92 Days of Summer

End of summer conjures bittersweet memories of childhood seasons gone by

End of summer conjures memories of childhood seasons gone by

Boy with crab on beach
A fun catch in Cape Cod last summer. Photo by Dawn McMullan
Two kids in a pumpkin patch
A pumpkin picture of the boys from many years ago. Photo by Dawn McMullan
Two kids playing the snow in Texas
There is no pleasure like that of a snow day in Texas. Photo by Dawn McMullan
Teen on bike in field of bluebonnets
A teen version of the standard spring "baby in the bluebonnets" picture. Photo by Dawn McMullan
Boy with crab on beach
Two kids in a pumpkin patch
Two kids playing the snow in Texas
Teen on bike in field of bluebonnets

On Wednesday, I was thinking about how next week I was going to miss our carefree summer days and the kids.

I must’ve been drunk.

High on chlorine, 11 hours of sleep and a field trip to the Gas Monkey Garage, I could not believe it was all about to end on Monday. Couldn’t we have just one more week? One more road trip?

By Thursday morning, the battle for Xbox control upstairs had reached full-on wrestle mode: boys yelling, doors slamming, one more rendition of the classic Why Can’t He Have His Own Xbox? rang through the house at full volume.

 The “have-tos” once again take precedence over the “want-tos,” as is the natural cycle of a year with school-aged kids.

And, just like that, summer lost its magic.

Tomorrow — although the temperature will be 95 and friends with kids up north will continue posting their last-hurrah-of-summer beach pics — “fall” begins.

Easy, late nights filled with “just one more” episode of The Big Bang Theory or brothers piled up in bed to watch a movie with late-night milkshakes will be replaced by homework, finish your vegetables and early-morning alarms.

There will be 6 am swim team practice for my 16-year-old and 6 pm football practice for my 13-year-old. Bedtime will come before the sun goes down.

Family movie night and sleepovers with friends will leave center stage and return to their school-year backburner, squeezed in between scheduled commitments like guitar practice, football games, research papers, tennis matches, algebra tests, swim meets and SAT prep.

Vacations turn from plans to memories. I am once again expected to answer emails and phone calls in a timely manner, as the excuse of entertaining my kids disappears.

The “have-tos” once again take precedence over the “want-tos,” as is the natural cycle of a year with school-aged kids.

My oldest started school 13 years ago, so I’m accustomed to the cycle. But this year, as one child is about to begin his junior year and another eighth grade, it occurs to me for the first time — I can be a little slow on the uptake — that this cycle will end.

We all lived it growing up — on the kid end, of course. The cycle continued through college, where sometimes summer meant internships and jobs. But still, the daily routine took a three-month hiatus and usually involved a body of water and baby oil. (It was the late ’80s. Don’t judge).

 At the beginning of summer, it feels like my kids are interrupting my work time. By the end, it feels like work is interrupting my kid time.

From age 22 through 32, summers came and went without pause. I’m not sure I even noticed. Work days were work days. Weekends were weekends. Vacation days were vacation days.

Then I had a baby. Then my baby started preschool. And I easily, without noticing at all, fell into the summer/non-summer groove. As a work-at-home mom, it is something I struggle with annually.

Yet these days are some of our best. Until it all falls apart in a brutal battle of wills over Madden 13, summer with children is time when the days are long (literally), and the months are short.

I lived in Florida for several years during my mid-20s. My biggest complaint was the lack of seasons. It is a state of eternal summer, where July tumbles into October, which suddenly turns to February before, with few clues, it’s April. We bought Christmas trees in our shorts and kept one sweater in our closets, just in case.

It was unnatural.

The senses and soul need clues to mark the passing of time: a yellow leaf on the ground, hands warmed by hot chocolate at a football game, the scent of the heater’s debut rush of warmth, the popping of wood in the fire, brown branches enveloped in ice, the smell of freshly cut grass, a photo opp among the bluebonnets along the highway, final exams, going and giggling down a slide until the cool water instantly turns the summer sun from oppressive to seductive.

Summer is one of the many gifts children give us — all of us. The whole city feels a bit more at ease with less traffic and more snow cones, doesn’t it? At the beginning of summer, it feels like my kids are interrupting my work time. By the end, it feels like work is interrupting my kid time.

Don’t get me wrong. I will be doing the Staples' Most Wonderful Time of the Year dance come Monday morning, barely slowing down for my 13-year-old to get out at carpool line. I already have lunch plans with girlfriends, coffee plans later in the week and a massage on the schedule.

Work will be done within working hours — and without having to hold my fingers in my ears so I can concentrate — instead of squeezed in between teen activities or after everyone goes to bed. Dinner will be planned before 5 pm. And I will be happy (eventually) to see my family at the end of the day.

Our days will once again have structure. Just as we put away the holiday decorations with a different attitude than we had putting them up, so we end the summer with less energy than we started.

So it is with the changing of the seasons. Summer, like parenting, is a season in our life we don’t always take the time to relish. I mean, who wouldn’t prefer a massage to an Xbox battle?

But these days, these seasons, I am trying to live in the hours more than I used to. Just as I didn’t notice the disappearance of the summer in my 20s, it didn’t occur to me until these last few months how much I would truly miss it in my 50s, when there are no longer kids at home to summer with.

We had 92 days together this summer. Some were magical. Some were like a root canal. Some were not memorable. Some were captured forever in our minds and in family pictures. But they all have one thing in common: I’ll never get them back.