Before summer jobs and two-month-short semesters, before “grown-up” commitments and working straight through from Memorial to Labor Day with the mere hiccup of Independence, there was a time of riding bikes past nightfall and playing “Ghost in the Graveyard” after that. There were Kool-Aid stands to man and dusty games of run-down. There were toads and lightning bugs to catch and creeks to stomp through. A day at the pool meant a stop at the candy stand too. And of course, summer meant banana popsicles.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in being an adult and to miss summertime altogether. We go from air-conditioned homes to air-conditioned cars to AC at work, the height of the mercury but a footnote of our small talk. If we take a summer vacation, it is typically eaten by travels, nothing like the long, sprawling summers of our grade-school years.
I was fortunate enough growing up that my mom chose to stay home with us, granting us kids the full summer experience, complete with, “If you’re so bored, I’ll GIVE you something to do!” Now as a mother myself, I sometimes worry that because of my working, my boys will miss out on the Norman Rockwell summers I remember. Like my husband and I, our boys have year-round, full-time schedules. Summer, to them, means hot, sweaty playtime at daycare with an occasional “water day.” I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to budget even tighter, to stay home with them, to give them what I had.
I wonder if they’re missing out.
Then, like yesterday, it rains.
They spent the dreary, stormy hours at daycare. By the time I picked them up, the clouds were breaking. By the time we got home, the pavement was dry. Save for one puddle.
Now, when it comes to puddles, a parent’s first instinct is typically to tell her child, “don’t.” And I did, at first. But then when the little one did anyhow, his face glowed with pure joy. In that moment I was as happy as my child. And he was having more fun than on Halloween and Christmas morning together — how could I deny him that for the silly sake of wet clothes?
Today was a beautiful day, and not too hot. After picking the kids up and eating a dinner of the four-year-old’s choosing (dinosaur chicken nuggets, Disney-shaped whole grain pasta leftovers, blackeyed peas), I joined the boys and some neighborhood kids on the front stoop for a dessert of banana popsicles. Once again, summer found me — this time in sticky grins.
I guess as the responsibilities pile on and vacations grow thin, joy reveals itself through moments — for me, most clearly through my children.