Today we wake up with no immediate obligations (I haven’t even made the bed yet, lawd), so I’m calling this the first day of Summer Break. A term that has been scoffed at and rightfully derided by full-time parents since Summer Break was invented. How three consecutive months without a reprieve from whining, bored, hungry, fighting children is a “break” I’ll never know. But that’s why we pack in the things: swimming lessons, soccer, various camps, a small vacation. A frenetic Summer awaits, but without those things it goes from frenetic to demonic, and we all suffer for it. Of course, I do know the complaints that are out there: what’s with the constant stimulation? Or is it supervision? My parents didn’t need someone else to raise their kids for them. Yes they did, you dolt. Sending you off with strangers is raising you. And you know that certainly I’ve had HuffPo tell me, via Facebook, via someone who ‘liked’ the article without explaining why, that our parents never would have done this. That when we were kids…summer…until the streetlights…the old rock quarry…ten cent malts from Wade down at the soda counter…stuff it, please. Yes, unfettered, unsupervised play is absolutely necessary, but those cherry Coke bottle lenses through which you are remembering your childhood are distorting things a bit. In any environment, parents assess the dangers and set the parameters, and weigh them against their interest in actually, actively guiding your development a little bit. Being kicked out of the house from sunup to sundown was not the prevailing characteristic of our grand, summery youth. Mom was not simply hanging out, perfect hair, elbow length rubber gloves and an S.O.S. pad, sending you out on a blissful, ten hour frolic through the neighborhood while she hummed her way through the dishes and a box of Zinfandel because WE WERE ALL SO MUCH TOUGHER, THEN. Nope. I keep my kids closer and manage their freedom a little more tightly not because I’m an insecure ninny, but because, well, you should read my neighborhood news source. Daily police callouts for gunshots, weekly attempted lurings of elementary students on their way to school, monthly flashing incidents, package theft season (it’s a thing), car prowl maps, etc. Granted, 75% of the seemingly unceasing school lockdowns are for MAN SPOTTED WITH A GUN that turned out to be a stick, so there is certainly a current of overprotection and overreaction going on. Also, West Seattle is large, and it is divided into neighborhoods like anywhere else, and the worst of things consistently happen in specific areas, but we’re not allowed to talk about that. Our immediate neighborhood stays pretty safe. Mostly because there are a lot of residents around all the time. Retired people, the odd (and I do mean odd) stay-at-home parent, lots of kids and barking dogs. This sort of active presence is a key component to staying safe. If anyone is casing our neighborhood, they’re putting it very low on the target list.
I held my breath a bit on celebrating the end of my school quarter, because I wanted the results of my Philosophy (Symbolic Logic) final. It was far and away the hardest class I took this quarter, and at finals time I had just over a 94% for the quarter. I had to do well enough to keep that above 93% if I was to get a 4.0. I scored 19/20, for a 95%, and my overall grade for the course is a 94.38% I’m still waiting for the grade on my English paper, but unless I seriously bombed it, I’ll be good to go. English definitely made me work the hardest, but PHIL120 taxed me more than a Prince John/Bernie Sanders tag team. I was up late again because of it, taking that 20 question final with a two hour time limit. I used less than half that time to finish it, then went back through and took it again just to be sure. Good thing, too, as it’s funny how quickly you can come to the wrong conclusions (he said quite intentionally, after the Orlando shooting). I changed two answers. Had I not done that, I would have gotten 17/20, which would have given me a 92.38%. Insufficient perfection.
Now it turns out I have almost 10 days until my summer quarter starts. But that doesn’t really matter because I’m already completely confused about this summer. It’s June. It’s maybe sixty degrees out there most of the time. I’m done with school but sort of not because I don’t really understand finals week; my daughter’s last day of second grade was today, except it was yesterday, except there was noon dismissal and a pool party; and my son’s (imma just say it) preschool graduation (seriously) just got canceled because the teacher has the Black Lung or something. But wait! It’s been rescheduled! Evidently there were parents who needed “closure.” On preschool. Graduation from babysitting. You’ll get your closure when they move out of the house, which isn’t likely to happen if you are having preschool graduation ceremonies that simply cannot be canceled. But hey, it’ll be a droll Monday with cupcakes, so I’m all in.
For now, to kick off Summer, I’ve told my charges that they cannot come upstairs until they clean the basement. The noises tell me that after over an hour down there, they have not cleaned anything. But they are having fun, and I don’t like to interrupt that. In a little while I will pay my obeisance to HuffPo and our tough as nails familial heritage by hanging twenty dollar bills out of their pockets and sending them on an unsupervised walk through Highland Park. But not until I go spend 40 minutes in the grocery store while leaving them in the car, LIKE MOM USED TO DO ALL THE TIME. I will make sure the windows are cracked a bit.
The eight year old girl came upstairs just now.
“Papa, it’s clean. That’s why I’m up here. All except The Boy (she calls him that, too). His room is a mess.”
Joy, here comes the boy. You’ll love this:
“Papa, I want you to go down now and expect it.”
“You mean inspect it.”
“Yeah, go expect it. But don’t put away the K’nex pieces that are out. I wanna use those.”
“Those are what I wanted you to clean up.”
“Yeah. Can I have my cookie now.”
“Hang on. Immago expe- inspect it first.”
“Yeah. I’ll just be sitting here on this stool until you come back.”
Expection complete. I’m really glad you could all share this moment with me. I walked downstairs, into the living room for a few turns, then into one bedroom, then the other. Before heading back upstairs I paused and hung my head a little, took a moment to collect myself, and called back some tears that were threatening to come through the breach. For literally the first time in my life with these children, amid all the hollering and crashing that was going on down there, they did a friggin’ awesome job in spite of – oh, let’s face it, because of – having no help from me.
So the house is clean (enough), the sun through the East window is warming the dog on the rug, and we’re all in our pajamas at 8:55 am, instead of being on the road to school. Breakfast has been had. The Girl just told Alexa to “play Wagon Wheel.” It’s time to drain the dregs from my Stanley coffee mug, and pull these kids so close to me that I can finally feel like I’m getting a break. Let’s go have us a Summer.