The other day I was flipping through a parent magazine and got depressed.
Apparently I was failing American summer motherhood.
Reflecting on all of June, July and August, we hadn’t done anything of merit. My children were not enrolled in competitive sports or alternative cultural enrichment art programs involving bongos and kazoos. I did not take them to environmental awakening rock concerts or to engage in political dissent or debate about the 2016 presidential election over the summer. We did listen to old Billy Joel CDs and I let them read comic books, and have ice cream for dinner on occasion. My husband bested his fourteen year old in Magic cards, 122 – 0. Bad for the self esteem, I know, but it was cool! My daughters and I shot some pool and I proved myself scratch champion for 2015.
We did not do camp, so no one is able to swim the butterfly stroke for fifty meters, whittle a replica of the white house or brew their own birch beer. We did find a chrysalis though and counted 14 butterflies on the purple butterfly bush one time and spotted and chased off deer daily. One time we saw a fox and another time, we smelled a skunk. We caught a turtle and put him in the koi pond, I think he ate the tadpoles. The family also grew tomatoes but without charting the plant’s development from seed to fruit. My kids however, didn’t eat the tomatoes or appreciate me offering them any. No science report will be forthcoming.
We went to the park daily until the bees got obnoxious, then we fantasized about killing the bees with lasers. My middle son asked what lasers were and I looked it up and told them, but we all promptly forgot. They painted pictures once, but no one mounted or matted their masterpieces to be placed in the art contest at the end of summer county fair and I got mad because there were specks of blue on the kitchen floor. We cleaned the basement. No one would be able to tell we did that so I’m telling people. We went to the library but lost three of the 31 books we checked out. We didn’t read all of them but we did read more than 31 books. At least five members of the family read all seven Harry Potter books back-to-back. That series alone counted for 35!
This summer we picked too many blueberries and froze a lot of them because I still haven’t learned how to make jam. I misidentified constellations despite having a star chart. We barbecued weekly and lunch on the weekend almost always included some variant of chocolate cake. Having received a cake cookbook for my birthday, it seemed wrong not to try out some of the recipes. We also ate fast food and no one ever asked for the apples or oranges instead of the fries. We went for walks but these were too short and sporadic in nature to be considered good substitutes for hitting the gym.
There was the herculean effort to get to the wedding in Buffalo, which involved two cars, my parents, a toddler with a broken collar bone and getting lost on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We also made it to the ocean and back over the open scary Bridge O’Doom in the pouring rain after ten at night. The white knuckle driving with parents will make for good stories about childhood in retrospect.
No one became an expert in anything. When the kids write their “what I did this summer” essays for school, I worry that the highlights will include the time we roller coasted the Suburban down the hill because the range on the gasoline gauge said “low”, or the time our neighbor’s kid convinced the ice cream truck to pull into the driveway so all of us could get our money, or the maiden and only voyage of my son’s motorized airplane on his birthday. It’s still stuck in a pink birch tree, out of range of ladders, ropes, footballs and fathers that have tried to retrieve it more than once.
Our summer was not a verb. As if to drive the point home, my toddler son spied his sister’s peanut butter and apple breakfast. He put his finger in the jar before I could stop him and swiped an inch worth onto his finger. Popping it in his mouth, he gave me a brown peanut buttery goodness three year old smile. “Delicious,” he said while smacking. He’s still smacking. The smacks reassured me that summer was very, very good, being sticky and brown and yummy. Now I dread the start of school, when more clean predicates will be required.