The Sum of a Summer’s Endless Days

By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Columist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript September 9, 2013

I’ve been at this parenting thing for almost a decade now. And generally speaking I’ve found summer to be a parenting hurdle. To be sure, I greatly prefer the summer sunshine and warmth, it’s the ‘endless days’ that presented the challenge.

When our two girls were babies, summers meant gallons of pasty, thick sunscreen that they’d try to eat, hats they’d try to rip off, and a constant state of stickiness that made all of us unhappy. Obviously I won’t even touch upon the horrors of introducing sand to that age bracket.

During the early walking years, summers meant living in a constant state of high alert in case newly minted legs might carry their owners into dangerous pools, oceans, lakes or marshes. Drowning anxieties kept me on edge at locations meant for relaxation.

Then there were the rides with height restrictions, the nap schedules to juggle, the inability to read, and hours and hours and even more hours (since summer days last so long) to fill with something fun and creative and educational and nurturing. PBS Kids could only account for so much of that time.

I was the mom who begged for Preschool to start. The one who considered camping out at school the night before Kindergarten began.

And then our girls turned six and nine.

The sunscreen, bug spray clumps in the creases of chubby toddler legs are long gone. The hats have given up the ghost, and fears of drowning have disappeared into the land of a strong front crawl and an endless ability to tread water.
This year summer was . . . fun. So fun that here, during this first week of school, I’m in a funk. I resent the brightly colored lunch boxes and fall colored plaid skirts. Me! What happened??

Is there a formula for such a summer?

Was the four road trips down the east coast to Pennsylvania and New Jersey — two which were spontaneous to meet new babies? Was it the day trips into Boston to walk the Freedom Trail, or huff up the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill monument? Was it the five days of Vacation Bible School learning about the Apostle Paul and how to jump into a slip-n-slide fully clothed? Or possibly the daily morning walks with Blue Ears around Boxford (ignoring, for this column, the approximately 500 deerfly bites). Was it the soccer camp? The tennis camp? The crazy half-day YMCA camp where the girls played shaving cream whiffle ball and won bead bracelets for demonstrating honesty, responsibility, respect, and caring?

It might have been the two teeth lost, or the one million scoops of ice cream and frozen yoghurt, or, quite possibly, the seasonally appropriate number of summer cocktails around fire pits and pools. Was it the BTA/BOLT horse show or the many, many lazy afternoons at Stiles Pond, (“Girls, go get another slushy!”).

It definitely had to do with the five (ok maybe ten) visits to Maggie’s Farm in Middleton where we ordered our favorite spicy calamari with extra peppers. It was certainly related to the weekly trips to the library and the countless books read this summer. My six-year-old’s favorite book was, “Judy Moody and a Little Monkey Business”, my nine-year-old’s favorite was, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, my favorite was a streak of Vince Flynn books read in memoriam to a great and prescient thriller writer gone too soon.

The three different beaches in three different states, and two different trips to Lake George in the Adirondacks, with multiple Stand Up Paddle opportunities at each destination, all played a part as well.

We did everything. Perhaps more importantly, when we did nothing, we were good at it. We were relaxed, we were sun-kissed, we were girls of the summer.

It all added up so that for the first time, the sum of this summer was that I was not ready for it to end.