It was hard. Maybe not a trip to Disney hard, but still — hard. And going to the pool with three small children in tow wasn’t like a trip to the pool in my twenties. Far from it. At that time in my life, when my kids were much younger, I wouldn’t have talked about summer vacation like I do now. When the kids were home with me prior to the school years, summer was just like any other time of the year — only hotter with different play time options and a gnawing sense of guilt if we weren’t outside “enjoying” the nice weather.
Now the children are bigger, and that has changed. I honestly think I look forward to this vacation as much as they do. For one thing, I have my babies home with me. All four of them. The days that sometimes seemed to stretch on endlessly when they were so little now seem like precious gifts. I know this time I have with them is fleeting. My oldest will be in seventh grade next year. I realize that the older she gets, the more she will want to spend her free time with her friends. That’s only natural.
When the kids were younger, people told me how fast it all goes. I thought they were crazy. Now, I understand they were speaking from a place of wisdom and experience. That doesn’t make those pool trips or tough days when they were young any less tough. But as time ticks on and they continue to grow, I feel like I want time to slow down.
And let’s not forget the perk of self-sufficiency. I don’t have to change diapers or pack bags just to leave the house. Strollers are a thing of the past. Walking out the door now consists of a “Hurry up. Grab your shoes. Get in the car.” This makes every summer time expedition much easier than it once was.
Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty about the younger years that I loved. There are many things about that time that I miss, but the work it took to get out of the house is not one of those things.
Another reason I love summer time? There is space for life to just happen. The rest of the year it feels like we are always on the go. I try to limit the number of activities the kids participate in but we are still (like most people) – busy, busy, busy. There is something very refreshing about a period of time with limited activities. We take a break from sports, go on vacation, and visit with friends. We aren’t bound to the calendar. There are no trips to and from school every day, no lunches to make, and no homework to do. There is space. Space to breathe. And we all need that. Desperately.
When the kids were younger, I felt like we had a lot of space. Sometimes, too much space. Days would stretch on and sometimes I would long for more structure. Yes, we had meals, naps, bath time and bed time – but the rest was a blank canvas. Sometimes, that was hard.
Now, I long for that space. I crave that space. I cannot wait for that space to be here – in just a few short weeks.
Summer will be here. And I can’t wait.
Isn’t it funny how time changes things?