The Long and Short of Summer: My End-of-School-Year Angst

School's out, and we're all happy. For now.

School’s out, and we’re all happy. For now.

This morning, my boys put Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” on continuous loop while they got ready for school: their last (half) day of sixth grade. I tried joining in on the party, pulling out a few dance moves I’d recently learned at Zumba. Apparently, my dancing “ruined it” for at least one son, though he kept the music on.

I must admit, too, that I didn’t really feel like celebrating good times because holy crap, my boys are out of school for 2.5 months, and I don’t know what to do with them.

Confessing I’m a little fretful about summer vacation is difficult. I know plenty of other parents are delighted to have their kids home for a few months, back in their care, no schedules, no early morning wake-ups, no nothing.

Admitting my own trepidation about taking care of my own kids for several months also plays easily into stereotypes about feminists: you know, about women who really hate men and children, who are selfish slaves to their careers, who want to rule the world.

These stereotypes are bogus, of course, for me and a zillion other feminists for whom being a mom is their most cherished role, whether they work outside or inside the home. I also don’t really want to rule the world. I’d just like to more successfully manage the chaos my boys can potentially cause over the next 2.5 months.

So I’ve been trying to develop a game plan, something I’ve done every summer since my boys were young. Back then, summers seemed easier, probably because there were numerous Vacation Bible Schools I could send them to, giving them the opportunity to learn about Jesus for weeks on end. And afternoon naps also consumed a good chunk of time, as did earlier bedtimes. They’re too old for VBS now, and don’t need naps—even if I still do. These days, I also go to bed long before they do.

Several weeks ago, I went to Portland for a presentation on things to do with kids for the summer. I mostly attended to hear my awesome friend Beth Woolsey speak, and because the accompanying lunch was good (and cheap!). The mothers who presented, though, filled me with anxiety: they were organizing week-long summer camps in their own homes, with craft projects, activities, field trips, educational lessons. God knows, they probably also made camp t-shirts and nametags. I thought I saw Beth roll her eyes, which made me a little less anxious; maybe mothers in Portland have a different M.O. than those in Newberg.

And then, my friend Heidi posted a link to a blog about how to give your kids a 70s summer. I hesitated opening it, because I didn’t want to read a judgmental screed about lazy kids today, with too much screen time and how back in the day . . .  But the writer actually did have summers similar to mine, watching hours of Gilligan’s Island reruns, eating whole bags of Doritos (sometimes dipped in sugar), and hanging around the neighborhood for hours on end, doing nothing much.

My 70s summers also including going to the outdoor pool for 5-6 unsupervised hours every day, starting when I was eight, and consuming god knows how much Laffy Taffy and Chico Sticks. I imagine letting my boys do something similar today might warrant a house call from protective services, or at least few condemnatory looks from other moms.

So I wonder: did my mom feel the same sense of panic about the blazing hot summers stretching long into the Kansas horizon? Did she fret on the last day of school, steeling herself for those inevitable words—I’m bored—that would come hours after the last bell?

Those summer days are 30 years behind us now. Thirty years: two-thirds of my life ago, if I’m doing the math right (and there are no guarantees on that). Sometimes I’m caught breathless by the thought of so much life already past, so quickly.

And perhaps that’s partly why I’m in no celebratory mood today. It seems like three days ago I was dropping my boys off for their first day of middle school. We were all scared about this transition, all trying to appear brave as I pulled up to the parking lot. Another school year vanished at warp speed, and soon they will be all grown up and gone, my entire summers—and the rest of my life—free to spend as I want, except for the few days my husband will make me go camping.

In my calmer moments, I’m intent on cherishing these last few summers I have with my kids—even when they are whacking each other with sticks, which still seems to be a favorite activity.

I plan to start my summer with them by going to the movies. That will take at least three hours: meaning I only have the rest of a very long—and very short—summer to spend with them.

An Update: Kendra and have not been blogging much lately, though we are both writing a lot, trying to finish a rough draft of our book manuscript, due to the publisher by August 1. We are happy to report that the rough draft is nearly completed (which probably warrants a bit more dancing to “Celebration”). We will also be one of the keynote speakers at the EEWC-Christian Feminism Today bi-annual Gathering in St. Louis on June 26-29. We’re looking forward to seeing each other, creating a revision game plan, and hanging out with a lot of our Christian feminist sisters. I’m also looking forward to some St. Louis heat and humidity.