We all know the days are long and the years are short, but summer, it just seems to fly by every year. There is a palpable freedom that comes with the summer months, best appreciated during one’s school years. It’s an easy comparison: sitting a desk or riding your bike/going for a hike/eating ice cream in the middle of the day/going to camp/wondering what to do to fill a day… Summer comes and we all take a deep breath to relax and when we release fully September has hit us and the new year starts.
When the kids were young I used to lie awake at night wondering if they’d like their teacher, if their friends would stay their friends, what they’d learn to love, what they’d learn to move on from. Now, with high school a part of our lives and another in middle school I find myself writing this late at night before the first day of school wondering, will they like their teacher, will their friends stay their friends, what will they learn to love and what will they learn to move on from. I guess not much has changed but it feels like the effects of these questions becomes more intense as they get older.
Thanks for the great memories summer 2017. Let’s make some new great memories over the next school year.
Two weeks ago we dropped our kids off at camp, three provinces away, for a month long stay. Today I received a letter from our son and it instantly reminded me of the feelings I had when we said our final goodbyes before leaving him with his cabin mates. Like many boys, he finds being away from home challenging, especially in the evenings. He’s honest and open with his emotions in the lead-up to camp and at the actual drop off (when extra hugs are never ending). I tried to provide a sense of strength and positivity by acknowledging his fears and reminding him of the good times ahead but deep inside, I’m a super softie.
Twenty years ago we stood on a deck over-looking Manitowaning Bay and said “I do”. It has been an incredible ride so far filled with world travel, two fantastic kids, interesting careers, an overly shedding dog, a few tears and many more laughs. It hasn’t always been easy. Marriage takes work and gets messy from time to time. Finding the right partner to pick you up when you’re down, celebrate your successes and help you clean up those messes is what makes it worth living. I found mine and can proudly say we’ve made quite a life over the past 20 years. While today’s anniversary insisted that it should be filled with cortisone shots, orthotics and the inevitably late night packing, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The other night, during the harvest moon, I slept outside with my son. We’d just watched Spiderman:Homecoming (awesome) and we had the kind of conversation that only seems possible on warm summer evenings. I luxuriated in the banter over which super hero we’d be, as ourselves, in their costumes and with their powers. It was thoughtful and carefully deliberated and after talking through all the Avengers, we settled on the hero we’d picked initially. We talked about other super cool stuff like flying cars, inventions that would make us rich and who we’d take to a dance if we absolutely had to or else we wouldn’t be allowed to create inventions that would make us rich…
It’s moments like these that need to be taken and remembered. It’s what keeps us young and connected to our kids who are growing faster than the weeds in the backyard where we pitched our tent.
Is it just me or has this school year been the classic sprint marathon? As I stumble into the last day of June and the hopes and promises (and inevitable question “Dad, what should I do now?”) of summer, it feels like a good time for some self reflection.
September is always mental. It’s the true start of any year. School starts. Sport/art/community activities start and the malaise of summer days are quickly replaced with racing to an after school program (or two), the need to pack lunches, sign forms and plan and pay for winter activities. October was just as big a punch in the face, as was November. December offered a faint bit of hope – the calm before the holiday storm. January charged in and February and March were a blur. April offered a wee respite with winter activities ending and a week or two before summer activities began but it’s now a distant memory. May passed in a day and June has been the long painful crawl to the end.
I know it’s not just me as I’ve talked to other parents who’ve said they are “done”. We’ll use the next couple of months to recoup and refresh with days on the dock or hikes in the mountains depending on where we all live. G&T’s are not geographically specific. So let’s raise a glass of our favourite beverage and cheers our effort. We made it through another year of permission forms, sick kids, car pools, meal plans, laundry needs, project deadlines, homework dread and never ending cheque writing. Enjoy the summer and rest up. September is looming in the distance…
Parenting doesn’t come with a play book. Things happen unexpectedly and I try to be pretty close to right more often than I screw it up. The jury is still out on whether I’m succeeding or not.
So was the case tonight when we were faced with the request from our daughter to join friends who’d invited her to dinner in advance of the grade 8 farewell party tomorrow. While my wife and I hadn’t formalized plans together or as a family, we’d both separately had it in our minds that we would have a family dinner after which my wife would help with any hair drying and styling needs, we’d take the family photo to capture the moment and then head down to the school together.
So, like the true rookies we are in these days of teenagers and digital planning, we fumbled. We first said yes, then reflected on our disappointment that we wouldn’t be having the dinner we imagined, then rallied to support the idea that there is a peer group that included our daughter, then doubted ourselves again over the reality that our child only graduates from grade eight once, until finally the confusion on our faces led our astute 14 year old to ask us what we were really thinking.
It may seem quaint we said, but the celebration of graduating from middle school and the traditions that go with it carry an emotional side to things that we were only just realizing at that moment. We reflected on our own grade eight graduation (my wife’s with jewelry from her parents and grandparents that she still has today and plans on wearing tomorrow night, and my own memories of being dragged out to Tip Top Tailors to buy stiff and scratchy grey flannel pants and a blazer that I’m sure were only worn that one night, and my mom crying at the playing of Pomp and Circumstance). Graduations like this may in fact be more for the parents than the actual participants because the importance of the moment can’t be fully appreciated without the benefit of time. It’s lunacy really, that as parents we work tirelessly to raise our children to be confident, independent and thoughtful people, only to feel a palpable sadness when they start to demonstrate those very qualities that we’re hoping they’ll attain.
In the end, we all felt better and agreed to let her enjoy the dinner and preparation with her friends but we made her promise that the moment we got the chance we’d be making a great fuss over capturing the occasion in an awkward and sure to be greatly treasured photograph.