I’m always amazed at how suddenly the house turns silent on the first day of school. With the exiting of backpacks and closing of the garage door, my home goes from a twenty-four hour circus to an abandoned library. In the silence and sudden focus back to self, I can’t help but reflect on the lessons I have learned this summer with the help of my family.
It is my vacation, too. I took a new approach to summer travel this year, and now there is no going back. Do you see that tiny, six-inch space in the picture above? That is where I slept for ten days while on “vacation” in summer 2016. In 2017, I declared no children in my bed on vacation, and I meant it. Game changer! Feeling sassy after a good night of sleep, I made another rule: I would not be holding everyone’s stuff on the beach for hours at a time. In the pictures below you can see my beach chair in 2016 and 2017. The Tommy Bahama throne changed a lot in a year. Last year, I was responsible for two cell phones, a Go Pro, snorkeling gear, and more. Don’t I get to swim at the beach? How was I supposed to go to the bar when I had to guard all this stuff? So, on this vacation, I declared I am no longer the keeper of valuables. I would instead be a sunbather with two responsibilities: my beverage and their water safety. And, I would pay attention to one more than the other, but we need not discuss the details. This year’s beach chair was personalized with my flip-flops and a custom drink holder. What a difference a year can make! And, guess what? We all still managed to have a very good time while sleeping in our own beds and not demanding I sit in one place for hours at a time. That is summer learning at its finest!
We are in high school. Every time I say, “I can’t believe we are in high school,” my daughter quickly corrects me. She insists “we” are not in high school and that she alone is having the adventure. I beg to differ. We are both transitioning onto this bigger campus. We are both a little unsure of how this is going to go. We are both wide-eyed at the boys who have full beards and the children who are driving cars around this new school. We are both feeling a little out of place, and yet we are cautiously optimistic that this is going to be an amazing experience. Yes, we are in high school.
Our children know our secrets. My son lost a tooth this summer. I assumed it would not be an event. However, he showed me the tooth and then told me the Tooth Fairy had better come that night. I was so stunned by his next sentence that I went straight into my office to write down the exact words that followed his request, and to let my crimson cheeks return to their normal color. He said, “Mom, don’t take five dollars out of my wallet. I already counted, and I know you would do that.” I admit it, I have been giving my son his own money for his teeth for a while now. Doesn’t he understand I never have cash and I mostly remember to pay him back? Stunned by his revelation, I wondered what else he knew. Does he know I eat his Easter candy while he is at school? Okay, Halloween and Valentine’s, too, if we are really putting it out there. Surely he is unaware that, although I am making eye contact when he is sharing a detailed description of his new Mine Craft world, what I am really thinking about is the last episode of This Is Us and things I need from the grocery store. Does he know that last year there was a time I didn’t get around to washing his soccer socks in time for practice and instead quickly rubbed a dryer sheet on top of the dirty ones and handed them to him like they just came out of the dryer? Is he aware that I still get a tear in my eye when I watch him walk up the sidewalk to school? That several times a week I stare at him while he sleeps? And, that I want to be his favorite girl forever?
I cannot eat in the dark. Hot summers in Texas can be tough for a kid who doesn’t have a pool. Indoor attractions like trampoline parks are always an option, if you don’t mind sitting alone in a stale room that smells like dirty feet while listening to bad music blaring through the speakers and getting your shoes stolen from the cubby, as happened to us last week. I have yet to hear a parent exiting one of those places saying, “We should do this again as soon as possible!” At least the movies are always a great summer choice for both the adults and the kids. With so many theaters offering reclining seats and full lunch and dinner menu options delivered right to your seat, how could I not love this luxurious summer option? Trust me, I don’t. I realized this summer I have deep concerns about eating in the dark. It happened early on in the summer while I was digging into my cobb salad in total darkness. With the lights out in the theater, I blindly made my way through the mix of ingredients in confusion. Yikes, there is a tomato I wasn’t expecting. Surprise! They did add red onion despite my request that they not. How do I pick around the red onion in the dark? What about the chicken? Good Lord, you know what everyone says about eating an unusual protein! They say it is tastes like chicken! How do I know if I am biting into a rogue cricket or the grilled chicken when everything tastes like chicken? No, I am not eating in the dark unless it is popcorn, or maybe pizza — if I am feeling like a daredevil. I will not eat salads and sandwiches under the cover of darkness, and neither should you.
Kids make rules, too. As the fall sports season starts at the high school we attend, I have been given strict instructions. I am not allowed to clap loudly or call out my child’s name in support, and I must get to my seat quickly. I actually agreed to all those things just so I wouldn’t get the “don’t you dare” wide-eyed greeting each time I entered the gym. I also agreed to them because I know all the things I did not agree to, and they are so much more creative than all the options she took off the list. If I can’t do the things all the other parents get to do, then I will just have to make up my own original things to do at the games. The possibilities are endless.
I hope my lack of memory doesn’t come into play with the new sports rules like it did with my son’s new rule the other day. My son decided he wanted to try deodorant even though he doesn’t need it just yet. I’m all for a nice looking young man who smells good, too, so I agreed. He told me I was never to say a word about it and to play it cool at the register. No problem, I can follow that rule. Twenty minutes and a full cart later, I had totally moved on from that conversation. The nice lady at the register asked my son if he would like a sticker. He politely said no. I looked right at him and said, “As if you’d want a sticker after picking out your very first deodorant.” I didn’t lean into the microphone and blast my statement over the speakers, but, by the look on his face, one might have thought that I had. I am sorry, son. I am over forty, and I can never find my phone or remember things outside of a ten-minute window. Please forgive me the way I forgave you when you stuck “I have clean hands” stickers all over the back of my dress and allowed me to walk in public for over an hour.
The summer learning of 2017 has officially come to an end. Who knows what lessons the fall will bring? With two new schools, new sports teams, and new friendships to be made, it should be quite an interesting adventure. Last week, I sent one off to the first day of high school with a smile on her face, and, today, I’ve sent the other to finish up elementary at a new school with anxiety and concern on his face. Today, I will reflect on the family fun of summer, bake his favorite lemon bars, and joyfully await the return of the circus noise. I know one day, not too long from now, the silence of the house that I embrace during these school hours will be the norm, and I don’t want to learn that until I have to.