Summer is Coming

The days left in the school year are dwindling fast and the weather is getting warmer and warmer. That can only mean one thing: summer is on it’s way. Summer, a season I once celebrated by sleeping in until noon everyday, then covering myself in coconut-scented oil and basking in the glorious rays of the sun. Oh, how times change. Now if I manage to sleep until seven I feel like half the day has been wasted and I don’t venture into the sun without SPF 55 and a hat. It is as I have suspected for quite a long time now—I am an adult.

Let’s face it, summer is for kids. No school, staying up late, perfect weather for being outside all day everyday, ice cream melting all over little hands—this season was made for kids. I used to look forward to summer, but that was before I was a mommy. Now, I dread it.

The three months of the year that all kids look forward to with eager anticipation are the same three months that make me cringe. For three long months I won’t be able to enjoy solo grocery shopping free from the constant sound of, “Mommy, can I have this?” For three months I won’t be able to run errands quickly and efficiently; I will now be encumbered with migraine-inducing whining while dragging an errand-resistant child everywhere I go. I’ve done the math, a complaining child adds a minimum of thirty minutes to the average chore. It also takes four months off the average mother’s life span.

I was just about to shake my fist at the sky and curse my fate, when I saw it—a colorful array of chalk drawings covering the driveway. There’s nothing that makes me wish it would never rain again like a driveway full of chalk art. And suddenly it’s like a big chalk smile is covering my face and I can see summer for everything it truly is.

Summer is freedom from the constraints of the clock because if the sun is still up, then certainly there is still time to play.

Summer is when all the Legos and doll houses and stuffed animals are replaced with the coolest toys ever, the ones made my nature: sticks, leaves, and flowers.

Summer is when the pending arrival of the ice cream man feels a lot like waiting for Christmas only better because the ice cream man comes everyday.

Summer is about scraped knees covered in bright-patterned bandaids.

Summer is about taking a break from everything just to lie down in the grass and decide what those clouds up there in the sky really look like. It’s an elephant! An elephant with a guitar!

Of course when you spend all day outside, it’s not long before the housework piles up inside. And I will inevitably start worrying about things like laundry, vacuuming, and cooking. But I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that a messy house is sometimes a great souvenir from a day spent outside, away from the television and video games, a day spent in the fresh air and sunshine, filled with laughter.

Right now I’m not worried about all the work that needs to be done because right now there are big, fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky and a little girl who truly believes her house is a magical castle, no matter how much dust is on the coffee table, just waiting for me to come outside and play.

Field Trips Should Come With Warnings

There is a great amount of respect and awe that is owed to the school bus driver. How they ever manage to get kids safely to and from school while enduring the high-pitched squeals and screeches is a mystery akin to how Santa Claus gets down all those chimneys in one night; it has to be magic. I know this because I recently accompanied my daughter’s class on a field trip to the zoo and rode on a bus with over sixty kindergarteners. If I had been driving, I would have been reduced to screaming phrases like, “Why don’t we all have a quiet contest?” and “I will turn this bus around right now, mister!” But that bus driver never even flinched. Like I said, it’s magic.

There was really no indication that going on a field trip with a bunch of kindergarteners would be such a drain on my central nervous system; there should have been a warning, such as:

Hello Kindergarten Parents!
We are looking for chaperones for our field trip to the zoo. Please be advised that kindergarten field trips are known to cause one or more of the following: nausea, vomiting, bleeding from the ears, diarrhea, laughing uncontrollably at words like diarrhea, lethargy, muttering philosophical questions like, “Why me?” incessantly, a nervous twitch triggered by the sight of a school bus, and most unfortunately, the complete avoidance of any and all sexual activity for fear of further procreation. If you are interested, please obtain a background check and a prescription for the sedative of your choice before the date of the field trip.

Laughing maniacally,
The Kindergarten Teachers

Like a good mom, I showed up for the field trip with a smile on my face and sunscreen in my eyes. I learned that chaperone must be French for pack mule because part of my duties for the day included lugging lunches around for the four children in my group. I plan on extending my personal gratitude to the mom who sent her kid to school with two oversized Lunchables, two quarts of Gatorade, and a bottle of water. Clearly little Flynn’s mom got the zoo confused with the Sahara but I’m sure I will be able to walk upright again in due time.

I should have known it was going to be a rough day when my own daughter didn’t want to sit next to me on the bus. I had just come to terms that I would be sitting alone, when a little girl with huge blue eyes asked if she could sit with me.

“What’s your favorite book?” I asked because this was a nonstop trip to the zoo and I wasn’t getting stuck with someone with no literary taste.

“Pete the Cat,” she said with a smile that went all the way to her eyes. I smiled too because I’m a big fan of Pete myself.

“You’re good. Have a seat, kid.”

I spent the next half hour answering twenty different variations of are we there yet? and whether or not there would be dinosaurs at the zoo. But we did share a brief moment of human connectedness when we agreed that vanilla is the best flavor of ice cream and that mint chocolate chip should have never been invented.

The best part of the day was watching the most ill-behaved child I have ever seen push the perimeters of good sense while his mother did nothing to stop it. He made one continuous fart noise with his mouth for the entire thirty minute bus trip, he screamed profanity at the penguins (completely unprovoked I might add), and in a move that really supports the idea of mandatory birth control, attempted to climb into the hippo enclosure during feeding time. All while his mother alternated laughing awkwardly and texting someone pictures of her feet.

I smiled at her and said, “Well, if he can’t make it as a composer of fart music, he certainly has a future accosting animals.”

Her smile changed quickly from pride to confusion as we all boarded the bus. There’s another birthday party my daughter won’t get invited to, but that’s what I secretly refer to as a win-win situation.

Mother’s Day 2014

6:30am: Woken up by my husband as he leaves for a twelve-hour shift at the hospital. He left shaving cream all over the sink for me to clean up.

7:00am: Woken up (for good this time) by my daughter treating me to breakfast in bed which included half a glass of warm iced tea and a banana with the ABCs written on it (because as my daughter says, “Everything is better with the alphabet”).

7:05am: Before I can even peel the alphabet banana, my daughter asks me to make her chocolate waffles for breakfast.

8:00am: Kitchen is finally cleaned up after making chocolate waffles. Just as I’m about to peel the ABC banana, my daughter spills milk all over the table, some books, herself, and the dog.

8:25am: Started a load of laundry and was met by the smiling face of my daughter telling me she had the perfect Mother’s Day planned for me. Her itinerary had one item only: play her favorite pretend game, bear family.

11:00am: After two and a half hours of being the voice of twenty different stuffed animals, I requested a break from my captor, I mean, my daughter.

11:15am: I finally got to take a shower. Shower was interrupted approximately four times by my daughter asking if she could have M&Ms for lunch. Almost fell on my rear after tripping on the two tennis balls the dog had left outside the shower for me.

11:45am: My daughter and I head to the hospital to have lunch with my husband (the hospital cafeteria is where most of our holiday meals take place).

11:46am: My daughter informs me that since it is Mother’s Day, I can pick the radio station we will listen to, as long as it is Radio Disney.

12:01pm: Lunch comes to an abrupt stop when my husband is paged to an emergency. I clean up the lunch mess and my daughter and I go home.

12:20pm: I inform my daughter that she is obligated by law to allow me a fifteen minute break. We haggle for a bit then settle on an agreement: she will watch twenty minutes of Frozen and I will get to read for twenty uninterrupted minutes.

12:25pm: My daughter turns the TV up as loud as it will go because, “You love this song, Mommy, and you don’t want to miss it!”

12:30pm: I give up on reading when my daughter asks if we can go play miniature golf together.

1:00pm: I get hit in the head with a misguided miniature golf club and get a not-so-miniature headache.

1:15pm: I almost got to sit down and eat that ABC banana then the neighborhood kids came over and asked my daughter to play. My daughter said brightly, “Mommy, you can relax while I play with my friends.”

5:00pm: I spent the afternoon ‘relaxing’ while pushing the kids on the tire swing, chasing the kids up and down the street in some weird princess/dog/volcano game, breaking up little fights, and running back and forth to get water and snacks for everyone.

5:30pm: I make dinner for my daughter and set a plate aside for my husband when he gets home. I cut myself a piece of cheesecake for dinner because, hey, it’s Mother’s Day and I made the damn cheesecake, so I’m going to eat it.

5:32pm: Just as I’m about to have a bite of cheesecake, the dog throws up all over the carpet.

6:00pm: Having given up on life in general, I get my daughter a bowl of M&Ms and put on Frozen.

7:45pm: I cleaned up all the coloring books and Play-doh, fed the dog, swept the floors, finished the laundry, and did the dishes. My husband came home and gave me a hug. I think I growled at him.

8:30pm: I read my daughter six different books in six different accents and I kissed her goodnight.

8:35pm: I am so relieved that the day is over. I go to the kitchen for a snack and see the ABC banana on the counter. Tears well up in my eyes.

8:38pm: I hear my daughter calling for me. I walk into her room and she is sobbing. I ask her why she is crying and she says, “Today was the best day ever and tomorrow I have to go to school and I am going to miss you so much!”

9:45pm: I sit down and feel like the world’s worst mother because the same day that I saw as pure frustration, my little girl saw as the best day ever. I alternate sobs with bites of cheesecake and tell myself I will try to be a better mommy tomorrow.

 

People Are Like Trees

On the way to school yesterday, my daughter and I were marveling at how beautiful all the trees in the neighborhood looked. Spring is upon us and every tree has blossomed with branches filled with new, green leaves.

“Mommy, which season has your favorite trees?” my daughter asked with genuine curiosity in her voice.

“Well, I love spring trees because it’s so much fun to watch those tiny little buds sprout into gorgeous leaves,” I said as I thought out loud. “And I really love summer trees because of the shade they give us for all our backyard tea parties and bug hunts. Oh, and fall trees are just amazing! Fall trees always remind me fire, all ablaze with reds and yellows and oranges. I like winter trees because they are so peaceful, especially when they are covered in snow and ice,” I said then looked at my daughter in the rearview mirror and smiled.

“Mommy, you just named every season. You didn’t pick a favorite,” she said.

“I guess I just love them all,” I laughed.

“But in the fall we have to clean up all the leaves and walnuts that fall off the trees and you said that it drives you crazy,” my daughter reminded me. “How come now you just say you love the colors?”

She’s got me.

I thought about her question for a minute then answered, “I think it’s all about how you look at things. I could focus on raking up leaves and picking up walnuts, but I prefer to focus on those incredible colors. You are right, the walnuts drive me crazy, but I suppose I’m just trying to focus on the things that make me smile.”

“Like people,” my daughter said casually.

“Like people?” I asked.

“People are like trees. Like sometimes my friend Mara says she won’t play with me because she likes the girls down the street better. I don’t like that. But when she comes over and we swing in the tire swing and play jump rope, that part makes me smile. So I focus on the way that Mara makes me smile, not how she drives me crazy,” she said with a wisdom far beyond her six years.

We arrived at school and that amazingly thoughtful and incredibly compassionate little girl gave me a kiss then skipped off to class. I just sat there staring after her and thought, How was I so blessed to be entrusted with being the mother to this kind-hearted little girl? Then I added a quick prayer, Please Lord, don’t let me mess this up.