School officially let out a week ago for the kids, and I’ve been home with them all week. God knows I will never get rich in academics, but it is fulfilling to me in the best way, and I love what I do. It’s the icing on the cake that I get summers off to spend time with my kids. The first month of summer is always the very best for me. I don’t feel guilty about being lazy. We aren’t itchy yet from the languid heat or lack of routine. And the weeks ahead stretch before us in a long view that seems like the season will last forever. And it won’t, of course. It will come and go, and I will look back through the lens of nostalgia that always colors our memories in the sweetest way.
We started with a little birthday celebration on Memorial Day weekend. Norah has been requesting a party at this little girls’ hair salon near us. The concept is half ridiculous and half adorable, but it’s what she wanted, so I obliged. We kept it simple with just a few close friends, and the girls had a great time.
It cracks me up that she is into this stuff already. She is so much fun at this age, and it’s a challenge for me to lean into all of this – princesses, nail polish, pink everywhere – so that she can love what she loves without apology. But at the same time, the women’s studies reader inside me is always trying to maintain some kind of balance. I want her to always feel loved and accepted though, and I think she does. So much fun, this one.
The day after that event, the kids were invited to a little classmate’s party at a horse farm a half hour north of us. The drive was rural, and the weather was beautiful. The party invitation said they’d be painting horses, and I thought surely I was misunderstanding something, but no. We painted horses. The kids loved it. They painted them, rode them, and then they helped bathe the horses at the end. It was a lot of excitement and such a fun experience.
We followed that party with some family time to celebrate my granddad’s birthday, and I watched my kids get dirty and chase lightening bugs with their little cousins as adults sat on my grandparents’ back porch and talked until way past dark. It fills me up in the very best way to see my kids enjoying these experiences that echo my own childhood. We drove home exhausted and filthy, and I carried each of their sleeping bodies up the stairs to plop them in bed after a full day.
It’s taken me a while to embrace the suburban yet rural (I once heard it called “suburba-rural”) feel of where I live. I’ve come to love it though. At a certain age, you finally begin to love what you love and know who you are without apologies. I am a small town girl at heart, and I have no desire left in me to live intown, regardless of how uncool it is to say that. We have such beautiful places just down the road, and it’s important to me that my kids get outside and see life as more than a strip mall.
In the past week, we’ve explored a bit at a nearby park with small hiking trails and a covered bridge; we’ve enjoyed the neighborhood pool, and we’ve had the chance to ride horses yet again for a second birthday party yesterday.
Life with these two never stops. But I feel so lucky to be here for all of it. To watch them grow and learn in that unstructured, wide-open way that summer provides. So much to see and do.
That said, this summer also gives me a lot of time away. They are with their father every other week as school breaks are split 50/50 in most custody agreements. This is such an odd feeling for me – to be alone and left to my own schedules and desires. Half of me is relieved given that the pace of the last few months has been insane, and I have so much left to catch up on inside my house. Boxes still left unpacked, rooms to paint and organize. But the other part of me is sad a bit. I miss them terribly, and I hate this aspect of divorce. The two homes they have to bounce between, the lack of insight about what they see or do when I am not there and who they are with. It is what it is though, and life is never perfect. I am trying to embrace the time alone, and my friends are so great about checking in with me and planning a few fun things for us. I also picked up some editing work which will help fill the time and provide a small boost for my finances after what has been a very expensive year.
On the whole, I am looking at the days stretched before me with hope for lots of possibilities. Being mom feels comfortable, and it’s where I am happiest. But now, I need to get comfortable in the old skin a bit and explore who and what that is to be in the years ahead. I’m grateful the pace of summer leaves time and space for that. And I’m so excited for what lies ahead.