Until Next Summer…

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I decided to write a tribute of sorts about some of the things parents do for their kids. All summer long. I just love summer. Always have and I think I always will. Though I enjoyed school as a kid, I still dreaded going back after the relaxed, fun-filled long days of summer. Now, as a mother, I get to relive summer fun through the eyes of my kids. It’s a different perspective but still pretty stellar most days.

Now that school has officially started, I am a lot sad to say goodbye to summer. I will definitely look forward to next June as long as it brings anything but showers. I will try my hardest to appreciate all of the seasons in between. But until next summer…here is a list of:

Ten Awesome Things Parents Do for Their Kids in the Summer:

1. Set-up the slip’n slide….yeah!

Then, attempt to blow up the deflated side over and over again. Before you realize there’s a hole. Not just any old hole. A massive hole. So, you patch up that whistling hole with really expensive waterproof medical tape. And blow up that left side. Again. One more time. Until your lungs and mouth quit. Tape can only do so much. The kids are ready for a Popsicle which brings us to…

2. Open up Popsicles.

With your teeth, kids scissors, or with that dull kitchen knife. It’s nonstop. You’ve given up on how many Popsicles the AAP recommends. It’s like 115 degrees outside. You don’t want your kids passing out. They need energy fast…in the form of Red Dye #40. Airheads Popsicles, Freeze pops, old school push-ups if you can find them anywhere. Where have all the push-ups gone? Does the Popsicle brand really matter? It’s cold and face it, the majority of the freezing cold goodness will end up on their faces, their shirts, or the ground. Or in a melted pile on the counter. Oh, the forgotten Popsicle. “So, yes, sweaty flush faced child, of course you can have another Popsicle. You barely got any of the first one into your belly.”

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3. Apply Sunblock.

Ahhhh, sunblock. Spray sunblock. Stick sunblock. Baby sunblock. Spider-Man sunblock. Sunblock in their eyes. Their hair. All over you. The sole reason you have a tan is because after lathering up all of your kiddos, you only have the stamina to put it on your face. Meanwhile, your youngest kid is tugging on you to catch him off of the diving board. Sorry neck, shoulders and back, it looks like you will be getting (more) sun today. And most every day of summer. High five for protecting your face, Mama. You won’t look a day over 33….until someone looks down at your hands.

4. Tie water balloons.

Yep, here’s proof that love hurts. Repeatedly wrapping the cheap latex around your giant fingers and having water balloons pop in your face as you attempt to tie those suckers up, that’s pure love. You can’t keep up with the demands of the tiny hands who would be much better at knotting the water grenades, if they only knew how. Right as you tie one up, splat, it’s done. You’re soaked and your hands feel abused by the slippery broken latex pieces splayed all over the ground beneath the hose. The most you can do is have your kids pick up pieces while they wait for the next “big mama.” No wonder you helped kickstart the “Bunch O’ Ballooons” project. Too bad they’re so expensive you can’t afford to incorporate them into your cheap summer fun. Surely the price will go down by next summer.

5. Take the kids to the library.

It’s free. Well, until you can’t find the books, audiobooks or DVDs you’ve rented. The late fees can be a little extreme. That’s beside the point. You’ve got about 30 good minutes of picking out books, old school DVDs like “Free Willy” and playing with the random summer activities. Good clean free summer fun. You still feel a little pressure to “shhhh!” your kids when they’re getting loud. And you definitely have to reinforce the “no running…or wrestling” in the library rule. You generally reward yourself, and the kids too, with a cookie after leaving the quiet zone. You earned it. And you know, since you’ve gotten all of the free books and stuff, you quickly justify a Blue Chip Cookie. Maybe you can get another one when you return all of your goods back to the library on time. Ish.

6. Dry a lot of swimsuits, towels, wet clothes, etc.

There are a lot of sacrifices in summer and the one that takes the brunt of them is your poor van. It becomes the haven for sweaty kids and their wet clothes, towels, and swimsuits. A non-creepy sauna of sorts. If you’re on top of it, you unload the damp played-in clothes to the laundry room immediately as you get home. Yeah. You go. If you got distracted, because, well, it happens, you may have left wet clothes in the van. Overnight. Good thing it’s not 100 + degrees outside. Oh, wait. The next day, you open the doors to the ripe moist smell of mildewed swimsuits. Your kids ask while holding their noses, “what’s that smell?” Your wet swimsuits. They’re not exactly wet or dry. They’re in between still. Only they’ve taken on the putrid smell of forgetfulness. Surely, the chlorine will knock the stink right out when they jump back into the pool today? One of the joys of all boys is they won’t cause a big fuss. They’re used to stinky feet, amongst other unfavorable bodily odors. They won’t put up a fight when it comes time to throw those pleasantly, or creepily moist suits back on. Or you just won’t hear it if they do. “Do you guys wanna go swimming or not? Well?”

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7. Go to a Royals game.

Nothing beats the “K” on a summer night. It’s like everyone out there is a part of a big happy family. Even if you chose not to look at the forecast and end up sitting under an umbrella with your family of five. For five innings. It’s family bonding time. One of your sons may ask, “where does everybody get those trash wrappers?” And you may realize he’s talking about rain ponchos. You will laugh at his awesome six-year old description of rain gear. As you state that those are the loyal and smart fans. The prepared ones. We just came for the cotton candy and the clapping. And it’s always memorable. And worth it. Even if you leave soaked in the sixth inning. First base line seats? Yes, Hosmer. Yes.

8. Go to the zoo.

Where else do you get to watch your kids play peek-a-boo with a toddler orangutan? Or give high fives through the glass to a back stroking polar bear? Ride the train. Check. Ride the shuttle all the way to Africa. Done. Help celebrate a chimp’s 21st birthday. With Jell-O shots. Sort of. You may just get to witness a few chimps “riding each other’s backs”and explain why the girl chimp’s bottom looked so painfully swollen and red. Poor girl chimp. That’s rough. It’s always an exhausting, semi-sex educational fun-filled day. And all of your boys may fall asleep on the ride home. Always. And you may wish they would hand out iced coffees and a sticker to the parents on the way out. “I Zoo’d Today.” It’s pretty similar to voting or giving blood. Well, almost.

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9. Help catch tadpoles and frogs…

And lightning bugs. And dragon flies. And butterflies. And all the summer creatures that your kids areĀ fascinated with keeping for a day or two before setting them free. You’re hoping they will scurry, hop, swim or fly out of their makeshift bug hostile equipped with grass, a rock and a bottle cap of water. It’s not quite as dramatic as “Free Willy” but this is Overland Park not Hollywood. “Jump, Frog, jump. Just go.” Let’s celebrate that frog’s triumphant return to nature with a Popsicle.

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10. Lastly, and most importantly, summer helps us slow down and take the time to gaze at our children’s summer sun-spotlighted beauty.

When they ask you to open their Popsicle or jump up into your dry lap, you should pause and look at their freckled faces. Their red stained lips. Their crazy blonde hair. And then you’ll also notice that their thick, long black eyelashes are bleached out on the tips. And how those eyelashes cast the most delicate shadows on their faces. You feel humbled, and all the sudden, tearful, overwhelmed, like you’ve been granted the most amazing wish. The honor of being their mother. The gift of being the one who gets to open their Popsicles, tie their water balloons, resuscitate their slip n’ slide, and on and on. All summer long. You get to be front and center to their endless beauty, their innocence and life-filled eyes and their constant requests, cuddles, and love. Because you possess the most coveted lap..that is, until Daddy walks into the door.

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