I may be something of an anomaly, but summer has never been my favorite season of the year. Nope, not even as a kid. You know what I remember most about summertime as a kid? BOREDOM. And spray cheese. I remember being so bored that I ate lots and lots of spray cheese.
I’m a Type A personality who thoroughly appreciates the predictability that a good schedule brings. So as undeniably wonderful as that sweet summer freedom is, it lacks the very thing I crave the most: order.
If I felt this way before I had kids, you can imagine the terror summertime brings now that I have a house full of children. Our boys are 9, 7, and 5 this year. Now, if you’ve never been around 9, 7, and 5 year old boys then the one thing you need to know is they come with endless amounts of energy. And with it being summer and all I HAVE NOWHERE TO SEND THEM.
My first instinct was to find a way to fill our calendar. To keep the boys busy and occupied and for the love of all things holy, scheduled.
But something happened over the course of these last few weeks that caused me to second guess my approach to summer. It wasn’t just one single event that precipitated this change, but a series of small almost non-events that gave me insight into what my boys need most.
I guess it started a few weeks back. It was a near perfect spring day and I sat on the trampoline with my youngest son. It was just he and I as we waited on the bus to bring the big boys home. We talked (mostly him). We jumped (all him). When the bus pulled up and his brothers came running to meet us, Joshua took my hand and whispered, “Thanks, Mom.”
His gratefulness took me aback. I’m a stay-at-home mom. I’m with this kid practically all the time. But here my 5 year old son was, thanking me for that hour on the trampoline.
Then, last weekend, I watched my husband and oldest son play a brief game of chase as we walked through an empty parking lot toward our car. Chris threw Cole up over his shoulder caveman style and I saw a smile of pure delight flash across our son’s face. It suddenly occurred to me that at nine years old, his father and I are still his biggest heroes.
Just the other night my 7 year old was eating a post-dinner bowl of yogurt at the kitchen island as I unloaded the dishwasher. I looked over at his sweet, round face and noticed that much of the baby-ness had left it this year. I suddenly realized that I missed him. I felt loneliness in my heart for this little person that I see every single day. I told him, “I miss you, Jacob.” He looked me square in the eye and said, “I miss you too, Mom.”
And that’s when it hit me. “Good gracious,” I thought, “I don’t want my kids to miss me when I’m right here in front of them.”
You see, I’m here all the time. Every appointment, every field trip, class party, school project, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I am the single most constant thing in these boys’ lives.
But my presence doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m present.
And I want to be present this summer.
Not just there with my children, but here for my children. Purposefully present.
Last summer was all about survival for our family. I was under an August deadline for my book, preparing for my first conference, and managing our family’s move from one city to another. If you asked me today what I remember about last summer I’d tell you that I remember waking up every morning at 4am to write. I remember packing (and then unpacking). I remember stressing over page colors (beige or very beige?), font styles (easy-to-read or whimsical?), and cover design (floral like this or floral like that?).
When my boys climbed onto that school bus late last August and it pulled away from our home, I remember feeling as if I had hardly even seen them at all that summer.
Oh, they were there alright. (It’s near impossible to miss the presence of our 3 boys.) Yet I barely even saw them.
And I get it. We all do the best we can with what we’re facing at the time. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I’m a worthy mom or that I’m doing a great job with my boys. That’s not what this is about. I certainly don’t regret writing the book. The conference was absolutely amazing. The move turned out to be the best thing our family could have hoped for. Last summer is what it was and I’m not sure how it could’ve been anything different.
But I have a different set of circumstances this summer and I’m going to use that room to wiggle around a bit and change the forces of habit.
Because here’s the truth about me…
It wasn’t just the book deadline, impending conference, and big move that kept me from my children last summer – it was the propensity of my human heart to put good things above the best things.
Almost all my life I’ve pushed away from the best to accomplish the good and it’s high time I reorganized my priorities.
Best things first.
Good things second.
And then the rest somewhere after that.
At least for the summer. I’m committing to it.
And listen, I’m almost a full decade into this parenting gig, so my rose-colored glasses were smushed to smithereens quite some time ago. I know what the day-to-day routine of summertime at home with my 3 boys is likely to look like.
But no matter what the landscape of our life looks like this summer, I’m giving my boys the one thing they need right now.
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