Another school year has ended. You may be feeling jubilant, delighted and find yourselves skipping through the aisles of Jewel telling anyone who will listen that your babies will be nestled in the warm folds of your loving embrace for the next three months.
If you are feeling this way I suggest that you are in the minority.
Summer, a microcosm of our lives, is more likely to be a combination of highs, lows, joy, ennui, adventure, peace, hard work, relaxation, agony and ecstasy.
As I coach myself through the chaotic changes that are about to flood through the open gates of my peaceful home, I remind myself of something. These are the same children I yearned for and prayed for. These are the same children who I guard with my life and who occupy the majority of the real estate leased in my mind and in my heart. So what am I so afraid of?
Whether it’s the change in their schedules, their needs, their bodies or their friends, no two summers look alike. Every year gets a little easier as they become more independent, and a little harder as they need you in different ways. You could say that motherhood breaks you down physically for the first half of your child’s life and mentally for the second half. Or you could throw your hands up, let your hair down and admit that while this job has never been easy it sure is a popular choice.
If you are willing to accept summer, your children, their friends and all of their foibles then I will be too and we can do this together. To get us through the next few months with our sanity intact, let us please say a little summer prayer before we get this party started.
God, please let me remember that my children only have about a dozen summers that they will tell stories about for the rest of their lives. Please don’t let them all be of me nagging at them to stop dripping Popsicles on the kitchen floor.
Help me to maintain the balance I need to usher in a little joy, a little peace and a few belly laughs regardless of the mountains of laundry that are piling so high I can’t open the door to the laundry room to get in.
Remind me that nobody cares what my thighs look like at the pool because they are obsessing over their own thighs. Pools are for swimming, splashing, chatting and reading and nowhere is it written that we will not get bored doing all of these things. But unlike the last six months, the sun will be shining and the sky will be blue.
When my daughter is learning to drive this summer please help me to be patient and calm. Help me to stop alternately picturing her bald baby head and the day she goes off to college so that I can keep my eyes on the road and answer her questions.
Grant me the serenity I need when my youngest daughter wakes up an hour after my teenage son finally goes to bed. This too shall pass and if it doesn’t, run away and go to the mall with your sister.
If we are lucky enough to go to the beach or on vacation, please let me remember that the thousands of photos I pour over with love are the ones taken in those moments so enjoy them. You may have to go through a lot of travel torture to get to the moments of summer bliss but when you do, smile, because you will be showing your grandchildren these pictures.
Help me to remember that no matter how centered or grateful I am there will be moments and hours of pure madness. Not all of this can be cured with mint chip ice cream and the remote control in the middle of the night, but some of them can.
Remember that your girlfriends will save your lives. Don’t forget to save theirs too. Unloading to your friend will lighten your load. Asking someone how they are coping could change the landscape of an entire family’s day.
When you are feeling tired and can’t muster the energy to cut one more apple or pick another towel off the floor, let it go and find your smile in a nap. When mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.
Try not to compare yourself, your kids, your house or your spouse to anyone else. No two summers, children or hardworking mothers are the same, so why bother?
Mostly, I would like to leave you with advice that a dear friend once gave to me just weeks before she passed away. Her words ring loudly in my ears more often than I can tell you.
Take care of the caretaker. Go somewhere alone and have your thoughts to yourself for a little while. Meet an old friend you haven’t seen for ages. If you can laugh until you cry, even better. Go to a movie no one else wants to see. Inside the theatre, drink so much pop you have to go to the bathroom where you can relish the fact that you don’t have to take anyone else with you.
Find a way to put some dates on your calendar where nobody will be in your house but you, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.
In short, have a wonderful summer; the microcosm of your life. It may be exhausting, maddening and you may find yourself serving more people than you ever imagined you could serve. It may not look the way you thought it should look but every day is a chance to make it what you want. In the end, you will only take photos of the good times.
Those are the ones you will remember forever.