April rolls to May rolls to June like the quick spin of a rolodex. Spring takes on breakneck speed with soccer games, dance recitals, band concerts and end of the year activities. There is little time to ponder anything other than checking off the events on the schedule and the end of June feels like busting through the finish line banner, breathless and ready for rest and recharging.
Every June is like this. Every June leaves my children and me ready for big time down time. There is great stress lifted in our new routine of eating late, retiring late and sleeping late. Summer, summer, summer; a welcome guest!
The word conj ours up such delicious images of out door fun: swimming, barbeques, picnics and friends. When I was growing up, summer meant no schedule. It meant rustling up friends and making our own adventure. It meant swimming in the pool in the back yard and shark rides on my father’s back. It meant a week at some day camp making crafts and learning about nature. It meant easy.
We lived in a neighborhood full of kids and had a pool in our back yard. My mother did not work and so going with the flow was easy. My best friend had a horse and we rode everywhere together. We’d walk back and forth to each others houses, sleeping at one or the other and we were inseparable.
My memories of summer are warm.
Summer is the one thing, as a parent, I cannot seem to get right.
It’s the one little part of parenting that sixteen years of experience has not helped me to improve on. In the throws of the spring race while other parents are scheduling their children for camps, I am resistant to schedules of any kind and do not sign my kids up for anything. We will relax, spend time together and explore other opportunities. It never fails to be poor planning on my part to think this way.
In the past, when I did sign them up for camps, work opportunities for me dwindled, causing me to spend money I didn’t have and left me providing taxi service for kids I’d rather be spending time with. Lesson learned, I vowed no camps for us the following summer. Of course work came fast and furious and I spent a fortune on babysitters leaving my kids home with no social opportunities.
No matter what method I attempted, summer has not cooperated. This summer is no exception. I planned a couple of weeks to do nothing and then a three week trip to North Carolina to visit grandparents. A shift in the market has left work scarce for me and our trip needs to be cancelled. This is not a problem for my boys, who are more than happy to amuse themselves around town with friends, but Cadence’s summer is dull to say the least.
In July, work picks up and I do not have much time for her. She is wonderful about finding things to do: messy little science experiments in the kitchen, rediscovering old toys, making a shoulder high spider web across her entire bedroom with yarn and yes…watching TV. It’s the watching TV that pains me. She is happy to lose herself in a world of someone else’s fun. I encourage her to call friends to come over to play while I click away at the computer. She dials through the list, only to find they are all on vacation or at camp. I race through the list of camps, calling each one for a chance opening to no avail.
I stop working everyday in the late afternoon and scoop her up to go to the beach. She plays joyfully in the tide pools, rescuing little fish that found themselves in shallow puddles as the tide receded. She is happy with the crabs and snails and on luckier days, she stumbles upon a friend. She communes with the seagulls and names almost every one in the flock. As always, she bonds closely with the underdog and makes certain that “Old Fella” and “One Leg” get their fair share of animal crackers. The afternoon brings some reprieve to the seemingly endless alone time she is spending.
I feel such guilt thinking about what she will write upon her return to school; On my summer vacation, I watched TV. I ask her to think of something special that she wants to do or to buy for being so patient with the situation. After a great deal of thought, she proposes a guinea pig. Dreading the idea but dripping with guilt, I say “Sure…as soon as I get paid.”
Several days later, my phone rings during an inspection and I check the message when I am back to my car. It is Cadence using her most grown-up, eight-year-old business voice. She reminds me using words like "possibly discuss" and "consider" that I promised the dreaded rodent. I commit to an exploratory research trip at the end of the day.
“Lets first go to Pepper’s pet store to check out what they have, and then we’ll drive over to The New Pet Store,” I tell her, hoping that Pepper’s will have a better deal. We trudge up the dusty wooden steps to the small animal section. They have three guinea pigs, two bunnies, white mice and gerbils.
“Hmmm,” she says, “I thought they would be cuter.”
As we are leaving Pepper’s, we pass the bulletin board where people post pet related flyers. A picture catches my eye and I freeze; it is a Blue-Ringed Parakeet.
Moving… Must Sell…Best Offer…named Sky.
What are the chances?