Not a Mother’s Summer

Summertime has the ability to grant peace and rest for teachers, chaos and sometimes too much togetherness for stay-at-home moms, growth spurts for those babies heading into the toddler years, and enough eye rolls from the teenagers to last us until next prom season. I personally use summer as a way to to recharge our batteries and offer my in-school child the chance to play at home until her heart’s content. Additionally, summer allows us to reside at in the pool until the crickets chirp and a glimpse of the lightning bugs gently sends us home.

My annual summer trek back home breathed into my lungs new summer rules—or, should I say, lack thereof. This was our first summer without pull-ups. And naps. Those two anchors that held my mama self back from so many things last year are just a faded memory now. The days of timing activities around the nap blocks is over. Loading my bags with wipes, pull-ups, extra clothes, and all the things necessary for that almost-potty-trained child is merely a shadow in the rear view mirror of parenting. Regardless of what we were set free from, there remains experiences to be had and realizations to grasp. It goes without saying that once that bundle of joy is placed in your arms, nothing really belongs to you anymore. My mind wandered to all the places these three plus months would take us, the popsicles we would make from scratch, and the sparklers we would light as we sang “Happy Birthday” to our beloved country. Despite our various travels, store-bought popsicles, and refusal to even hold a sparkler, this summer belonged to my children. While my expectations were all well and good (and a bit lofty at times), I acknowledged the truth that I was going to place a few of my activities on the back burner to let them have theirs. And for this summer, I can proudly say that was the case. This was not a mother’s summer.

I knew the season was going to be different—a breath of fresh air, if you will. There was nothing earth-shattering or one specific life-changing event that caused this inner feeling, but it nevertheless left me with visions of tanned sugarplums in my head, which equates to sleeping in and a hot cup of coffee in hand. Thanks in part to the sweet gift of time, these three months brought yours truly siblings who play together for an extended period, morning story time snuggles in my bed, and for the most part, two kiddos who enjoy the comforts of home and discovering toys/games that seemed to be forgotten over the school year. Before you start thinking that we spent our days frolicking through the green meadows like they do in The Sound of Music, let me bring you back to reality and state that we have had our share of arguments, too much togetherness, a later-than-usual bedtime here and there, and sometimes a tired mama who feels guilty for wanting to speed up time for the school year. About a month into this glorious season, I started repeating to myself that this wasn’t my summer; these days belong to them. I’ve already experienced my childhood summers: days filled with poolside chats, too much Sun-In, sprinting to the ice cream truck and sharing your purchase with neighborhood friends, with nights that included baked potatoes fresh from the campfire and a gaggle of great aunts gearing up for their evening card game, all mixed together in a familial bowl and topped off with a screened-in porch, the buzz of the local radio, and crickets chirping so sweetly that you couldn’t help but be lulled to sleep with the bliss that only a weekend cottage could provide.

Not a mother’s summer.

The full three months that are bestowed upon my children are not lost on this mama. By the close of Memorial Day we had already been to Disney World and back. Come June, we traveled to the East Coast and relished in the cooler temperatures. July found us taking advantage of the Texas lakes and rivers, to which my oldest perfected her “I can jump off the boat house” skills, while my youngest proudly showed off his water safe swim moves, with a cannonball or two for good measure. Enter August, which brought our departure for a few days to the mountains of Colorado, a last getaway, and a chance to talk about what we liked and disliked. The crisp mountain mornings allowed me to start my day with coffee in hand and elk in sight, and my reminder fresh on my lips: This is not a mother’s summer.

Did I really want to dress in rubber waders and stand in a creek? Nope. Did the thought of touching a slimy fish that is attached to a pole by a sharp hook creep me out? Absolutely. Did I slip the fishing guide an extra fifty bucks so I wouldn’t have to touch said fish or hold said rod? Almost. My plan of going through the motions almost worked, had it not been for the ever-so-keen fishing guide, with his weathered face, scarred up hands, and stories to last a lifetime. He leaned in and whispered something to me that stopped me in my tracks (and no, it wasn’t a secret back way out of the bait ‘n’ tackle shop): “Let those young’uns see you catch a fish. Let ’em see you squirm and work through it. Let ’em see you try something that terrifies you. Let ’em see who their mama really is when put in unfamiliar surroundings. After all, this ain’t just your summer, Mama.”

There you have it: From the mind of a mom to the words of an old soul, the certainty of my three-month mantra was handed to me with a bow so perfect that Santa Claus himself couldn’t have done a better job. The melody that brings truth and life to this season of parenting. The hymn that started my day and kept it running, even when I wanted to do the running myself. The reasons I said “yes” to roller coasters that scared me, water parks that overwhelmed me, board games that bored me, and opened the books again that have been read too many times to count. Whether this was your first summer as a mom, or your last with a baby at home, I hope your memory bank is full. I hope you relished in the childlike moments, even if your baby is taller than you. I hope you know that one day, you will have a summer in which you dictate its beginning and end, complete with all the delicious ingredients for the middle. But for right now, let’s allow summer to belong to those who have our hearts. What’s one more thing that isn’t ours anyway?   

I’m a native Pittsburgher through and through, but transplanted to Texas with my superhero cape to teach elementary school. I have a five-and-a-half-year-old girl and a two-and-a-half-year-old boy who keep my days full of laughter, glitter, monster trucks, and stuffed animals. As a stay-at-home mama, I am constantly yearning for new ways to engage their minds, hands, and bodies with the city and community around them, while stealing a run and a cup of coffee or two. I can be found at the local library for storytime; the park for an afternoon swing; and/or the local splash pad to escape the heat. I’m not hard to miss due to my donning of Steelers gear in the fall and Penguins attire in the spring. I welcome and thrive on new conversations, friendships, and methods of rearing littles.