Originally published in The Valley Press July 2005
When they were younger and my children needed all of me, I dreaded summers, the relentlessness with which my daughters sapped my creativity, my energy, without leaving me for a few hours each day for school so I could recharge––nothing dramatic––take a shower without someone knocking on the door, read a magazine article without interruption, get my teeth cleaned––something that wasn’t a mother activity.
The summers seemed endless, and as they wore to an end, I felt like the wild spring grass turned stiff, brown, out of life. Then my girls got older and summer meant driving them here and there, to Vacation Bible School, to Ranger Explorers, where they hiked and learned in the forest, and where I took a few hours sometimes to enjoy the redwoods too. There was life in the long days of summer after all.
Now, my oldest daughter is driving and working and the time I get to spend with her is precious and rare. I don’t enjoy ferrying my younger daughter to Santa Cruz for gymnastics constantly. But I know my time with her is winding down too, so I appreciate being in an enclosed space without distractions, if you don’t count her text messaging.
My life has been in orbit around my children for 17 years, and it hasn’t been easy stepping out of the way to let them experience independence. All the while, I’ve marked the significant events in my life, in the life of our family, around them. We got our dog when my youngest was in first grade. I home-schooled my oldest her fifth grade year, and that is when I began writing. We moved to our dream house two days before our oldest started junior high school. I became a pastor the summer my youngest began competing in gymnastics.
My children have been my organizing principle, my center, even in those early days that seemed to drag on for eternity, when I longed for a different way of keeping time, a calendar that had more Sabbaths; more space and time for me.
How will I mark the passages of my life, without them at home and in view to be my measuring rods? Part of me is afraid that my life will become “ordinary time” those days in the Christian year without distinction. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost all crowd together filling November to June with rhythm, reason to anticipate, celebrate, examine, and celebrate some more.
Then comes the blur of ordinary time, like summer when your life is centered around school, long days that are fine if you’re on vacation or at the movies, but boring and too long, when all your friends are out of town.
This summer is the last one before my oldest daughter graduates from high school, and I don’t want it to slip by in ordinariness. Everything and everyone I love is still within reach–– Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, all rolled into one. Of course I don’t have enough time, ordinary or otherwise to savor it, to bask in it all, to make everyone stay home from work and gym practice just to be with me.
I want to hold fast to this summer before “adulthood” comes. I want to clutch it to my chest as though this summer is an infant and I’m not a sleep-deprived mother.
Instead, an unseen hand is gently prying my fingers loose, patting my worried and nostalgic hand, assuring me that I don’t need to worry about who I will be after fulltime mothering. I don’t need to fear the ordinary extraordinary years that lie ahead.
I know I need to let everyone grow up, even me. I’ll do it because I have to, because it’s the right thing to do, but I want to bargain for some of that illusive “quality time,” and “family time,” while I still have a little power to do so. And because God and life and my husband and children are all fundamentally good, I get five whole days in an RV camping at a Sierra Lake with my family in August.
Just us the four of us, enjoying some ordinary time, without life’s usual interruptions. Unless, of course, our cell phones have signals.
©Cathy Warner 2005