Summer is a time for many things. To spend extra-extra-extra time with my children. To breathe more expansively than I do at any other time of the year. To visit a number of locations at the drop of a hat because I can do that. To not know what our schedule will be like from day to day, because life is just open.
And summer is also a time for me.
I rarely have time for myself. But during summer, as a teacher, I am off the clock in terms of having to show up to my classroom every day and be there, teaching, following the rules, being really good at what I do, and being something to everyone with whom I interact.
During summer, my brain opens wide and the ideas that have filled it during those other 10 months explode like sparkly confetti, begging to be acknowledged.
I organize more.
I read more.
I write more.
I breathe more.
I notice more.
I hear more.
I sleep more.
I enjoy more.
I process more.
I balance more.
Summer is my time.
Since welcoming our two wonderful children into our lives, that has not changed. What has changed is the amount of time that belongs to me. It is infinitesimal comparatively. It still exists, just not a whole lot.
I spent three summers in a row with Girlfriend. The first summer, she was 4 months old. What else would I be doing? It was an amazing time of my life. The following summer, she was 15 months old. We had not yet enrolled her in childcare. I was struggling hard with my time as a full-time mom coming to an end as I re-entered the work force. The summer after that, the 3rd summer, Girlfriend was a little more than two years old and by the end of that summer, which we’d spent together entirely, we were both sick of each other and ready to move out into our own apartments.
During the 4th summer of her life, we separated two days a week and it was glorious. She went to the summer program at her early learning center and I stayed home … doing whatever I wanted to do. This included 4-mile walks, yoga class, tea time with whatever book I was reading, uninterrupted thoughts about the upcoming school year, hours roaming the local book store, cultivating the artist in me, things like that. On the other five days when she was home with me, we baked, we painted, we played, we read, we traveled. Often she would ask me, “Mommy, where are we going today?” That break was good for the both of us.
Last year, we spent our first summer with Monkey who was 4 months old in July. Girlfriend had 2 weeks of CCD in the morning, and two weeks of full-day art camp. Monkey was with me 100% of the time. He slept a lot. I had my time.
This summer, Girlfriend is 8 and Monkey is 16 months. She didn’t want to spend her summer in camps. Not entirely. She wanted to make her own fun. She participated in Camp Invention for 1 full week, and she’s currently in morning CCD for two weeks. But other than that, it’s me, Girlfriend, and Monkey. Monkey was enrolled in childcare wayyyy earlier than his sister was, at 5 months due to circumstances we could not rectify. If I have learned anything being a mother these last 8 years, it is this. MOMS NEED ME TIME.
So I have kept Monkey in child care two days a week. It’s good for everyone. On those two days, Girlfriend and I spend some time together without Monkey ruling the roost, but she also knows that much of that time these two days is for me. So we plan out our days to balance me time and our time. I don’t ignore her, don’t misunderstand. She just knows that I want – I need – time to do adult things, even if those things are very boring, like cleaning, school work, and errands.
Well, this week, me time was not in the cards.
This week, Monkey had a fever on both days he was enrolled for child care. Not only could he not go by state standards, but even if he could, I would not send him when he’s under the weather.
So, while most children do not fall ill during the summer, my sweet Monkey Man did and on the two days … the only two days … he was scheduled to be with teachers and friends.
And of course, I had plans, however loose or delusional. I was going to bang out a bunch of chapters in this math workshop book I’m reading. I was going to clean my house, like, really clean it – dust, vacuum, wash, change bed linens, sort through the kids’ clothes to make way for the new apparel we’re going to be stocking up on, finally tackle the art closet with so many old supplies that could either be ditched or donated. I was going to map out the first few days of school to get more grounded there.
All of these plans went right out the window with that fever of 101.3.
What’s a mom to do?
I’m a realist. I knew me time was gone. With his fever, naps would like not happen. I knew his appetite would be decreased but that in my hope to nourish him anyway, food was going to be flying all over my kitchen. I knew that I would not be able to even attempt to walk away from him because when he isn’t feeling well, all he wants is mama. And obviously, I knew that any chance of him playing alone in his playroom while I tried to tackle ANY of my goals for these two days was a joke.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words.
Who here can guess what this picture is saying good and loud?
Well, I’ve gotta tell you. It’s been a challenging couple of days. Even Girlfriend is sick with a fever of unknown origin. She has needed lots of hugs and snuggles too, and Monkey wants in on all of it. Yesterday we tried to read a few chapters of The Borrowers but he was not havin’ that.
But, early on, I figured, I can mourn my lost me time that I was calibrated for, or I can make the best out of it.
So that’s what I did.
We turned lemons into lemonade.
Hangin’ out with books.
Listening to an audio book.
Painting with a brush for the first time!
My favorite artist.
Who doesn’t love outside time?!
And the picture you do not see here … we three got into the pool and had a blast. Monkey was amenable to trying out his new float and Girlfriend was feeling well enough to take a cool dip. The water was gorgeous, so clear and refreshing.
After, we picked up the yard, changed back into dry clothes, and treated ourselves to lemonades and chocolate chip cookies at our local bakery.
Perfect ending to our day.
These last two days were not what I expected … but we turned them into memories worth keeping for a lifetime.
It is days like these that remind me, being a mother is hard work … never ending work … there really isn’t me-time … not surely … and it is merely a privilege, not a right …
and I was also reminded that being a kid is hard work, too … especially when you aren’t feeling good or lack the language to speak that.
But the reality is, with positive attitudes, we can work hard together and make the best of anything as a family.