The Summer Stretch

We moved around a lot when I was a kid.  Liberia, Nigeria, Haiti, England, Saudi Arabia, Egypt.  Every couple of years, the project my dad was working on would wind up, and we’d ship out. 

It sounds glamorous, and moving around so often was a force for good in my life, but the biggest problem was, most of those moves happened at the beginning of summer.  I’d find myself in a new house, a new country, and with no easy way to make new friends.  Even in the summers we didn’t move, I’d be stranded friendless while we and others travelled back to the home countries.  I dreaded summer, losing the structure of the school year and daily contact with my friends.  I shuffled around and felt very sorry for myself.  Back-to-school September would shimmer on the horizon as The Time of Back to Normal or The Time of New Beginnings, while I languished in summer limbo, bored senseless and picking fights with my brother. 

Add to that history the fact that I do not like warm weather, that I find bright sunlight oppressive, that exposure to the sun gives me hives, and that a childhood spent in Muslim countries means that I would as soon leave my house naked as I would wearing shorts and tank tops, and summer is my season of dread, angst, restlessness and just plain “are we there yet?”, “there” being fall, with all its promise of lower temperatures and new beginnings.  I should just move to Forks and hang out in the rain with the vegetarian vampires. 

My dislike of summer would be all well and good if not for my own kids.  I don’t mind being the freak who hates summer, but it broke my heart the other day when Rowan said he did not like summer, because kids are supposed to love summer and all the freedom and fun it brings.  (It was hot, and he did not want to have to walk home, but just hearing him say it made me feel like I’d infected him with freakishness.) 

Because my own experiences of summer boredom were so awful, I do try to keep my kids’ days filled.  I have not yet come to see summer as the season of possibility.  It is still something to get through with as much grace as I can muster.  The summer stretch is now the problem of how to keep the kids entertained and away from the nausea-inducing angst of feeling adrift.  We read a lot.  I coax them into writing something every day.  We do family outings, but I also try to plan playdates for them individually, so that they keep a sense of their peer group over the summer and don’t have to rely on me and each other all the time.  I line up camps like bright beacons of hope along the weeks of heat and absent friends. 

I do see the value of occasional boredom and though I don’t cultivate it, I do leave the boys to flounder in it occasionally.  I believe strongly in the idea of exercising the imagination, of learning to entertain yourself, of becoming self-reliant, of the joys of discovery born of boredom.  But that’s the parent talking.  All I ever wanted as a child was to be rescued from boredom, and most of the time as a parent I will do that rescuing.


3 thoughts on “The Summer Stretch

  1. Pingback: No Summer Boredom, Just the Regular Kind « 4 Mothers

  2. Like you, Nathalie, I’m torn between rescuing my boy from the long structureless summer days and allowing him to reach such a nadir of boredom that he comes up with something to do. My big question is who is going to rescue me as I contemplate another afternoon idling away on the mini-golf course, counting the days until fall.

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