Summer and I have a complicated relationship.
As a stay-at-home mama, I treasure the slower pace, the extra time with these precious children of mine. I relish in the opportunity for white space and rest and sunshine and making memories and the kind of boredom that frees the imagination.
From the heart of May, the heart in my chest starts to swell with anticipation of watching my people run through the sprinkler with their buddies, and the tiny wet footprints that will cover my floor. I imagine their sibling friendships flourishing with giggly pillow fights and giant forts and long days splashing around in the pool.
I can’t hide my grin when I think of swim team ribbons that will be won, diving board tricks to be mastered, finger paint creations to be hung on the wall.
I imagine the books read and the dreams dreamed that could never be, without the extra wiggle room. I’m fully committed to spending at least a handful of days in pajamas, and several handfuls in bathing suits, from morning straight on ’til night.
Summer is bursting with potential. Two whole months with nothing much to do…I should have a chance to patch up all the mommy failures of the school year, and do all of the things well. I imagined in summer, I would climb into bed with each of my children just to scratch their backs and chat in the way that only happens when toes are tucked under covers and faces are surrounded by beloved stuffed animals. I would linger and listen…really listen…about hurt feelings and lizards and swim meets, until my little ones’ eyelids got heavy and they were ready to let the moment go. I would move slow and soak up the silly little moments that add up to a childhood. I would be patient, and tell the clock that it can take a break. Everyone would be well-rested and would get along. I would have long date nights with my hubby and long family adventures, and we would make sweet family memories together. Summer would make it all better.
From the heart of May, it all seemed so simple.
But right in the middle of all of this potential, the boredom intended to lead to imagination and beauty, becomes a reason to pick a fight, just for something to do. Family adventures turn to whining, and the only moment I enjoy is the picture I snap when I trick everyone into smiling for a gummy bear.
I get tired of hearing my own voice encouraging little ones to be grateful when it’s too hot or too rainy or too sunny or not sunny enough… when we never have enough time at the pool…when it’s never the right time to put on sunscreen….when it should always be the right time for ice cream…and everyone is Always. Always. Always. Hungry.
Thankfully, after an adventure turns sour, my children only seem to remember the fun. As it was for me as a child, summer is a time for nothing much to do, except practicing handstands in the pool.
So, perhaps my high expectations of summer come from my view being shaped in childhood, when summer was nothing but sparkly brilliant adventure.
But the thing I now know, though I’m still making peace with it, is that the rest and relaxation of a child comes partly at the sacrifice of his mama’s. Someone has to hang and clean and pack and unpack and repack all of the swim suits and goggles and floaties and towels and snacks and water bottles and sunscreen. A leisurely picnic for the family comes at the cost of cooking and packing the food and paper plates and blankets and hats and bug spray. Someone still drives. Someone still cooks. Someone still cleans. Someone still launders. Someone’s ears receive all of the screams and tattles and needs and questions. Someone carefully places what feels like thousands of things into a bag for each and every adventure. Someone facilitates the fulfillment of everyone else’s summer dreams.
So, thank you, Mom, for making my summers magical.
And thank you, Jesus, that you are multiplying the magic in the lives of my children. They really do love it. And that makes it well worth all of the effort.
But can I just admit that I sometimes I feel kind of crushed by all of this fun? Some days I am so, so tired. Some days I feel like I cannot muster the energy to answer one more question or settle one more argument. Some days I am pressed by the sheer number of words exchanged, by the number of time outs, the number of Band-aids, the number of wet floors I have wiped up, the number of minutes I have spent spreading sunscreen on tiny bodies.
There is an undeniable blessed abundance in my house that I do not take for granted for a minute. I treasure the opportunity to be home with my little army of children this summer, and I would not trade it for anything in the world.
But sisters, sometimes…Summer. Is. Hard.
There is this ugly side of summer mixed up with the ugly side of my heart that says “JUST GO BACK TO SCHOOL, ALREADY.”
I want to be the mom who never wants summer to end. But even before I finished the giant exhale of relief of less – less hurry, less homework, less calendar, less daily grind…Before I even let the exhale settle my soul, there was an equally strong and competing inhale of more – more opinions, more noise, more voices, more sibling arguments, more complaints of boredom, more questions about what we’re doing and when and where and with whom and for how long, more entertainment, more meals to make and clean up at home, more decisions to make about wide open hours.
Summer and I made our first transition when I entered the working world, and I realized that summer break was no longer a thing. And now, we’re making another.
I think somewhere along the line, I started to think that staying at home with my kids meant I would get a summer break again. But this year, I’m letting it go. I’m wrapping up the gift of summer — all of my expectations and hopes, all of my rest and relaxation — I’m wrapping it up and tying a bow around it, and I am presenting it as an offering to my family. I am believing that abundant life happens right on the other side of giving my own summer “break” away. I’m believing that my gift in summer will be the life that only comes when you give it away – the abundance of living that only happens when you die to yourself. I begin to truly delight in my children and their fun, when I stop being concerned about my own comfort.
This year, I am finally admitting the thing that has stood in the way of my rest. I am admitting that a relationship between summer and a stay-at-home mama is not simple and straightforward. It’s not a break, a vacation, or a retreat. It’s simply a shift. As I facilitate rest for my children this summer, I can trust the Lord to bring rest to my soul. I find life in giving mine away.
So friend, if summer is hard, you might be right where you should be…pouring out your love and energy and effort to facilitate a culture of rest and adventure in your home. The next time you are packing the pool bag, or breaking up a sibling squabble, remember that you are SEEN by your Father God. Let the work of your summer be a dance of worship before your King.
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39
Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3: 23