As we approached the end of our homeschool year I was filled with plans for the summer. Everything was going SO WELL. Our mornings were spent schooling, but in the afternoons the girls would be occupied for hours playing outside, climbing the tree, sidewalk chalking, playing on the swingset... there were not enough hours in the day for us to get in all our play, and the play that happened was a picture of harmony. It was beautiful.
For about three weeks.
When we ended school for the year, I had a list of books I wanted to read, I vowed to keep an immaculate house, and I even decided that this would be the summer that I really wrote something substantial. I felt like it was the perfect time, seeing as my children got along so well and were so independent. Three of them are solid readers, Ingrid's potty issues seemed to have resolved themselves, and even the annoying quirk of Elka not wanting to go into separate rooms of the house alone was apparently an outgrown habit. Anja and Greta had begun making their own breakfasts and both could reach the kitchen tap, which meant two less people asking me for water throughout the day. I felt like a free person. This was my time. This would be three months of focusing on my own creative outlets for the first time in years, and I was pumped.
I don't understand how they knew. I don't know what prompted them to regress to utter savagery as soon as I announced that we were done with our school year. I don't know what kind of super-powered brainwave readers they've got hidden in their bedroom laboratory, but it was only the second or third day of our summer break before I thought. WHAT. THE HECK. HAPPENED. My big plans for lazy days at the patio table reading and sipping sun tea were smashed. All the short stories swimming around in my head that I was finally going to write? Ha! Not a word. I have been working so hard just to keep up with the constant needs of these girls, I haven't had time to do much of anything for myself. (Although I did read a very zippy biography on Hans Christian Andersen that was written for children, but that's for another blog post.) Friday night was stormy so I got out the paints for all of us to paint at the table together. It ended with Ingrid painting the kitchen floor using her body as a paintbrush. It was not an especially productive or meditative painting session for me.
The fault really is mine, though. I was delusional, as usual. Just like I don't leave for my obligations until the actual time they start because I don't understand physics--or life really--I somehow thought that having my children UNOCCUPIED for THE ENTIRETY OF THE DAY was going to make less work for me. What?! WHAT?! Why on earth did I think that?! It's because I don't understand life, that's why.
Also, one of my best talents is forgetting. So, I guess I just forgot. I forgot about wet swimsuits seven times a day. I forgot about the mud play. I forgot about the scattering of dirt across every floor, the bits of nature left on every surface, the need to change clothes every few hours, the constant hunger, and the boredom that comes from days upon days of undevoted time. I forgot about the drippy nature of summertime snacks and the necessary cleanup that follows. (And, depending on the mood, the tears.)
And they must have inherited my talent for forgetting because it seems they've forgotten a lot as well. Like how their legs work. Since I'm not so clearly busy instructing anymore, they seem to view me as just their errand runner. "Can you please bring me my marker box?" "Will you bring me my coloring book?" "Oops, I dropped that bit of string next to my chair. MAMA I CAN'T POSSIBLY LEAN OVER TO PICK UP MY STRING MAMA PICK UP MY STRING FOR ME WAAAAAHHHH"and so on.
Also forgotten: How to flush.
And the biggest thing I myself forgot, of course, was that the whole idea with homeschooling is training your children to go through life in an always-learning mental state. This means questions about everything. Talking about everything. So, if I'm not reading to them, if I'm not actively teaching them, they are observing in everything they do--(WHICH IS A REALLY GOOD THING)--and they are asking questions about absolutely...... everything. Every bug. Every plant. Every thought. Every moment of wondering. Some of these questions turn into excellent conversations that make me glad we're continuing along our Path of Passive Learning during the summer months. But sometimes the questions are more... bizarre. Like last night, when Ingrid was falling asleep (At ELEVEN O'CLOCK because our sleep schedule was wacky this weekend!) and she got really excited with this idea about magic fingers that could talk, and you could talk to your fingers and ask them to pick up something and they would, and I thought...... isn't that just, like, the nervous system? But she was so excited about her idea that I played along and told her how amazingly cool that would be. This is a good example of the conversations that happen with Ingrid around here. They generally range from "kinda weird" to "super weird."
In the end, I'm glad it's going this way. I could do without the sister squabbles, but I know even those have their place. (Although the screaming and hitting is getting old.) Endless empty hours to fill are part of summertime and I'm glad they're getting a break from the more rigid school year. Next year Anja and Greta will be in 5th and 4th grades, which means a more regimented school year learning heavier topics, so I'm not sorry to see them idling away these carefree days. And maybe with heavier bookwork for them I'll end up getting my own creative time. Until then, I'll just try to be content with wiggling in times for myself where I can, knowing that our summers of this style are going to end before I know it. I saw a meme the other day that said "You only get 18 summers with your child." Waterworks! Eighteen is not a very big number and I'm halfway done with two of my children! I've never jumped aboard the "Word for the Year" movement, but I like to think about words that could fit my life, and one would definitely be Savor. I'm pretty good at savoring the moments, but I could always be better, especially when I start itching to ship the kids far away so I can just have some time to do my own thing. I'm going to work hard at reminding myself, when I feel that way, that I've only got eighteen short summers of finding unflushed toilets, so I'd better savor it while I can!