Summer Appetizer

This Memorial Day weekend has me thinking about summer. About watermelon and pool days and hikes and heat and mosquitoes and road trips.

As a kid, summer always felt magical. My mom took my siblings and me on field trips and day trips with just enough downtime for doing all the things we wanted (but didn’t have time for) throughout the school year. We did chores but most days we had near complete freedom for all kinds of summer activities.


Now as parent of three wonderful but often challenging kids, I’m looking for ways to help make summer relaxing, fun, and doable for all of us. And so far, I find myself stymied.

Evelyn sits on the cusp of adolescence. Suddenly, at ten, she rolls her eyes a lot more, talks back, and shows frequent impatience with her younger siblings. She wants to stay up late. She wants to call and email her friends. She wants to know why she can’t do exactly what she wants, when she wants to.

Charlotte is my middle child. She longs to be like Evelyn and do what Evelyn does, but she’s 2 1/2 years younger. She’s an extrovert and a party girl, always looking for the next fun thing. It’s never enough for Charlotte; there always must be another fun thing coming down the pike, or else she gets whiny.

Calvin loves the physical and the tactile. At just three and a half, he still loves the simple things: sand, water, dirt, slides. The stuff that Evelyn is suddenly too cool to like. But he also sees the allure of what his sisters are doing, although he’s often too young to participate. I frequently run interference for the girls if they’re playing a game or doing crafts.

It’s an odd spread: 10, 7.5, 3.5. All walking, all talking. (Though not all potty trained–that’s a topic for another post.) But all into rather different things and with different needs. Whenever James and I divide them into a pair and a singleton, life suddenly gets more manageable. It doesn’t matter which configuration we create–it’s always better to have 2 and 1 than all 3 together.

Preparing for our first "Trail Challenge" of Summer 2014.
Preparing for our first “Trail Challenge” of Summer 2014.

Which brings me back to summer (officially starting in just 11 school days, but who’s counting?).

I want to feel excited by the possibilities, by the myriad things we can do together. I hope we learn, laugh, explore, and relax together.

But the truth is that, at least with my kids in my family, those things don’t just happen. Collectively, we don’t seem to fall into happiness or ease. It takes a lot of work to get things lined up in a way that there’s space for the things we value.

It requires time, energy, money, planning, and communication. We have to navigate everyone’s desires and dislikes, avoid people’s buttons and stressors, take into account each person’s preferences and needs.

This all makes me feel tired, and it’s not even June yet.

I know this may sound like I’m dreading summer, but I’m not. Truly. It’s just that, from where I sit, with one day left of a four-day Memorial Weekend that found me more often than I’d like to admit saying “no,” explaining why we weren’t going somewhere special, and nagging the kids about cleaning up after themselves, summer looks like it’s going to require a lot more from me than I feel like I have to offer at the moment.



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