Yesterday, after pancakes and coffee, I threw a load of laundry into the washer and I was about to head upstairs to shower for the day when I stopped and listened. Silence. T. was playing quietly by herself in the family room, and L. was in the office. What was before me--gloriously and unexpectedly--was a sliver of time to myself. Do you know those slivers of time? If you can only keep quiet, and out of sight, your littlest one, who is often stuck to you like a limpet, will lose herself completely in a game and happily forget she can play only with you, and will entertain herself for a solid thirty minutes so you can get some work done, or read a chapter of a book, or send a few e-mails.
But you have to stay quiet, really quiet, until you hear the game in the family room winding itself down, and you know you'll need to surface again, because a sliver of time only lasts so long. Before long your son will catapult himself out of the office and you'll hear that littlest one call out:
Our summer is coming to its end, slowly but surely. I can feel it all around me. The pool is quiet these days--so many families are off on their July vacations, planning a return back around the beginning of August, so they can get geared up for the new school year. L. has one more week to go now, and I'm still scrambling to find a week-long summer camp for T., who is starting to feel just a LITTLE restless, I think. The stores around here are filled with back-to-school supplies and this is the last week of swim team for the kids.
I've had two calls from work since last week, and the other day I bought my new day planner for the upcoming academic year. I feel the stirrings of excitement inside at the thought of a new semester: new students, new challenges. Maybe I'm a little restless, myself. I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine, back to my work office, back to having some structured time to myself.
Parents in my profession handle summers in so many different ways. Some fill up their children's summer months with camps, and then they carve out mornings or afternoons to work on their own projects. Other parents do as I do, snatching moments here and there to work while the kids are busy or "resting" or, if they are young enough, napping. But this approach has its frustrations, too: I have a handful of projects half-started. I work in fits and spurts. Most days I'm happy to take a break to work on a craft with T., or take the kids down to the pool, but some days the constant interruptions wear on me. Deep down I know I'd get more done if I did as those other parents do: sending the kids off to camps, or hiring sitters, but a part of me also knows that we'll be back to our school-year routines all too soon, and time with the kids will be scarce.
I want it all, greedily--time to work and write, but time with my kids, too. I want to store up these summer days and feed off of the memories all school-year long. I fill my eyes with the sight of T.'s freckles across her nose, and my ears with the sound of her voice, as she reads out loud, or chatters to me over lunch. I love the unexpected hugs from her, and post-lunch snuggles on the couch with a story book. I close my heart around those precious moments with L., sprinkled here and there throughout the day, when he wants to talk about his latest interests, or his plans for a future project. I know once school starts those moments will be lost, buried under the chaos and grind of the school day.
Part of me these days is half-impatient, half-nostalgic already for the end of summer; half-wistful, and half-restless. Even the fireflies seem to have lost their oomph: at dusk they flicker half-heartedly, and fade away, into the heavy summer bushes and the thick night air.
I click the laptop shut and rise from the couch to find T., who is calling for me: "Mama? Mama?" just as the office door slams open and L. springs, Tigger-like from within.
"Here I am!" I tell my kids, and I sweep T. close.