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Clinging to Summer

Clinging to Summer

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - August 20th, 2020

My windows are open, the air is heavy and thick.

 

I can hear thunder rumbling in the distance, but I can’t bring myself to turn on the air conditioner. I am waiting for the exact moment when the rain starts to fall hard enough and angle just the right way to hit my window sill, causing me a few seconds of panic while I rush to wipe up the water and pray I didn’t damage the sill too much before I finally shut them.

I love the soundscape of a summer rain, even if it involves tires splashing through puddles on my block as cars race to make a light, or the occasional sound of a jet flying a little lower than normal because of the low ceiling.

Sure, I prefer the sound of a summer rain from a screened-in porch with the sound of waves gently lapping the rocks as a cool breeze kicks up, but I am able to find joy here in the city too. I also find joy in the sunshine sounds of summer! The siren song of the ice-cream truck, the squeals of delight when the swing goes a little too high, the splashes from cannon balls and belly flops alike, the slurps as ripe peaches drip sticky juice down arms. If I am being truthful, there are very few sounds of summer that I don’t love.

I am the mom who crosses the days off of my school calendar from the first day of school to the last. I am the mom who dreams of campfires, s’mores, splash pads and bbq’s. I am the mom who is searching the bargain bins in July and August for next year’s bathing suits and t-shirts. I am the mom who is constantly adding to a special pile of books by her bed to save just for the beach. I have a deep respect for education, and I work very hard to keep my kids curious and focused; but really, I am the mom always waiting for the summer break.

I once had a friend tell me that when she was young, she used to hide in her linen closet, in the dead of an East Coast winter, and open bottles of sunscreen just to smell summer. I connected to her on such a deep emotional level at that moment. I am constantly trying to capture and save the essence of each specific summer.

I build a playlist of the tunes we’re all enjoying; I make magnets from the photos of the experiences we shared; I bake delicious treats to savor the fruits that we picked: I’ll make jams and freeze sauces and pesto with our little garden’s bounty. All in an effort to be able to recall the joys of summer when it’s over. This is why I wouldn’t say it took a degree in psychology to understand my anxiety about the summer of 2020

 

Back in May, I really couldn’t imagine what summer would look like. Our usual plans of travel and visiting family were long cancelled and we were hesitant to dream of anything too far from the confines of our bubble. We were struggling through crisis-schooling, feeling emotionally drained and helpless to the circumstances we were in, neither by choice nor desire. In a Herculean effort of self-preservation, we made a plan. For a very short time in July, we moved our bubble to a new and far too temporary location on the water. We knew that by leaving, we would be forced to self-quarantine once we returned to our home. It was worth it.

The break breathed life back into our souls, allowing us to experience something OTHER than the “everyday” that has plagued us since March. It reminded us that we all still enjoy each other’s company! Running, jumping, swimming and laughing. A brilliantly bright taste of summer, a respite before we would begin again, inside our small but safe bubble of home.

 

As part of the largest school district in the United States, we spent a great deal of time this summer refreshing the DOE’s homepage, attending virtual town hall meetings, and comparing notes with friends. We have desperately been trying to make sense of the chaos around us. Experts give their take on how September could or should look, experts who then have had to pivot and adjust their own advice when new research or developments arise. We weighed decisions and questioned our options each time we are given a new direction.

We made a choice that we feel is the only option for our family given the current information, but we will have to revisit this decision every few weeks, especially as new data is released. Our first day of school won’t be like any previous year, but we’ll do our best to make it work. I have to trust that the schools have taken the lessons from the “crisis-schooling” months and applied them to our new “blended learning” months. I have to trust that we’ll get into a routine that suits our family to operate at its best for the fall. I have to trust that we’ll be ok.

 

The pandemic continues to operate without a handbook for parents. Unlike the moment we were handed our child at the hospital and sent off on our merry way, this experience doesn’t allow us the privilege of checking in with anyone who has been here before for advice. There is literally no one to instruct us on how to get through this gracefully. No book to read that could reassure us that we’re not damaging our children by making the choices we do, no documentary to watch to illustrate just how bad the choices could be. As parents we are trying to ensure our children are supported emotionally and educationally all the while carefully balancing the various hats on our heads. I rarely have a work conversation without one or both of my children interrupting with a “VERY” important question.

 

Through my own meditations and conversations with friends I have found new ways to exercise my patience. I have found new techniques to help my kids cope with their reality, and I am working hard with my husband to remain engaged and connected within our marriage. This has been the most challenging thing I have ever experienced, and my own growth has come with a lot of tears and frustration.

One of the ways I am coping is to make a concerted effort to write a daily gratitude list with my children. Some days are easier than others, but all lists now include our summer break of 2020, along with summer peaches, lakes, rainy days and laughter. 

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