She said cryptically, “It used to be wild here. And green.”
There was this one summer when we watched all the Harry Potter movies. This was when what is now L’s downstairs bedroom was still the TV room, and let me tell you, that room heats up when the summer afternoon sun hits the back window. Add to that the heat of the television set, plus the heat of five bodies packed on the futon, and you get a mash of bodies sticky with sweat, smashed grapes, and a dribble or two of white wine. It was so much fun. It’s one of my favorite summer memories. Yes, it was disgustingly uncomfortable. Yes, we were indoors on beautiful summer days. Yes, we ate tortilla chips and hot dogs for dinner for an extended number of dinners. That summer, I did a whole lot of parenting stuff “wrong,” and I wouldn’t trade it for a thousand nutritional snacks.
All over social media, I see posts about summer bucket lists. Our multi-week Harry Potter marathon? Would never have appeared on my bucket list. Sit in boiling hot, tiny room with ALL THE CHILDREN and watch a screen while at least one person whines about someone touching them/looking at them/smacking their lips/grinding their teeth wouldn’t appear on any list for which the goal is joyful memories. But we did it, and it’s one of my favorite things to think about.
This is what I remind myself of on a near-daily basis this summer as I leave the house around 6:30 a.m. to get to work early so I can leave work early to spring the youngest boy from camp early. This is what I remind myself of whenever I feel horribly guilty for not planning excursions to beaches, to waterslides, to theme parks, to swimming lessons, to the circus.
Instead, the boys are spending long days doing…something. Not sure what. I’m at work!
And when I’m home, I’m still not shuttling them around to Planned Fun Events. I do take them to the beach almost every time they ask, and I do suggest ice cream trips, and I do look up from my computer whenever L yells, “This one’s for you, Mom!” as he dribbles in for a dunk at the basketball hoop. I even move my deck chair so I can see whatever trick it is they’re trying to show me when they yell out from the trampoline: “Mom, watch this!” I watch! I do! I applaud, even when the trick looks exactly like the last trick they showed me. See? I’m a good mom.
I say yes to sleepovers whenever an adult is actually going to be home later than 8 the next morning, and I buy a whole lot of watermelons, and I don’t point out that if they spent as much time reading as they doing playing video games, they’d have finished War and Peace by now. I play baseball with the youngest boy using a tennis ball and stick, for at least 10 minutes. I only remind them of piano/guitar practice once or twice a day. I only remind them to floss three or four times a day.
All of this? Is an attempt to convince myself that the kids are alright.
What do I remember of my own summer vacations? Long afternoons reading, hours spent watching my neighbor’s television, and, later, 12-hour days working at the barn. What are my kids going to remember? Well, I love them, but maybe that doesn’t have to be a problem I try to solve. Maybe they’ll remember what they remember and whatever that is will be fine. Maybe they’ll remember Harry Potter, maybe they’ll remember constant watermelon, maybe they’ll remember that their mom wasn’t around much during the day but was good for a ride to the beach in the evenings.
And maybe, that’s alright.