MOST OF SUMMER’S purported enjoyments are-let’s face it-pretty narcissistic. Lolling in the sun, oiled like a well-greased spring-form pan, loses its appeal when a 2-year-old heaves his gritty body onto your lap. Margarita lunches must be weighed against the consequences of confronting a grade-schooler who’s been holed up with a baby sitter. I, for one, haven’t had a tan since my firstborn was conceived. I have had a margarita-and I paid dearly for it.
For most of summer’s conventional pleasures, mothers need not apply. Summer suggests its own unique rigors-yes, and also its rewards. Summer with kids is moving the finger paints to the safer harbor of a backyard patio. It’s the tinkle of little giggles outrunning the sprinkler. It’s lying in the shade of an oak tree trading fantasies in the clouds. It’s the luxury of not having to listen for the car-pool horn.
At least that’s what it ought to be. Except in households where there’s a rare detachment, summer brings a special frenzy. One that causes us to lie awake at night planning projects for idle little lives. To shuttle hot bodies endlessly to and fro. To keep checkbooks lying in wait for yet another $50 fee.
Why is it that laziness rarely rears its sleepy head until it’s almost time for school to start again? June, second only to September, holds tantalizing promise. It signals the beginning of a three-month king’s-ex, in which all goals great and small seem attainable. This summer, we look toward improving our gangly five-year-old’s “gross motor skills.” I see no reason why he won’t master his two-wheeler without the training wheels. And a course in gymnastics will surely result in the long-awaited perfect somersault. I’m sure the little one will be potty-trained by the deadline of fall’s two-day-a-week “school.” Everyone says it’s so easy in the summer.
The season is brimming with potential, with fresh starts and new flip-flops, swimming lessons and art camp for our budding Cezannes. With T-ball and Rudyard Kipling and vacation Bible school. Our little frogs will surely be princes by summer’s end.
Surely no other season conjures up as many symbols of our past. We long for a time when there was no MTV, only the scratchy hum of the radio. We dream of neighborhood puppet shows and 10-cent lemonade stands. Of sleeping out in a backyard tent, and making dolls out of papier-mache. That’s what our summers as children were like. Weren’t they?