During the last week of preschool, a friend of mine moaned over the idea that she now had so. many. weeks. at home with all of her three children. “What am I going to do?” she cried. “This is going to be horrible.” She was working overtime to find camps and classes and just something to keep them occupied.
Me, on the other hand? I about skipped through the school hallways on the last day. It’s summmmmmer! I squealed (in my head, of course. Sheesh) with glee. FREEEEEDOM!! Nowhere to go at a set time, no place to be if we didn’t want to, just weeks and weeks of playing in the yard, and splashing in the pool, and casual dinners under the umbrella and dirty feet and exhausted children and YES. IT WAS ALMOST HERE.
And then it came. And then this happened:
- I caught my daughters leaping off the ottoman in the family room onto a pile of overturned Pottery Barn kids’ seats and pillows.
- I heard Saoirse say that the two hardback chairs she’d pushed together were being used as a balance beam.
- I saw SK riding around in circles on the back deck, weaving in and out of the furniture there, with Quinn somehow perched behind her on the bike, giggling maniacally. At least they were both wearing their helmets.
- They left for the neighbor’s house fully clothed, clean, and shod. They returned home barefoot, with faces, arms, mouths, feet, legs, and ears streaked with dirt, mud, and something else that smelled too closely like something I’d rather not have streaked all over their bodies. They had absolutely no recollection as to where they put their shoes.
- They also came home to tell me what the neighbor’s grandparents gave them as a snack: two servings of lemonade! With chocolate-covered raisins! And marshmallows! With a candy!
- I suddenly had a house filled with children who were not my own.
- I found myself feeding lunch to unaccompanied children, also not my own.
- David caught Quinn in mid-flip when she decided it’d be fun to swing without actually using her hands to hold the ropes. He caught her again when she thought leaning half of her body out of the pool raft was a great idea. I stopped her from leaping feet-first into the pool the same day to retrieve a ball. It was the shallow end, but that doesn’t really matter when the last swimming lesson you’ve had was when you were eight months old.
I swore to myself at the end of the school year that I was going to let my children be bored this summer. I wasn’t scheduling a lot of activities, I wasn’t turning on the TV. I was hiding the calendar, lathering on the sunscreen, and letting them go. Because you know how it is: when kids are bored, truly bored, well, that’s when they start having the most fun. That’s when the couch becomes a Matchbox car raceway, or a play is invented, or a new game involving a soccer ball and some bubble wands is contrived.
Granted, that’s also about the time I start extracting popsicle juice from a three-year-old’s curls and flushing sunblock out of a wailing child’s eyes.
Maybe my friend was right.