I love being a mom – 365 days a year – or nearly that many.
Motherhood is a daily (and middle-of-the-nightly) event, but it’s right around this time each year I find myself contemplating the value of my role in providing guidance, direction, leadership and healthy snacks to my children. After decades of soul-searching, I think I finally understand why.
Summer vacation. School let out last week. We are on the tenth day of summer break and I woke this morning with the realization we have a full 84 consecutive days remaining before this escapade of ours is over. One week down, 12 to go. I did the math and numbers don’t lie.
They’ll spend their mornings and afternoons here – 24/7. Day in, day out. Eating in the family room. Playing basketball in the driveway. Eating in their bedrooms. Not flushing. Eating in the screen porch. Creating their own definition of what it means to make a bed. Eating – anywhere but the kitchen. Discarding various items of clothing in the yard because they got hot. Eating – again. Running outside in their stocking-feet because they can’t find their shoes. Eating – still. And so on.
For the next three months (84 days, but who’s counting?) I will be two steps behind them, trying to keep the refrigerator full and the laundry pile empty, while summer reading assignments pile up like cereal bowls in the sink, crumbs on the counter and flip flops by the back door. At first, I will make efforts to keep up with this entity called summer, but will gradually give in and come to accept a life that includes disheveled hair, disheveled beds and disheveled schedules.
The season is meant for fun. I understand this. I embrace this. I’m just not sure, sometimes, if I could ever be fully prepared for the unabashed, uninhibited warm-weather glee that emanates from my offspring June through August. Better put, how many Reese’s wrappers found in the laundry is too many? Can there be too many? I guess I should be thankful they were empty. Chocolate stains are difficult. Then again, I could’ve used a little sugar pick-me-up.
While we’re still in the infant stages of summer (audible sigh), the excitement’s already started at our house and I’m not referring to the joy generated this morning when I discovered toothpaste globs in the sink.
This weekend while I was running errands, they called to say they’d broken a window. This honesty might have been perceived as virtuous in a different scenario. I wasn’t concerned with virtue; I was concerned with shards of glass. Every mother knows it isn’t summer until a window gets broken. At my house, the season has officially begun. I am proud I didn’t lose my cool or yell and scream into the phone. Instead, I asked the smart and savvy question: Interior or exterior pane? I didn’t inquire about bleeding or injury, because my mom-tuition told me it wasn’t necessary. (No one was screaming in the background.)
Good news. Turns out the crash site involved an interior window, which automatically puts the project at a lower priority for fixation. Bad news. It was the same window my husband replaced about a month ago – when the boys broke it the first time. I knew this latest collection of broken glass was going to make my husband appreciate being a father just as much as I love being a mother. God bless the children for reaching out and meeting our needs in such unexpected and unwarranted ways.
Lost shoes. Candy wrappers in the laundry. Unmade beds. Summer reading looming in the last dark corners of August. Broken windows. I don’t mind any of it – much. But don’t tell my kids. They think 84 days is a really long time, and although I pretend to agree, I understand this is all so fleeting.
Broken windows are easily fixed. You get a new pane of glass and put it where the old, broken one was and you’re good to go – sparkling and bright like new tennis shoes on the first day of school.
Children aren’t panes of glass (nor are they pains in the glass). They grow up. You can’t put them back to where they were again because that place is gone with the setting sun. Today is all you’ve got. So, you work to make it a good one – all 84 of them.
(Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication" You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.)