Raising Mary: Summer Time


What to do for 68 days?

Stay-at-home mom Tracy Cooper once wondered why parents struggled through long summers with their kids. Now she gets it.

Before I had a child, I was incredulous when I heard parents talking with trepidation about their kids being home all summer. Why would you have kids, I thought in my childless naiveté, if you don’t like having them around?
Last summer, I got it. Parents like having their school-age kids around – just not for every single minute for months on end! It was the first season after Mary’s first year in school (half days, every weekday). The first month was lovely: lazy afternoons in the backyard or at the park, weekly trips to the library, relatives visiting from out of town, a weekend in Ottawa with my sister’s family, a day at Canada’s Wonderland, another day at Niagara Falls.
Midway through August, Mary started asking when she was going back to school. She was bored after about 20,000 trips to every park in the vicinity. I was bored and tired. I also had my little one to take care of. She was then two – a delightful age of growing intelligence and hilarity but still no sense of danger. (It’s accidental suicide watch until they’re at least three, but I digress.)
So there’s a modicum of anxiety about summer 2011. Specifically, what am I going to do with five-year-old Mary and three-year-old Adelaide all the live long day, for exactly 68 days?
It’s impossible to have stimulating activities scheduled every day in the summer. For one thing, it’s too expensive. We’ve got the girls enrolled in a half-day, two-week July program at their dance school. But with one income, we can’t afford to put them in programs to fill most of the summer.
At my husband’s work, it’s hard to get summer vacation; we usually go away with family in the fall.
The hard truth is that summer, for this stay-at-home mother, is way more work. It’s difficult to find a moment alone. I actually don’t mind the school-year morning rush. And with Adelaide in preschool two days per week, at least I get two mornings to myself every seven days when Mary’s in school.
Things are complicated by the fact that I have never, well, warmed to summer. I spent my first nine years in Newfoundland, a province of rock, in summer still fanned by cool ‘breezes’ off the North Atlantic. Women in my childhood hometown wore tube tops and shorts when it was barely 20 Celsius.
I’ll never forget the summer Mom and I moved to Ontario – the heat coming off the baking pavement in visible waves, sweating in the stinking humidity, and sunburn after sunburn. Freckled and red-haired, I was not made for such conditions! Seriously, if summer featured late-September weather, I would love it.
The visuals of summer are pleasant, I give you that – flowers and green and gorgeous, sunny light. Oh, and hot summer nights? Luxurious. But Hades-like hot days and wasps aplenty? Blech. Mary is a chip off this old block that way. She hates the heat of a blistering July day. So the question becomes not only how do the kids keep occupied, but how they do so while indoors, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Nevertheless, my anxiety is tempered with anticipation. I may tolerate the long, hot days of this summer better than last, for in September
Mary goes to grade one and all-day school for the first time. (Sniff, sniff.) Yes, I may yet
savour all of summer 2011, not just the first month.

Published in June, 2011.

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