I’m taking time to breathe this week. I would feel guilty about it if my kids and husband weren’t all away from home. But since they are, I’ve gifted myself with a mini-vacation, a hall pass to loiter, think, write, read. (This is not a to-do list! I remind myself. I’m having fun. No agenda here.)
Now that summer has officially begun, I’d bet that all mothers have the same idea. Sit by the pool, eat dinner late, push the children outside, go on vacation. Sprinkle a few camps in there so the kids don’t get bored and you don’t pull your hair out. Provide intellectual stimulation without their realizing it’s happening. Do something–anything–for yourself.
But I’ve been a summer mother for 20 years, and I know what happens. Sitting by the pool morphs into teaching children to hold their breath, kick their feet, swim under your legs, play catch in the water. Don’t run by the pool, don’t dunk your sister, don’t splash the baby, eat the snacks I brought. Apply sunscreen to dodging faces and wriggling arms. Wash it out of their eyes. Pull the swimmies on their arms and set them on the pool’s edge to wait for the whistle. Never to read the book in your pool bag.
Other summer activities involve similar transformations. Going on vacation constitutes cramming half the house into your mini-van and traveling some place else to keep house. Plan meals, referee children, create memories. Drive home to an endless expanse of laundry, re-organizing, re-establishing routine. And finding the time to scrapbook all those photos your had to threaten your family over.
For most moms, summer break launches a chance to explore a new agenda: specialty activities for the kids, a chance to clean closets, have a yard sale, read a book, visit the grandparents, see a museum. Sleep a little later, stay up a little later, start a tan. Summer is a reprieve from the school-year routine, but I’m not sure we actually slow down significantly. We think we have slowed, because we’re certainly not moving through our usual checklist. But do hours of watching Little League or swim team under a broiling sun actually equal a change in pace–or do they merely constitute a change in activity? The “hurry-up-and-get-there” pressure still clings.
How do I breathe? How do you breathe?
How can we embrace a deep-breathing, smell-the-roses, snuggle-on-the-porch mentality without scheduling it and without feeling guilty? Because it’s not really breathing if we’re tallying up the things that have to be accomplished while we’re swinging on the porch swing.
The secret is the breathing.
In, out, in, out. No guilt, no plan. Just pure enjoyment of a time and a season that I’ll never get back.