I already feel like this is going to be the summer when everything changed.
Maybe every summer after this will be one of those summers, or maybe I’ll look back and think “I thought that was change? THIS is change.” But the summers when they were little kids, I think those are over.
One thing is the electronics. We sort of fell into the chasm of electronics without really meaning to, which is of course the worst way to do it. All at once, Dash got his iPad Mini because he had to do something with all that birthday money/tokens, and B invested in a Chromebook for Dash to use for homework and the kids to use for other things so they didn’t keep stealing my computer. And Mabel had already started treating my Kindle Fire like her own personal Minecraft machine, since I hardly use it when we’re at home anyway… it all got away from us a bit.
Their obsession with various games waxes and wanes, and device time can be used for bribery purposes. Dash is proving fairly good at self-regulating with his, too, so it’s not all bad. I suppose. Maybe, like having babies, there’s never a perfect time to introduce electronics. Maybe if you think too hard about it you’ll never be ready. Maybe we’d all like to keep our kids little Luddites forever, since we had to be when we were children – but that’s not going to work, is it? We’re a bit like Pooh and the honey pot with it still – sometimes we’re on top and sometimes the technology is running the show, but we’ll sort it out.
Then there’s swimming. For the past six years, I’ve bought a three-month membership at the pool in June and we’ve trotted down there almost every afternoon of the long hot summers. It’s been a lifesaver. The kids learned to swim not really from sporadic lessons, but just from showing up over and over. The tedium of gathering towels and slathering sunscreen was made up for by some social time at the pool – where we’d almost always meet some friends, without needing to make plans to do so – and a good night’s sleep guaranteed.
So this year I shelled out for summer membership, as usual. We’ve gone to the pool maybe three times since then. Dash has had a vendetta against swimming, for no apparent reason, and though Mabel likes the pool well enough, she’s usually happy at home of an afternoon, not going bonkers and needing to be dragged somewhere. Nothing forces me to muster the energy for a pool run, and Dash would probably stay at home alone anyway, now that he can. Bedtimes are getting later and later. Next year I’ll probably save my money and give someone extra camp time instead.
It will have been the summer of my book, of course. My first book, let’s say, optimistically. I don’t expect instant stardom to ensue, so that they look back and say “Well, of course, that happened before Mom was famous…” but I do want it to be a beginning, not just the end of something. And whether I’m writing more or editing more or have a part-time job next summer, one of those things may well be the case, and then it would have to be camps all round, or at least a lot of boring stay-at-home time for Dash (who doesn’t like camps unless I can find some very cool engineering or rock climbing one, he says).
It might just possibly be the summer Mabel started to read books. She’s reading something called The Chronicles of Wrenly, and it seems to be holding her attention enough that she’ll quite willingly read a chapter or two a day, when I suggest it. (All right, there was a bribe involved to start her off, but even though the Playmobil set is already in transit, she’s going to finish the book. And it’s a series!) I think it’s just managing to hit that sweet spot of interesting enough and easy enough, so that reading isn’t remotely a chore.
But more than those concrete things, it’s definitely been a summer of more autonomy for Dash. He chooses to come with us or stay at home more often now. It’s mostly stay at home, but hey, if I could choose to stay home from the supermarket I probably would. He spends too much time on his iPad one day and then voluntarily keeps away from it for all of the next. So it’s been a summer of me figuring out how to let go, loosening the reins, trusting him, letting him be his own person.
This is Dash’s last summer as an elementary school student. This time next year he’ll be a rising middle-schooler. No wonder things are changing. I can barely keep up.