It seems as though around the end of April and into the start of May, summer worms its way into my brain. In northern Minnesota, we still have the potential to get snow at the end of April, so my spring fever is usually raging by the time I flip the calendar to May. Windows open to air out the staleness of winter, flannel sheets get relegated to the bottom of the linen closet, gardens start getting plotted and weeded and the daffodils start to make me feel like sunshine may very well be a steady companion for awhile. Our vacations begin to take shape, graduation announcements, wedding and shower invitations start to fill up the calendar. Weekend after weekend there seems to be something to do.
I try to schedule all the appointments in the summer: well-child exams, dentist and eye doctor appointments. My son has a summer birthday right smack in the middle of July, which is a celebration in itself. We are planning our first family camping vacation and we always spend a week at my sister’s farm because when you’re a city kid, farm life is the best kind of vacation. We’ve got a family bucket list of things we want to see and do while we’re all home together and nobody has to do homework or got to bed early or set an alarm. Baths and showers get real loose and everyone smells constantly of sunscreen.
And in between all of that stuff, adventures we choose to take and obligations we happily make, I like to relax in my back yard with my feet in the kiddie pool and a library book in my lap or my hands deep in the dirt pulling weeds and cutting fresh flowers to have all over my house. My small humans splash in the pool or run through the sprinkler or shoot each other with squirt guns and generally annoy each other as we all bake in the sunshine. Vitamin D is no joke and we need to fill up on it as much as we can to get us through February. I like to start up the grill and make a fire in the fire pit. I like not having to do dishes because everything we ate came off the grill and directly onto a paper plate. I like to roast marshmallows while the sun keeps the sky pinky orange until well after 9 pm and we run fast and loose with bedtime.
So when the list of summer activities comes home towards the end of May, I generally glance at them and plan out every single thing I think my son would love to do. Baseball and Arts & Crafts, soccer and swimming lessons. I make a list of times and juggle the calendar around and look at when we’re going to be out of town and figure out how we can be two places at once. I begin to imagine that I have Hermione Granger’s Time Turner Necklace and our summer will be smooth and full of all.the.things. And then I look at the incredibly full schedule I’ve planned out and file it in the Executive File (ie: the trash).
I love team sports. Okay, fine, I don’t actually love team sports, I tolerate team sports. I never played sports in high school, I didn’t like the feeling that everyone was looking at me (they probably weren’t), and I certainly wasn’t a fan of getting sweaty or dirty. But I love team sports for my kids. I love to push them to try things they wouldn’t necessarily think they can do or might like. But summer time, in my house, is for less structure and more spontaneity. We intentionally chose one sport activity this summer, swimming lessons, because we live in Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Lakes; my kids had better be comfortable around the water. I didn’t want our week days to be filled with back to back practices and games and our weekends to be filled with traveling for assorted adventures and obligations. I want to be able to get in the car and drive to Grand Marais for World’s Best Donuts on a random weekday morning or load up our swimming gear and head to Park Point for a picnic.
Some day I’m sure that Finn will decide that he wants to play baseball or Eleanor will take an interest in soccer and then we will totally play the sports and do the practices and cheer loudly at the games. But right now, while I still have the majority vote, I want our mornings to start slowly with coffee and cereal on the back patio. I want to spend an hour at the library and I want to skip afternoon nap and get an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen instead. I want our evenings to be able to include a long bike ride or a walk to the park instead of rushing off to a game or a rehearsal.
There is something great to be said for team sports; for practicing and showing up for other people who rely on you. For learning what activities are the most enjoyable and that time spent on a practice field is hard and sometimes inconvenient, but it’s also fun and fulfilling. Learning to both win and lose gracefully is a lifelong lesson. But at 7 years old, there will be time enough for camps and daily practices in a few years. Right now we go to the library when we want to, we have a picnic at the park, and we load up our van to adventure at 10:00 on a Tuesday morning because we don’t have to be anywhere or do anything. And so for my little family, right now summer is synonymous with taking a break. And it is glorious.