It’s here… just like it promised. It seems manageable when it’s looming in the distance, approaching at a glacier’s pace — “I’ve got time, it’s cool…,” I think to myself. Suddenly, though, the kids are out of school, summer arrived at a break-neck speed and I am utterly unprepared.
I am a stay-at-home mom to six kids ranging in age from 20 months to 13 years. I love our children — they are all kind-hearted and funny and amazing in their own very individual ways. I, overall, enjoy being with them all day, every day, during the summer. My main complaint, really, is that they all talk. The volume level in our home goes up exponentially overnight and it’s deafening.
During the school year, I know that if I can just get make it to 7:40 a.m., I’ll be okay. The bus arrives and most of them get on it. It’s a madhouse until then — a flurry of breakfast eating, teeth and hair brushing, lunch packing and backpack stuffing. But as soon as they walk out of the door, I can (almost) hear myself think again. I have until 3:30 p.m. when the afternoon craziness begins.
During the summer, though, there is no chunk of quiet(er) time. They do sleep in a bit later than during the school year, but still, by 9 a.m. they’re awake. And talking. To me. Always with the talking. Talking, talking, talking. Lots and lots of talking and a good bit of arguing.
The mornings are usually pleasant. They’ve had a good night’s sleep and no one is aggravated or ill-tempered yet. They come to me one by one for a morning hug and to breathe their dragon breath all up in my face. Within an hour of waking, though, it all changes. A brother or sister has left an empty milk container in the fridge — idiot! Who changed the channel? I’d only gone to the bathroom —change it back, jerk! What are we doing today, Mom? The park/swimming/movie On Demand/quiet game again? But we just did that! Why can’t we go to Disney World/Yellowstone/Paris like our friends?
By 11 a.m. I am frazzled and counting down the hours until bedtime, or at least my next Xanax dose. The days are painfully the same yet vastly different. And very, very loud.
I do enjoy the freedom of no schedule. I do love watching our kids swim and splash, their skin turning a beautiful golden color and their eyelashes all stuck together when they hop out of the water. I do love being much more flexible about bedtime. Why is our 6-year-old awake at 10 p.m.? Oh, yeah, it’s summer — whatever. I love that we leave our sleeper-sofa pulled out all summer. It invites lounging and snuggling and impromptu naps. I love watching them watch the sun go down in anticipation of the fireflies coming out.
When I focus on these things, I feel like I’ll make it. When I take the time to be in the moment, the day doesn’t seem so overwhelming. It’s when I look at the pages and pages of days on the calendar before the school year starts again that I feel my throat closing up and my heart beating out of my chest. It’s when I let the guilt of not being able to take our kids on some spectacular summer adventure comparable to their friends’ summer trips that it gets to me. It’s when I have absolutely nothing planned and all day to do it that I worry about “wasting” their summer. That’s when I wonder how on earth I’ll ever survive this seemingly never-ending cyclone of chaos.
But then, I wake up one day and realize that most of the summer is over. I can see a light at the end of the long days of summer tunnel. We somehow survived — heck, maybe even thrived! I didn’t die or even come close to being institutionalized after having six kids talking to me all at once for 90-plus days in a row. And then when that sinks in, I get all nostalgic and weepy because I look around at the faces of our beauty full children and that Jim Croce song, “Time in a Bottle,” starts playing on a loop in my head.
I realize that this is the good stuff. The days where we aren’t freaking out because it’s suddenly 7 p.m. and crap! — no one has started their homework yet. The days that we don’t have four different places to be all within half an hour of each other. The days of not frantically searching high and low for the missing bit of the project that was due yesterday that our 10-year-old worked so hard on but that our 20-month-old may or may not have eaten. The evenings when we can read as many books as they like and maybe go outside to play with sparklers for a while because there is no alarm clock the next morning.
All of that. That is the good stuff. That is where the little daily gifts and rewards of summer are found if only I take note.
There will be fantastic plans made that never materialize. Countless passionate arguments between siblings to referee that leave me feeling frustrated and tearful. Mountains and mountains of laundry and wet towels that need attention. Too many episodes of SpongeBob being watched because I have mountains and mountains of laundry and wet towels that need attention.
In the long run, none of that will be remembered. I’ll send them back off to school at the end of summer and I’ll feel hollow for a few days. The routines have started again. There is that God-awful alarm clock again. There are the whirling dervishes that are our kids struggling to get everything done before the bus stops in front of our house.
Then, after I’ve waved goodbye and blown them kisses, I’ll turn and walk back into our home that is now so much quieter than it has been in the past few months. I’ll take a deep breath, thank God for those wonderful children and another successful summer.
Then I’ll fist pump wildly in the air because, at least until around 3:30 p.m., I’ll be able to (almost) hear myself think again!