When the weather changes and the days are warmer and longer, my alter ego emerges. She is Summer Mother. She is quite different from the year- round Me.
I am a woman who prides herself on order. I like schedules and predictability. I like to do things "right", especially in my parenting. I parent well. I balance Miss J and M's day with school and play and meaningful activities. I check homework and sign assignment notebooks and practice spelling words and math problems. I keep track of doctor's appointments and dental appointments and make sure books are returned to the library on time. My children eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and low on the processed junk and I am diligent about making sure teeth are brushed before getting into bed by the established bedtime. I am a stickler for hand washing and getting enough sleep.
But sometime in June, the Summer Mother arrives. Miss J and M might say she is more fun, relaxed and, dare I say, cool. That is partly true, but mostly, Summer Mother is just plain lazy.
This Summer Mother has little need for a schedule. Miss J and M are in no rush, no hurry to go anywhere most days. On mornings when the sun is shining impossibly bright and the grass is still wet with the morning dew, I will send Miss J and M outside to play in their pajamas. They find this to be fun and slightly rebellious. I score a few "cool" points, but that is not my intention. I know they will just get dirty, so rather than dress them only to have to change them again, they play in their jammies. It means less laundry for me.
My children are frequently shoeless during the summer. They romp through the grass and dirt of the backyard until the soles of their feet are blackened from hours of play. And while I know any decent mother will slather her children with organic, 200 SPF sunblock, I admit that I like how my children look when their skin darkens like an old penny and streaks of blonde push through their unbrushed hair.
They live on a steady diet of peanut butter and jelly (to my credit, the bread is whole wheat and the jam is homemade) and hotdogs (free of nitrites, of course.). They eat too many freeze pops. They aren't the organic fruit juice variety, but the unnaturally bright Fla-Vor-Ice I sucked on as a kid that make their mouths glow neon orange and purple. They eat far too much ice cream too...either from the many shops we will visit (when strawberry ice cream counts as a serving of fruit and dairy and can be justified as being an acceptable lunch) or from chasing the ice cream truck for two blocks when I then shell out way too much money for a frozen concoction on a stick.
Dinners consist of anything that can be served cold or cooked on a grill and eaten with fingers. M will often have an ear of corn in one hand and a wedge of watermelon in the other. The juice runs down his arms and drips off his elbow....but that is okay because in the summer, a run through the sprinkler and a swim in the pool count as good enough bathing.
Miss J's teacher gave her a math packet to work on over the summer and I already can't find it. I have given notice to M's therapists not to expect us until school starts up again. For now I will muck around in the vegetable garden and make s'mores and catch fireflies and spend lazy days at the beach with Miss J and M. I will offer them extra freeze pops so that I may have just five more minutes on the patio with a trashy book or allow them to watch too much television so that I may have a few moments of quiet. And when I really need a break, I will send them on playdates or to visit their grandparents.
And come fall, when all the summer gear has been packed away, the Summer Mother will depart and I will be ready to start the new school year...tanned, relaxed and ready.