On the last day of school in June, my mom would wait with the other moms at the end of the street and around noon we would all tumble out of the bus excitedly because SUMMER VACAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATION!!!
She would give us a hug and then loudly announce to the other moms “ONLY 67 DAYS LEFT TIL SCHOOL STARTS, BUT WHO’S COUNTING?!”
And yes, she kept this up throughout the summer. She even marked the days down on her big wall calendar so that on any given day she would have the correct number.
“53 DAYS TO GO!” my mother would say cheerily to the neighbors.
“Only 42 days til school starts!” she’d happily reassure the mothers she encountered.
She keeps this up despite all of her children being full grown. She just wants parents to know: school will eventually come back around and you can have a break! HOORAY!
Don’t get me wrong, my mother loved us. We delighted her, pretty much all the time. Her goal in life was to be a mother and she completely adored her role.
But: she was also completely honest about what a pain in the ass it could be to have four children hanging out in her house all day every day, usually complaining of boredom. (And trust me, we all could rock the I’M BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORED whine like no other.)
One of the things I like best about the way my mother parented was her honesty about how hard it could be.
It seems to be a very ‘in’ thing now, particularly with blogs I read. Mothers seem to need to admit that life with children isn’t always perfect as it may have once seemed. There’s an insistence to tell it like it is now, that parenting is hard work because I guess long ago, it wasn’t okay to say that? Or show it?
My mom never had that problem.
As someone who very much wants a family one day, I appreciate the honesty. Thanks to my mother, other mothers I know, and countless hours babysitting, you don’t need to convince me that child-rearing is hard work. You also don’t need to convince me that it’s worth it.
My mom’s summer vacation countdown always struck me as funny because it struck everyone else as funny. I understood that she was being silly. I never questioned that she loved me and wanted to spend time with me. It was evident in the way that she genuinely enjoyed being around her children, evident in the way she structured our summers: quite simply, she didn’t.
Two weeks’ worth of swimming lessons were mandatory for each of us.
Cleaning up after yourself and others: DO NOT EVEN TRY TO ESCAPE IT.
Other than that?
Summers are for you to do whatever you please. We never went to camp. We just hung out at home with her, which we all seemed to love to do anyway.
When we could afford it, we’d pile into the minivan for a few days and drive to New Hampshire or Vermont for a few days. But other than that, we didn’t move around all that much.
She drove me to the library anytime I asked and left me alone for hours to read. We ran around the neighborhood with neighbors, took up every invitation we could to swim in someone else’s pool, drove 45 minutes to the ocean after 5pm when parking was free and stayed until the sun went down.
Those are all the things I know to be summer: relaxing, beach, a day trip here or there to someplace new, books, naps, family.
Nothing too strenuous.
No rigid schedules.
In two days, I am heading down to South Carolina for almost an entire WEEK.
This will be my longest vacation in two years.
My boyfriend’s family rents the same house every year and just hangs out.
Awesome for me that they’ve welcomed me along.
Kinda wish I could pack my mom up in a suitcase and take her with me but alas, she’s off with my dad having a vacation of her own.
I wonder if she’s telling the adults she sees how many days are left until school starts up again.
I love that.