Yes, SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!! And we couldn’t be happier about it.
I’ve experienced all sides of this end-of-school-year phenomenon, and there’s one thing of which I can be sure. Everyone: students, teachers, and parents alike, are all ready for the end. Sure, we’ll miss being productive adults while our children are in school. We’ll miss the incredible teachers they had, and we’ll eventually come to miss the routine. But for today, we are just tickled with all of the possibilities that lie ahead this summer.
I feel a bit like Olaf from Frozen right now, but I can’t help but list all of the wonderful things I anticipate this summer. (I’ll let you know later when the reality of snowmen melting into puddles hits home.) But, for now, here is my list of
14 Things to Look Forward to this Summer.
1. No homework. When your kids are young, their homework is your homework. No more battles to get it started, to focus, to let me help you, to JUST. FINISH. IT. ALREADY. Nope, for the next two months, there will be no checking of homework folders and no homework battles.
2. A season away from kids sports sidelines. I acknowledge that many of your kids play summer sports, too, but not mine. Summer is our time as a family. The sports schedules will start up again in August and I’ll go back to having a bag for each sport with sideline snacks and activities for siblings as well as the endless clean-up of cleats and uniform laundry. Oh joy.
3. A pause in volunteering. PTA, class mom, Cub Scout leader, and all other volunteer hats are hereby thrown in the closet for the summer. (I’m ignoring the small duties that still will take place, but require so much less effort.) No more organizing people or events. No more planning meetings or keeping track of who achieved what. I’m clocking out, folks! I’ll see you in September.
4. The BEACH!!! Living less than an hour from the beautiful Jersey shore means that we can wake up any day and decide it’s a beach day. Pack up a cooler, put on bathing suits and head down for the day. My minivan will have more sand in the trunk than a backyard sandbox by the time summer is over, but I truly do not care. Who’s up for a beach day?
5. Day Trips. I can pile my kids into the car on a moment’s notice and head off to the local zoo, a great hiking trail, or an amusement park. We are free to have fun and squeeze as many great day trips as possible into our summer.
6. Camp. What will get the kids out of bed early and excited to get on a school bus in the summer? Camp!!! Here’s to the magic of camp. Fresh air, activities scheduled by someone else, and led by camp counselors instead of me. Have fun, kids!! Now, who’s free for lunch?
7. The Pool!!! Second only to the beach, I love taking my kids to our town pool. Whether we’ve made plans in advance with friends or not, I can always count on meeting up with familiar faces there. And the very best part is that my kids are all old enough now that I can sit on the side and watch them in the water. I still might get in to cool off and play with them, but I do not have to stand in the pee-warmed baby pool anymore. HOORAY!!!
8. YES. My summer will consist of more Yes than the entire rest of the year. You want to go outside and play right now? YES!! You want to go to the pool? YES!! Want to play a board game together? YES!!! Can we go to the boardwalk? YES!!! You need new books from the library? YES!!! Want to go to the beach? YES!! You want to take a hike in the woods? YES!!!! With no other obligations breathing down our necks, I get to say yes and enjoy my kids doing what they want to do.
9. Sleep. There is nothing like the kid sleep of summer. Days spent in the ocean or the pool, or running around outside with friends wears them out in a way that we don’t see during the school year. Strict bedtimes need not be enforced because, by the end of a fun summer day, they’re putting themselves to bed.
10. Summer cocktails. I’m not saying we parents booze it up all summer long, but there are more social opportunities that lend themselves to a frosty beverage with friends. There’s nothing better than a group of moms gathered together watching our kids happily tire themselves out as another summer day draws to a close. Except the very same with a chilled cocktail in hand. Cheers!
11. Fresh Summer Food. Summer food is so fresh and delicious. We grow some in our own garden and are gifted with items from friends’ gardens, too. Local farmer’s markets, fresh seafood, and fresh produce just make me happy. Can you say, Juicy Jersey Tomatoes?
12. Pajama days. We spend so much time outside during the summer that the occasional pajama day is totally justified. Usually on a rainy day or an excessively hot day where the heat index would keep us indoors anyway. We stay in our jammies from breakfast through dinner, watching movies, building forts, playing board games, and reading.
13. Board Games. Speaking of pajama days and Yes, guess what else works in the summer? A 5-hour marathon game of Monopoly, Pictionary, Scattergories, or Clue. And I’m not too proud to admit that we taught our kids how to play poker and blackjack last summer, too. I see no harm in gambling for M&Ms.
14. Eating Outside. Breakfast on the porch, lunch at the pool, and dinner on the beach. Porches, patios, decks, or picnic blankets. We’ll take it anyway we can get it. I’m enjoying meals with my kids when we eat outside over the summer. No scolding to stop fidgeting, or sit back down until you finish your meal. We’re eating al fresco every chace we get. Bon Appetite’!
So enjoy the summer, families, kids, teachers and parents! We’ll see you in September.
I can believe whatever religion I choose.
I can also choose not to believe.
Someone’s grandfather died so I could be free.
I wear shorts when it’s hot and a bathing suit in the summer.
My daughter will never have to cover her face if she doesn’t want to.
Someone’s mother died so I could be free.
I changed my career three times
before quitting my job to stay home with my kids.
Someone’s sister died so I could be free.
I never served in the military.
I never wore the uniform of my country.
Someone’s brother died so I could be free.
Someone made the choice.
Someone donned the uniform.
Someone chose country over self.
Someone knew the risks and still served.
Someone fought with the intent of returning home.
Someone did not want to be martyred.
Someone wanted to march in the parade.
Someone hoped to escape the playing of Taps and the 21-gun salute.
We wear red, white, and blue.
We enjoy the start of summer.
We love our three-day weekend.
We need to remember.
Someone died so we could be free.
I repost this every year as a tribute and reminder of the sacrifices too many have paid for our freedom.
Thank You to all who have served and continue to serve.
When I was little, my grandmother took care of my cousin and me one day each week. I remember the highlight of my week would be sitting in the McDonald’s inside the Morris County Mall, comparing french fries.
“Look at how long this one is!”
“Mine’s really wiggly!”
“How many little crispies do you have?”
As I look back on those moments in my memory, I see the restaurant, our gray linoleum-topped table, and the red booths. I can picture my cousin, sitting across from or next to me, and I know that my Nana was there, watching our every move and cackling. I can hear her voice, and I can imagine her presence, but I can’t see her in my memory.
It’s been 22 years since she passed away when my cousin and I were Juniors in high school. I have plenty of mental images of her in my memory from later years. I can glimpse her sitting on my parents’ couch when they’d come over for family dinners. I can see her in her brown armchair, trying to peer around their giant goofball golden retriever who thought he was a lap dog. And I can see her in her bathing suit as we’d swim in their huge pool in their yard.
But no matter how hard I try, I can’t picture her from those days when she took care of me in preschool and Kindergarten.
I know this is because I was so young. Young children can’t retain as many distinct images in their memories as older kids and adults can. My mom reminded me of that recently when she mentioned some of the things she had done for us as kids. She was almost put off when I admitted that I couldn’t remember half of it.
“Just you wait,” she told me. “One day you’ll realize that everything you do for your kids now will be forgotten, too.”
It’s a bit of a rude awakening to acknowledge that she’s right.
My kids may not remember all of the work that went into planning birthday parties and family vacations. They won’t recall the particulars of potty training, trips to the ER and worrisome doctor’s visits. And they, too, may not be able to picture us in their minds when they remember moments from days spent together.
Now that my mom is retired, she takes care of my daughter one day each week. They come home with stories of picnics and playgrounds. My daughter now sits at McDonald’s next to that same cousin’s children who are with their grandmother, my aunt.
It is bittersweet to recognize how everything comes full circle. In my preschool days, I was the center of my own universe. Now, my daughter is the center of hers. As parents and grandparents, we simply get to orbit around their rays of sunshine and bask in the glow when they shine their light our way.
I watch her, as I’m sure my mom and my Nana watched me, and I love how she sees the world. I love her discoveries, and I adore her declarations. She makes me laugh every single day. I don’t need to be imprinted upon her memory because she will forever be imprinted on mine.
Someday, my daughter may look back on her days with Nini, too. She might remember what they ate, what Happy Meal toys they played with, and where they sat. But she may not be able to picture my mom or my aunt, sitting there with them, cackling like their mother at their grandchildren’s antics. She won’t remember skipping through the door, bubbling over with stories from her day, or the way she leaped into my arms when she came home.
But that’s okay. Because I will.
My kids walk home from school when the weather is nice. My boys are in 2nd and 4th grade and we live only a mile from their school. We started letting them walk just this year with a few other families in our neighborhood.
At first, I was a nutcase of a worrier over them walking. Would they be safe? Would they use their heads when crossing that last, busy street that has no crosswalk?
I started by waiting for them at their final intersection and walking the last couple of blocks home with them in the fall. But, little by little, I began to let them do the entire thing alone.
Our rules were simple:
- Walk straight home. No stops along the way.
- Stay on the sidewalks.
- Cross at the crosswalks.
- Always stay together as a group.
- Never let anyone walk alone.
They needed to be reminded of these rules a few times when our network of friends would call us to let us know that they saw the kids being stupid. Running across the street to grab acorns or pinecones, stopping to play in a friend’s backyard without telling anyone, splitting up and getting separated, or failing to find the group and starting on their own were some of their reported transgressions.
Most times they pulled this nonsense, they were called on it and forced to suffer either punishment or lectures about safety. Nothing makes me happier now than when I hear them dissuade each other from breaking rules because, “the parent spies will catch you.” Yes, they think we have spies strategically placed throughout the town and I whole-heartedly encourage that belief.
So yes, they are kids who don’t always use their heads, but more times than not, they have been responsible and smart about walking home safely this year.
Fast forward to last week, when my oldest son was home from school with a fever and a stomach bug. I had heard from one family of neighbors that her kids would not be walking home that day, so I knew I had to find a ride for my younger son so he wouldn’t be alone. I called up a friend who agreed to pick him up with her kids and keep him for a bit to play as well. Satisfied and grateful that I have such wonderful, helpful friends, I went back to the business of washing out the puke bucket and monitoring my oldest’s fever.
Shortly after school dismissal time, my phone rang.
“Stace? It’s me. I’m here with my kids, but your son is refusing to get in my car.”
“What!?! Oh no, I called the main office and had them tell him he’s going home with you!”
“I know, and he said he got the message, but he won’t get in.”
I was so confused and annoyed and embarrassed. Here I had called a friend for a favor and my kid was outright refusing an adult he knew very well. I wanted to strangle him. But my girlfriend just laughed it off.
“It’s fine. He said something about not letting anyone walk alone, so I let both of the boys out to walk home with their friend. I’ll trail them in the car and pick them up once they get to the first house.”
Mortified, I apologized and thanked her profusely for putting up with my stubborn son.
Not even 5 minutes later, my doorbell rang. It was another neighborhood dad at the door dropping off my son and his friend.
“I saw them walking home with my kid, so I scooped them all up out of the rain. They said they were going to play down the block, but I didn’t see a car there, so I brought them here.”
At that, I just burst out laughing in my neighbor’s face. I looked down at my son as he pushed past me to get into the house.
“Scottie, what happened? Why didn’t you get in the car when you knew you were supposed to go have a playdate?”
My son looked over his shoulder at me while he took off his wet shoes,
“You always said not to let anyone walk home alone!”
It was then that the lightbulb went off for both me and the dad who picked the kids up. It turns out that their normal walking group all had other plans after school with the exception of my son and this dad’s son. I had assumed my Scottie would be walking home alone, so I made plans to have him picked up. But, if he had gotten into the car with his friend, that would have left only one person, this 4th grade boy, walking home alone.
In his refusal to get into my girlfriend’s car, he was actually standing firm in his knowledge of our group’s safety rules. This girlfriend of mine didn’t know the other boy walking home, and he didn’t know her, so they decided to just all walk home together in the rain instead.
As we figured it all out, we laughed at the confusion. Grateful for cell phones, we called everyone involved and relayed the story. No, Scottie wasn’t being rude or stubborn, he was actually being safe and looking out for his friend. And both my girlfriend and the other dad friend were understanding after both being so wonderful about helping out.
It’s one of my favorite things about this tiny little small town. That all of the families get to know each other and look out for each other’s kids, even when not asked to do so. With this little incident, now two more families have gotten to know each other, just further spreading the net of helping hands and watchful eyes over our kids.
And now I know for sure that, despite all of my worrying that they’re all being knuckleheads on the walks home, at least one of the rules has sunk in.
I want to applaud all of the women whose husbands travel regularly and often. I don’t know how you do it. Like everything else in life, I’m sure you get used to it, but it can’t be easy. Whether he travels on frequent short trips for business, or the much harder, longer deployments for the military, I know I couldn’t do it. Maybe in my younger, carefree, childless days, perhaps. But definitely not now. My hat is off to you all.
My own husband just returned from his annual golf trip. Once a year, and only for 5 days and nights, he heads south to hit the links. I know, I know, no sympathy deserved here. But over the course of those five days, I discovered a few things about myself and my marriage.
Leading up to this trip, I was honestly looking forward to it. (Shhh, don’t tell my husband!) After the holidays, January and February bring with them a funk. This year, that funk was topped with about three feet of snow. We all were suffering from lack of fresh air and exercise, cabin fever, and too much together time, thanks to Christmas break followed by umpteen snow days. I was cranky, my husband was moody, and my kids were driving us both bonkers. So I was looking forward to this trip to give us some needed space to breathe.
Besides, I used to live alone. I loved those years of having my own place with only my two cats for company. I wasn’t worried a bit. In fact, I started thinking about all of the great things about having the house and the kids to myself for the next week. This would be great!!
There really are some great things about having your husband away from home for a while.
- Easy Dinners! Ask any mom and she’ll tell you, we’re really happy with a bowl of cereal or a salad for dinner most nights. Fix the kids some easy pizza, chicken nuggets, or mac n cheese and call it a night. No meal planning, grocery shopping, prep, cooking, or clean-up required. Whoopie!!!!
- Post-Bedtime Quiet. Once the kids are in bed, the house is MINE. They won’t notice that I’ve turned all the clocks ahead by half an hour to push that a little earlier, right? No discussing plans, house issues, small talk. Just peace and quiet. Pure bliss.
- Control of the Remote. I can watch Downton Abbey, cheesy 80’s movies, or as many reruns of Grey’s Anatomy as I want without anyone scoffing, complaining, or interjecting with jabs about this “special, touching episode.” I have absolute control and refuse to watch Top Gear, golf, or the history of man’s finest inventions.
- Full Stretch on the Sofa. Yes! I can take up all three cushions to myself and stretch out from end to end in complete and utter relaxation!
- Clean, Tidy Bathroom. I love my bathroom when he’s gone. No cans of shaving cream left on the sink, no razors falling out of his toiletry bag, and the bathmat and towels are hung neatly, and the shower curtain is perfectly draped every time I enter. My absolute favorite here, though, is that I can actually see myself in the mirror because it no longer has that smeared streak down the center of it from him wiping away the shower steam to shave. Clean, tidy, and just the way I like it.
- The Whole Bed. Our rooms are too small to fit a king size bed, so we share a queen. Without him here, I can sprawl right across that nice, firm bump in the middle that hasn’t sagged yet and not worry about hogging anything. All the covers and pillows are mine, all mine. Let the peaceful slumber take me away!
Except, my slumber isn’t all that peaceful and I begin to realize that it’s nice to have him around.
- Late Nights. I stay up way too late when my husband is away. No clue why, but I do, every single night.
- Snacking. While I’m staying up way to late, I find myself snacking before bed. I know this is a terrible habit, yet I do it anyway. Maybe I miss running my mouth, chatting with him before bed and have to keep my lips busy. I don’t know. I just know that I’d be huge if he was away any longer than a week.
- No Alarm. I haven’t set my own alarm clock in years. My husband’s alarm goes off, waking us both up as he gets ready for work and I get ready to get the kids off to school. Late nights plus no alarm equals an unhappy, very rushed morning.
- Household Duties. I do just about everything for the house indoors as far as cleaning, cooking, and basic upkeep. But my husband does the outside stuff. When a storm dumped another 5 inches of snow, topped with a wet coating of ice and sleet, I didn’t have him here with the snow blower, clearing our driveway, steps, and walkway. So I had to shovel all of that very heavy, wet stuff myself in order to get the car out. I have a new hatred for snow plows after sobbing my way through the sludge they pushed to barricade us in. When is he coming home again?
- Single Parenting. I do most of the parenting on my own anyway in our family, due to the fact that my husband commutes to the city for work. He leaves at 6:30 every morning and isn’t home until 7:30 most nights. But even with that schedule, I didn’t realize how much he helps with the kids in those few hours that he does have. All of the help, discipline, and bedtime routines fell to me this week, making me miss having him here.
- Restless Sleep. Although this is the same house in which I sleep every single night, when my husband is gone, every noise wakes me up and starts my heart to racing. Before bed, I bring my cell phone with me instead of leaving it charging in the kitchen. I triple check every door lock and window, and generally get myself in a horror-movie panic, imagining every demon and ne’er-do-well coming to get me. Suddenly having this bed to myself doesn’t sound so good.
After the first two days, the luster has worn off and I need my husband back home. I am a sleep-deprived nutcase, holding it together for the sake of my kids.
- Snow Sucks. (and perhaps my attitude does, too.) I think the weatherman predicting more snowfall during my husband’s drive home should be hanged with his own ugly tie. If one more snowflake falls on my shoveled walkway, I’m buying a flame thrower.
- Empty Bed. My covers are cold and my nightmares are haunting me. I need my husband home to reach out and touch in the middle of the night.
- Kissless. They may not be the steamy smooches of romance novels, but I really miss morning kisses as he walks out the door, evening kisses when he comes home from work, and good night kisses before bed. I am kissless. Even my lips miss him.
- Kids Who Miss Their Daddy. My kids adore my husband. He is a great father. Hearing my daughter say how much she misses Daddy is breaking my heart. I can’t wait for him to come home so he can see just how much he is loved.
- Post-Bedtime Quiet. Once something I looked forward to, now it’s just too quiet. All other noises are amplified and it makes this big house feel so empty. I never knew I could feel such extreme isolation in the comfort of my own home. There are four people living here, yet it is so very lonely.
- Missing His Wit. Control over the TV remote is great, but I actually miss my husband’s sharp wit and silly puns. No one makes me laugh and smile as much as he can. I miss his company so much.
- Feeling Incomplete. When he is gone, I feel like part of me is missing. After so many years together, we have become like two slivers of soap in the shower, slowly molding ourselves around each other until we’re one solid chunk. We may be worn around the edges, and a little soggy from overuse, but we work best when together. Separate us, and neither piece is enough to get the job done on its own. But together, we’re a fresh, clean whole.
I suppose absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Each trip away proves to me that I married the absolutely perfect man for me. It’s not just missing someone when he’s gone; I miss everything about who he is. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and everything in between. He’s home again and I am whole again.
Staring at an empty page
tears rolling down his chin.
He sighs, frustrated,
thinking that I don’t understand him.
I want to tell him that I know
exactly how he feels.
I want to hug him, comfort him
assist with this ordeal.
Instead I stand one room away
just peeking in to see
if he has started working yet,
but I can’t let him see me.
He needs to puzzle through this,
Needs to get there on his own.
He needs to learn how to begin,
so he can get it done.
He’s only eight, in second grade,
hating both homework and me.
It’s not that I don’t want to help;
I just need to let him be.
I need to let him flail and fret;
I need to let him be upset.
I need to watch him struggle.
If it’s too easy, he’ll forget.
Once this is finally finished,
I know he’ll stomp and fuss.
He’ll claim how much he just hates school,
and even, possibly, us.
But when it’s over, he will know
that he completed this task.
And any future hurdles
won’t be too much to ask.
By butting out, a room away,
I just hope he learns
The best rewards cannot be given;
No, they must be earned.
I hope someday that he will know,
deep down in his heart,
that all things become possible.
You only have to start.
I wrote this poem after reading the following phenomenal article from Forbes, 7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders. I am guilty of more than half of these things, so I still have a long way to go.