I read something on the internet this morning about how parents initially have these grand ideas of spending time with their children and families over the summer, but by the of end of the season, they’re so burned out they’re ready to toss the s’mores right into that campy fire, forget “Kumbaya,” and call it a day.
I teach in the same district where my children attend school. The kids have two more weeks of summer break, but I’ll go into work for orientation and training sessions before the end of July. The volunteer cherry tomatoes in our back yard are not yet ripe. And yet I have grown weary of trying to plan inexpensive, wholesome, fun, educational, allergen-free activities that my whole family can enjoy after I outfit them in clean clothing with bathing suits and sunscreen underneath.
And so, with a heavy heart, I must say that I am about ready for summer to be over.
Which may be just too bad because it’s not officially over for two more months. I wonder how the teens I teach will feel about sitting in a classroom trying to focus on American literature on days when the temperature is in the 90s and the sun won’t go down until 9 p.m. I could remind them that at least we are in the air conditioning, but I suspect that, like me, they’ve been taking air conditioning for granted too long to appreciate the fact.
Myself, I would have liked nothing more than to sit inside my cool home reading today, but my family members usually have other ideas. I am a bit tired of the good old-fashioned kind of fun that Dan and I plan for our kids – swimming, fishing, camping, picnics. At the risk of sounding like my cynical and jaded self, I just need to disclose the fact that, most of the time, those nature-loving activities that people did before everyone had an iPhone cost just as much as anything else and are about 50 times more exhausting.
Here’s one example: Taking the canoe out for a fishing trip. Doesn’t that just sound like a swell thing for a dad to do with his kids? Well, it is swell. Especially if mom gets a bag of homemade, allergen-free snacks together for the trip, finds everyone’s water bottles, hats and sunscreen, and sends them off with a smile because she’s so excited about getting an hour of peace and quiet in the house before they get back, hot, thirsty, hungry for lunch, and hopefully not crying about a bee sting or an escaped turtle.
But that’s not all. You also need gas in the pickup truck (because it’s not like you can fit a canoe in the back of a Toyota Yaris). Oh, and you need to renew your fishing license.
By the time it’s all said and done, you’re looking at $70 or $80 just to be three with nature for an hour or so and get a few mosquito bites.
Which reminds me, I really need to make that homemade, allergen-free, organic bug repellent with the essential oils I bought a few months ago.
These are minor, first-world gripes, I know. I’m lucky to have them. You can talk about first-world problems in public and people can admit they relate. You don’t talk about the other kind of problems, the working-class problems, like surgeries and medical tests you can’t afford, because those conversations make people uncomfortable. They start feeling like you’re a charity case and a guilt trip they’d rather not experience. I know because I’ve been on both sides of those conversations. Better to stick to talking about making organic bug spray with essential oils. I like talking to my smart, good-looking, fortunate friends about their problems, because they’re not really problems, and it seems I can solve them just by listening. I don’t like the kind of problems I have to solve with money, because sometimes I can’t.
Annabelle came down the stairs this morning in a pink and orange sundress that my mother just purchased for her at Goodwill. To complement the dress, she had applied some berry-colored lipstick, also given to her by my mother. When I saw her, I wished I looked as good.
As much as she wanted to go fishing in the canoe with her dad, she really didn’t feel like changing into a T-shirt and a pair of shorts, and it sure would have been nice if her mother had put all of her clean clothes away, neatly, where should could find them!
After she changed her outfit, she asked me to put her hair in pigtails. Then she said she needed to take off the lipstick.
“I understand,” I told her. “I don’t really like the way I look with lipstick anymore.”
“I like lipstick,” she said, “but not when I’m going on a fishing trip.”
So it seems we have learned some valuable lessons in practicality this summer.
Two things I know for sure:
1. Sitting inside a quiet, air conditioned room reading when the outside air is thick and oppressive is a privilege that should be appreciated by people of all ages.
2. No sooner will I have recovered from swimsuit season than it will be time to find their jackets, hats, gloves, snow boots …
The question is, does one wear lipstick to build a snowman?