Happy Labor Day! A sad day for some, a last hurrah, as it marks the unofficial end of summer. Kids are going back to school. It’s getting cooler. In a couple weeks it will be official: summer, quite possibly my least favorite season, will be over. Then fall, my absolute favorite season, can begin.
I was the kid who loved going back to school. As soon as the paper and pens went on sale and every store displayed rows of Pee Chees and Jansports, I went crazy. I loved filling a new three-ring binder with a clean, smooth ream of paper and carefully organized tabs to keep my schoolwork in order. I never really needed a Pink Pet eraser, but I usually bought one. I would put my face in my new school supplies and just breathe. The smell of fresh paper and still-packaged pens, the stiff fabric of back-to-school clothes. There is just nothing like it.
I was also the kid who wore sweaters and turtlenecks as early as possible, then begrudgingly peeled them off and carried them around all day or, if I was optimistic enough not to wear an undershirt, pushed up my sleeves and dutifully boiled in the late-August/early-September sun. It irritated me, the way summer lingered. Kids would go home and play in their wading pools or throw water balloons at each other. They kept eating Otter Pops and watermelon for weeks. It rankled me. As far as I was concerned, the time for that nonsense had ended. I was ready for hot cider and pumpkin pie.
The word “summer” evokes for me the sting of a sunburn; the discomfort of swimsuits, shorts, massive self esteem issues; awkward barbecues where the corn kernels and rib meat get stuck in your teeth and the potato salad’s mayonnaise has gotten too warm. Camping always seems like fun but turns into a dirty, mosquito-bitten mess. I used to enjoy hiking but my three-year-old is too small to manage anything much longer than a mile and too heavy to be carried very far. Yes, the kids can play outdoors with abandon, but there’s the constant application of sunblock, the swim diapers that rip as you try to adjust them, trying to change a toddler’s wet clothes in a park bathroom while your baby does her best to get her hands into that public toilet. Bug bites. Splinters. I could go on.
I have to admit, there are things I’m going to miss. Like,
- watching my babies play in the sandbox (though I do plan to move it into the garage for some indoor play once the rain really picks up)
- going to the playground without bringing a towel to dry off the equipment
- spray parks (which the boy was JUST starting to warm up to)
- the ability to go outside without any significant prep or clean-up
- fresh, in-season strawberries and watermelon
- deflecting the responsibility of dinner prep by saying, “Oh, I thought you wanted to grill!” to my husband
I’m sure there are others, though I can’t think of any right now…
Oh, yes. The magical mood-lifting power of the outdoors.
You see, I have a three-year-old, whose developmental issues quite honestly give him the more frustrating aspects of a two- and three-year-old combined, and I have an infant, whom he loves to wake from naps and play with too roughly, and sometimes the air in our house is so thick with frustration and the cries of two children that it feels like a blanket that might suffocate us all. But the air outside is thinner. The frustrations rise up into the atmosphere and seem to blow away, and somehow we all end up calmer. Sure, the boy is still capable of stealing the girl’s toys and knocking her on her face.