Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer 2013: "Thou Shalt Have No Wasted Days!"

Summer vacation starts for us in two days. At noon, to be precise. And not a moment too soon, let me tell you!

Indeed, it's a very late dismissal this year because of a very snowy winter, especially the second half of it. All five allotted snow days were used, pushing classes much too close to the Fourth of July weekend for my liking.

What that means on the other end, of course, is that our break from school will be that much shorter. Only two months long, to be exact. And when I say "exact," I really mean it. Not one day extra, not one day less. Honestly, I think there might have been an uprising if summer vacation had been reduced any more.

Still, two months. TWO MONTHS! Ugh. I shudder to think about resuming the school-day routine on August 28 when the days are blisteringly hot and steamy.

Speaking of BLISTERINGLY HOT AND STEAMY, our weather of late has only compounded the agony of this extra week of classes (and Field Days and a field trip to Boston). Northeastern Massachusetts has felt more like Texas than one hour south of the northernmost state in New Engand. Today is the third day of a heat wave, generally defined in the region as three days in a row of 90-degree temperatures or higher. In fact, yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far with the mercury climbing to 95 degrees, tying the record for that day set in 1976.

With such an abbreviated vacation, parents may feel added pressure to make the most of it. I know I do. "Thou shalt have no wasted days." The Eleventh Commandment.

Like many -- dare I say, most? -- parents of school-age kids, I am DONE with the school year. Caught-on-fire-marshmallow-over-a-campfire done. I'm weary of getting up at a certain early time, preparing breakfast for the troops, making lunches or putting $2.75 in labeled envelopes for lunch money, choosing clothes for my boys to wear, reviewing their homework, and packing their backpacks. I've had enough hurrying off to school -- either walking or driving (when we're tardy). And I'm tired of having to race over to the school at 2:55 p.m. for pickup, followed later in the day by a sports practice or game, the making of dinner, and the overseeing of homework. Everything gets pushed back too far into the evening, cutting into my alone time.

As a full-time single mother coming up on a decade, I require "me time" to decompress -- and, at the risk of sounding too New Agey, get centered from my daily stress. Doing what I need to do to nourish my brain and/or senses -- whether that be Facebooking; reading a book, magazine, or news article; e-mailing; or watching TV (I've really taken to nighttime dramas with catchy one-word names such as Revenge, Nashville, Scandal, the now-canceled Deception, and Motive, my latest -- I stay up too late then predictably feel and look like the wreck of the Hesperus the next day.

Isn't what I really need sleep? Well, yes, yet I crave my quiet time after the boys have gone to bed. Anyway, I vow to do better the next night, but invariably it happens again and again and again. It's a vicious cycle.

Getting through the rigid school year requires discipline, adherence to a schedule, and tolerance of repetition. SO MUCH REPETITION! God Almighty. Personally, I prefer things to be loosey goosey. Get up whenever. Cobble together some random food. Roll down the driveway as the spirit moves me. Do I sound like a slacker bachelor? You have the right idea. I am the female equivalent. I just happen to have two children.

But not even the summer can be truly loosey goosey when said children are young, as mine are. They wake you with their noise. They need you to get them to their morning day camp at their school, of all places, making it feel awfully like a school-year dropoff. They need to be wearing clean clothes that they didn't wear the day before. They need to have money in their pockets for a drink and/or snack. They need you to pick them up at noon (or whenever, and from wherever). And they need you to deliver them to and from their next activity wearing the proper attire and carrying the proper equipment, if necessary. They still need to eat meals. They still need to be prompted to brush their teeth and bathe. And they still need to be coaxed into bed.

Loosey Goosey? Hardly.

Unless they go to sleepaway camp or spend a good part of July and August living elsewhere with a divorced parent or other relative, kids are generally home a lot more during the summer than the school year. And while that can certainly be wonderful, it can also be very challenging. Most parents need to work during the day, and they also need a break from child care. Siblings get on each others' nerves, especially in the very hot or rainy weather and when they are around each other too much because they don't have enough to do or enough to do separate from one another. Days can be long and arduous for parents when the squabbles and physical fights begin.

So while a school year is predictable, summer is more of an unknown quantity. It is also very individual. My family's summer will not look like your family's summer, and your family's summer will not look like your neighbors' family summer. But if you live in my community and send your kids to the public school like I do, then our summers will have one thing in common this year: they will be very short.

Make your summer a good one!

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