Holding on to Summer


Summers as a child meant singing,  “Oh, What Do You Do in the Summertime?”  at church and sometimes at home.

I’m way past the days when I can simply sit on green banks and watch clouds go by, but I’m kicking back in other ways, soaking in the summer and stretching out the season as long as I can.

I can mark my seasons of motherhood by the memories of each summer, but as I flip through them  from this side of parenting I see how they drift by as quickly as the puffy clouds.

As a new mom I walked daily with my toddler to the park, up and down the street, wherever we could explore. After some more years those days turned into walks to the library for books for her to read to me. By then, of course, a younger toddler and baby sister filled the space between us.

Then came the busy years of “managing” our time in the summer. If I could keep them busy with playdough, bubbles or digging in the sandbox then maybe I could manage those emotions of being the coach, referee and the cheerleader that endless days seemed to require.

The years moved quickly on to the busy days of swimming lessons and ball games, interspersed with park and beach days, cousin camp and camping trips. The sand-filled laundry room and mosquito and tick bites kept me up late as housekeeper and nurse, but the outings filled their need and mine—to get out of the house and enjoy the heat.

We knew it would not last.

Kick the can, neighborhood forts and bike rides bridged those years before they became teens. Lazy days returned for all of us when I discovered their need for unstructured time.

I stepped away from the window to watch or plan for them, and they moved into a realm where the manufactured opportunities to work hard or play fair became actual experiences to contribute in the community, settle fights and organize their own social lives.

Then I paused and lost a summer or two. My full-time job left summertime supervision to my work-at-home husband.

But summer called me back to this season. I couldn’t let my oldest daughter’s last summer go without pouring into her all that I might have missed. Impatient and unsure, I held on to that summer.

This summer finds me a new parent.  Our college student stayed away and teen son works most days. So, quite often, we’re one-on-one, just Kirsten and me.

And what a summer for me to take it in as if I am the toddler now, learning how to be a friend and not just the one who teaches, corrects, shushes, or takes charge.

She wants a buddy. To play with her. To go fast up a hill. To share teen dramas–a series of five.

But I waiver sometimes—that mom from before—knowing children need a mom, not a friend.

And then a song comes to mind. “Oh what do you do in the summertime? When all the world is green?”

And I remember that I’ve taught. And she’s listened.

So, we take our walks to city hall so we can water flowers.  And we ride our bikes to the library to get DVD’s and not just books. And we babysit so other moms can have a break and we can play on the swings again.

And together we find the balance that brings together “what we’re supposed to do” in a way that becomes “what we want to do.”

By now I know, what’s green will be gone soon enough.

What about you? What’s fleeting from your summer days?


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