The unstructured summer day
After the Friday that Col was sprung from kindergarten with stacks of artwork and a baby food jar of mealworms and darkling beetles, I spent the whole weekend announcing ceremoniously to Dan, Today Is The First Day of Summer.
Sometimes I’d whisper the words with the giddy awe of someone who was still outside at 8:30 pm, tucking tomato plants into horse manure alongside children who no longer had any particular bedtime. Other times – like when Rosie was ear-splittingly bereft about Col still having some dried mango left when she had eaten all of hers – the words would squeak through the thin breezeways of my gritted teeth.
In an instant our entire routine has changed. In fact, there is no routine anymore – it’s like the house of cards that we’ve been delicately propping up for 9 months has blown over. We’re no longer the harried commuters trying to make the early bedtime train. And at 2:45 pm, I’m no longer waking Rose from her nap while gathering up protein to fling at Col’s weary post-school self.
It took about 3 days, a lot of coffee and some deep yogic breathing to build back a tolerance for the all day Mama-gig. And it’s such an odd gig, really. Because an hour will pass with the kids cheerfully drawing at the kitchen table discussing whether pink is actually a color in the rainbow. And everything is peaceful and creative in that way that you always imagined family life to be back when your pregnant belly was thumping with life and you felt like a mother because you were reading parenting books while the spoon was a blur of metal between your mouth and the ice cream carton.
But I know enough now to see that Col and Rose are perched on top of a giant Jenga game and any minute someone is going to carelessly yank out a wooden block and crash the whole thing down. Which is just to say, things change in an instant.
And then the next hour everyone is shattered and broken on the ground and I’m back to my yogic breathing and reminding myself that there is no Eden of certain bliss to return to, there is no criminal child who needs punishment, there is just the next moment to breathe through without drowning in the surf of my own expectations. Soon I am pulling myself up by a string, knotted with moments of grace, dangling above the ocean while the kids have skittered off to play a new game.
But, today is the first day of summer, and there’s nowhere we have to be! Sometimes the day yawns scarily ahead of us like this chasm of sticky boredom that you could fall into and become too bored and hot to ever climb out of. But really, it’s never like that. There’s aphids to serve to chickens, and weird, glamourous ponies who need their purple hair washed and brushed, and the magic that springs forth from the imaginations of children who are teetering on the edge of that crevasse labeled “sticky boredom down here.” And just before a small sneaker is about to slip down into the crevasse, the child pivots around, runs away and says, “let’s say I was a butterfly and you were trying to feed me nectar.”
“No, let’s say I was a doctor and I had to cut off your foot.”
“Yeah, because I didn’t need it anymore.”
And they’re off.
It’s 9:15 am and already the kids made cards for their grandparents, ate several breakfasts, discussed what would happen if you tied a balloon to an evening grosbeak, snuggled in bed requesting funny stories about when they were “little,” found a “callepitter” (caterpillar) and made a habitat for it in a jar, had some fight that no one remembers, gathered chicken eggs, and rode bikes around the yard.
I’m loving the rhythm of our unstructured summer days; I think it’s my new religion.
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And you, dear one? How is your summer with the little peeps going?