“You only get 18 summers with them in your house.”
Leave it to the accountant friend of mine to break down the reality of parenthood in a matter of numbers.
“But then, when you really add it up, it’s more like ten or eleven with them really being a kid, before the summers fill up with their ideas and their friends and they start to become more independent. I just feel panicked to make the most of it.”
Oh summer. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with you, but these two little children have magnified every feeling I’ve ever had about the unrelenting passing of time. Including that panic thing my friend was referring to.
Because it’s all so fleeting—the yellow on the petal of a wild sweet pea, the blossoms on the trees that quickly turn to fruit, the heat of the sun turning leaves from green to gold.
It’s just like the chub on their flushed little cheeks, the crinkle in the bend of their arm, the words they can’t quite pronounce and I look down to put the cream in my coffee and she’s outgrown her favorite summer dress.
I turn around to deliver the popsicles on the back deck and where once she could only crawl, now she twirls and dances.
This June my two daughters hit three-and-a-half and one-and-a-half years old while I came to realize that this might be the most difficult and most fun stage of parenting I’ve experienced yet. And as they get older and their personalities start to unwind and unravel, so do my nerves and the list of the things I want to do with them, even though I know full well how maddening it can be to get them both dressed in the morning, let alone plan a trip to the pool.
But I want to do it anyway. And so far this summer my list is long—a fishing trip, T-ball, rodeos, our own outdoor movie night. But among all the elaborate scheming, my favorite moments have been found in a swing pushes, sprinkler running, ice cream cone dripping down their arms and giving them little chocolate mustaches and long walks to the mailbox collecting sticks and rocks in the wagon. Sometimes I try to convince myself that I’m working on making memories for them, even though I know full well, at this stage in their lives, it’s likely more for me.
Because I want to share this world with them always, but the feeling is magnified when the grass is green and the sky is a dark blue after a summer storm and I can tell them to look up, look at that, it’s a rainbow.
Or a beautiful blue bird.
Or a cloud that looks like an elephant.
But it’s a push and pull sort of feeling, and that’s why it’s so maddening. Because as much as I want to stand in the cool water so they can jump off the edge of the pool and into my wide open arms, I also want wrap my arms around them, squeezed in tight together under a blanket on our favorite chair, close to me and far from the skinned knees and scraped elbows of the marvelous and scary world I so eagerly want to show them.
So eager they haven’t kept a reasonable bedtime since the middle of May.
Because I’m on summer two and summer four with these little children and we’re smack in the middle of this sweet spot together and I don’t want to turn around.
So we’re dedicating this month’s issue to summer fun and I challenge you parents to take a moment among the urge to fit it all in, to sit down and eat that ice cream cone with them. And let it give you a little mustache too…