I caught my son in a rare still moment at the pool this weekend:
This image looks like “summer” to me – the beginning of summer.
And not just because of the sunshine and the pool water (quintessential summer elements.)
It’s something to do with the way he’s at the edge – but barely. He’s ready to take off, to thrust himself away from the rigid concrete and into the blue expanse stretching out in front of him – into adventure and exploration. Into the sense of freedom that comes to you when you grasp that your days are your own, to fill as you wish.
What a wonderful feeling that is!
The experience of that is a gift I used to get every year with the end of the school year – and totally took for granted until I grew up and didn’t have it anymore.
My only stress in my childhood summertimes came from maybe sometimes being bored. We lived out in the country when I was a kid and so didn’t have a neighborhood where there were lots of other kids to all gather and play. So we were pretty much left to our own devices in the summertime. We never went to summer camps or anything of that sort – not until one of my brothers got heavily into diving when he was in high school and started going to diving camps. But that was later. When we were younger, we were just home in the summer all day with our mom and each other.
And yes, it was sometimes boring! But for me, it was the best kind of boredom. I think it’s an important kind of boredom: the sort that impels you to be creative and fill the time with whatever inspires you.
I mean, it was out of that boredom that I wrote countless stories…that I wrote plays that I then acted out in my room with imaginary actors, or cast with my dolls…that I made up crazy variations of tag for myself and my brothers that I don’t even remember now, except for how much fun they were…that I drew hundreds of paper dolls, and cut out hundreds more from magazines…that I read and dreamed (and dreamed and dreamed.)
My ex-husband (my kids’ dad) has his own boredom stories that involve writing mystery novels and drawing and constructing giant tunnels in a dirt pile in his backyard (and then consequently hosting all of the neighborhood boys and all of their Matchbox cars for crazy adventures in the tunnels!)
We want that kind of boredom for our kids! It’s one of the (many) reasons we’re both committed to keeping one or the other of us available to the kids after school and in the summertime.** We both feel that those moments of boredom (those weeks of unstructured time) helped us, each of us, to grow up to be more flexible and creative thinkers. And that kind of open-to-possibilities thinking that we share has been why we’ve been able to, say, handle our breakup the way we have.
I think it’s a tremendous asset – just for life – to be able to think elastically and outside-the-box (or perhaps just discard the box altogether). You’re able, from that place, to much more effectively navigate the ups-and-downs of life – particularly when those ups & downs are set against a backdrop of a world that is changing so extraordinarily fast.
My son has a serious case of spring fever right now. Summer (specifically the end of the school year) can’t arrive quickly enough for him.
In truth, he’s had a bumpy school year. I haven’t discussed this too much here, but he’s dyslexic, and school at the best of times is a ton of work for him (even with all of the special ed accommodations that are in place right now.) The last two months have been especially rough for him for a variety of reasons. We’re eagerly awaiting the last day of school. (Three-and-a-half more days to go as I write this. Finally! They go so much later here in Virginia than I did as a kid in Ohio.)
I have to say, I’ve got a fair amount of spring fever going on myself right now! Some of it is because I want him to be done as much as he wants himself to be done, I think! But that’s not all of it.
It’s that summer is bringing a great deal of change this year – in large part because we’re prepping to move in a few weeks. It’s totally recalling for me that feeling I would get every summer when I was younger: that feeling of satisfaction that comes with closing a book (with the end of a school year) – putting closure on a specific period of your life.
The move is definitely one of those moments.
And I’ve missed that feeling! I like the energy of it.
I feel, as I write this, rather like my son in the image: I feel like I’m still at the edge of the adventure right now. It’s stretching out before me, a big, blue expanse that promises so much that is interesting and fun – but I can’t jump in yet. It’s a few weeks still, after all, until we move – and the kids aren’t even quite done with school yet. So it’s like, change is right there – right in front of me! But I’m not quite in it yet. I can’t quite let go of the side yet.
But I almost can. Almost! I’m so close to kicking off, into that blue.
**The bulk of the childcare responsibility has been on me up to now, because my ex has more marketable skills than I do at this point and can, hence, draw a considerably more lucrative salary – so we’ve pretty much build our childcare structure around accommodating that. (Which, for me, has meant that I’ve limited myself to only pursuing work I can do from home and around the kids.) But ideally, we’d be balancing more evenly. He’s an extremely hands-on father, for one thing, and would welcome more childcare time – while I, frankly, think I’d be a more patient and present (and hence effective) mom if I could step physically away once in a while and immerse myself in things that don’t directly relate to parenting.
Not to mention that (as anyone who reads this blog regularly is aware), he and I have been separated for FIVE YEARS now – and it would be pleasant to rid ourselves once and for all of that final legal loose end that is our official divorce. I need a more reliable income of my own before that can become a reality.
But we’re working our way to that place of balance and flexibility and financial freedom right now. Sometimes the progress seems super-slow…like, snail’s pace slow. But there IS progress happening. Our upcoming move is a GIANT step in the right direction (Living in the super-expensive DC area has really made a lot of things impossible for us. It’s going to be SO NICE to get out of here!!!)
I’ll be writing a lot more about this stuff soon, with the move!**