It’s the last full week of summer break, and I’ve got that melancholy feeling that comes when I’m nearing the end of my favorite season.
I’ve realized that it’s not just the end of long days, warm weather and a leisurely schedule that I’m mourning. It’s not just the return to homework, kids being gone all day and a hectic schedule that I’m dreading.
The thing about summer for me is that it seems to mark the passage of time. The milestones our kids reach in summer stand out as reminders that they are growing older, gaining new skills, and moving closer to independence.
I clearly remember the summer when our oldest son learned to ride his bike. And I vividly remember the day last summer when our youngest daughter learned to ride hers.
I remember the summers when three of our kids played soccer. And I remember the first summer our second born played baseball.
I always smile when I think of the first time our oldest son, who was incredibly afraid to put his head under water, bounced through the door and announced he had conquered his fear at a friend’s pool. Summers bring back so many memories of taking little kids camping, bigger kids hiking and even bigger kids at the beach.
This past summer was full of its own share of milestones. It was the first summer our oldest son could drive. This meant he could help me pick up the other kids and take them on errands. It also meant he had an independence that interrupted our long conversations in the car and driving places as a family.
He also got a part-time job and performed with a community theater group. I loved seeing how much he grew through both of these experiences, and yet, I missed him all morning and evening when he was gone.
Our 14-year-old was part of an amazing travel baseball team this summer. From April to mid-July, we spent weekends at the baseball field cheering on his team and long weekends out of town watching him play.
Our 12-year-old traveled by herself to Florida this summer to visit a dear friend. She got to love on cats and ride four wheelers at an uncle’s farm. She had band camp and cheer camp.
Our seven-year-old improved her swimming skills, performed in a play, attended two vacation Bible schools and spent lots of time playing with friends. Our three younger kids all got to go to summer camp (during different weeks), and our oldest went on his first missions trip.
For me, it was a summer of transition. I look back at fondness at the summers when I would plan outings with the four kids to the arboretum or the zoo or the park or a long bike ride. Our three older kids now organize their own social calendars. I’m no longer invited on play dates, which were just as much for me as for them.
I’m growing to accept that “family game night” sometimes means just me and our youngest daughter while the bigger kids are doing their own thing. Instead of longing for weekly family bike rides, I try to appreciate the one time we were able to gather everyone on the same day to go for a ride together.
I struggle with finding a balance between remembering past summers with fondness and feeling sadness that I want to return to those days. I have to remind myself to enjoy the moment that we’re in and not dread how quickly time is passing.
Yesterday, we registered the three older kids at high school and junior high. Our youngest will get her classroom assignment later today. All summer, I could still think of them in their previous grade. As of today, I have to accept I have a junior, a freshman, an eighth grader and a second grader.
That’s the thing about summer. It feels like a pause button for me. It’s 12 weeks that I get to enjoy them as they are and not think about moving on to the next grade, the next milestone, the next stage of life. I selfishly don’t want it to end. And yet, I know I have to let it go. It’s exciting to see them moving on to what’s next for them.
Summer is a time of transition. I want to hold onto it as long as possible. Maybe if I don’t buy the school supplies or get them new outfits, it won’t actually end. I know the harsh reality. We have to move on. And we are blessed to be able to do so!
Despite my reluctance, summer teaches me to love the memories, enjoy the moment that we’re in and encourage them as they pursue what’s next. It’s not an easy task, but it’s one that I’m working on. And that’s the thing about summer…