Last year around this time I wrote this bitter diatribe concerning the summer months. To be fair, I was 16 weeks pregnant and m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e, but I wasn’t talking about the pregnancy yet so I didn’t mention it in the post. I was hot, nauseated, and tired all the time. Trying to keep my 11 month old out of the sun while also trying not to throw up all day was, in a word, terrible. I used to love summer. The season of church camp and crushes and freezing lake swims, snow cones and sleep overs and cousins, and then when you’re a grown up there’s fun every night! Barbecues! Margaritas! Bikinis! Every day is open for a few drinks and laughs, short dresses and tan lines. Summer is party time and it was good.
Then I had kids and now I’m like, yeah, I don’t get it. This isn’t fun anymore. And the more I talk to parents who have young children, the better I feel about my attitude towards summer. Most of them agree with me: If you have little kids, summer is hard. We live in the high desert of Idaho and while our heat is dry, not humid, most days stretch into the 100 degree range and honestly, you just can’t have a baby outside in that for very long. Especially ghost babies like my pale friend who is napping in the room next door, probably sun burned from the park this morning despite her double application of SPF 50 waste of money organic baby sunscreen that makes me feel like a better mom. (Next up: almond milk and kale chips.) Then you have to work around nap times and bed times and potty training and anyways, honestly, it’s a lot. It is.
However, you also can’t stay inside all day every day. You gotta make concessions. You gotta make it work. Just like every part of parenting, you must take the ingredients you are given and get creative, become a wizard of time and space and make the day worthwhile. No matter what. Lately Sam and I have had a few hard lessons in that very idea; even when everything is falling apart, we have to laugh and keep moving. For one, because there’s no time to wish for what could have gone better. This is happening, we always say to each other, and we have to go with it. Getting mad or sad or annoyed isn’t helpful in the moment, and it doesn’t move us any closer to our goal, whatever that might be.
So ok, it takes me 45 minutes of prep time to go to the splash pad for an hour. That’s just how it is this summer. So ok, Clara has incredibly fair skin and Sammy is too young to be out in the sun at all. Let’s put on our baseball caps and eat our Popsicles in the shade. So ok, my body isn’t exactly in tip top shape, and I’ve been pregnant the last two summers so I don’t own any shorts or dresses that aren’t stretched out. I’ll run after the kids are asleep, race myself in the lengthening shade of suburban sunsets, and buy new clothes this fall. So ok, it’s all different. It’s harder to pretend that life is all about me and my happiness; I no longer stare into the face of a new day and imagine all the ways I will take care of ME and my wants. Summer isn’t about me anymore. It’s not. It never really was, it’s just harder to fake it now. Now I
The more open I am to the fact that we have to live this life together, live it taking care of each other no matter what the season, the more fun I’m having. So I decided to make a little list of reasons I currently enjoy summer. For my soul’s sake, for reminders’ sake, for encouragement’s sake.
1. Clara in her ruffle bikini. Her loud sassy mouth makes me forget just how young and delicate she really is, but that tiny porcelain body in a tiny green and blue floral bikini is a shot of happy from across our soaking wet lawn. She’s so. damn. cute.
2. Drinks on the front porch with Sam. Sometimes after the kids go to sleep we’ll fast forward to our retirement years and set ourselves up at the little bistro table on our front porch. My chilled wine and Sam’s cold beer sweat onto the glass-top table as we laugh and talk and share our Instagram feeds with each other, waving at passing neighbors and poking our heads inside every once in awhile to see if anyone is awake or crying. Suddenly it will be 10 p.m. and those nights together are good ones.
3. Sammy’s thighs. And arms. And chins. Summer babies equal naked babies, and that boy has rolls on his rolls. All these months of breastfeeding, of sitting up in the dark of night while everyone else slept and he dream nursed in my arms, of attaching baby to mommy every 2 hours for 6 months: the pay off is in the roll on the back of his neck and the chub of his elbow crook. My bony 4lb 7oz newborn is now a healthy happy 6 month old who smiles so hard his eyes disappear. And if you think he ever wears clothes at home, you are as mistaken as the person who thinks it’s rude to chew on babies.
4. My girlfriends and their kids. This cannot be understated. To have two of my sisters and so many dear friends a phone call away from coffee visits or picnics in the park or an afternoon of trading kids so we can run errands alone (pure heaven) is a blessing that I will never take for granted. As we all sort of fight our way through this battle of woman/mother/person hood, we need each other more than ever. It’s important therapy to gather around a kiddie pool and ignore our kids together; it’s life saving work. I love them so.
5. I’m not in summer school. For the last three summers, I’ve been enrolled in intense summer courses, pushing hard to finish as soon as possible. Not having hours of homework every night is a new kind of wonderful. Having my degree on the desk in our guestroom is a new weird reality; I just can’t believe that I’m done. I think because Sam was born two weeks after I graduated, I haven’t had time to appreciate the accomplishment. But this summer my heart has a lightness to it that I didn’t even know I’d been missing, and even though sometimes I miss school (I’ll definitely go back for a masters someday) I can’t believe I get to spend every day with my kids instead of stodgy literature professors. Can’t think of a worse summer pal than a guy who asks you to dissect and respond to a thirty page Thoreau essay about walking.
6. Summer bounty. That picture on the top of this post is of my kitchen table. Not styled, not just for the picture; just of my summer table. Fruit, flowers, and more fruit. You can basically live like a fairy in the summer and not think twice about it. Yes, please.
I’m trying. Thanks for the sunshine and thanks for the cheaper fruit. (And Lord, thank you for knowing that some of us needed all four seasons.)
And thank you most of all for my son’s fat arms.
|Sammy and his beautiful cousin Elsie Mae|