This society puts a lot of pressure on teachers to describe our summers as “awesome,” since we have “off” while the rest of the world is expected to be in the office. What people don’t realize is that even when we’re “off,” we’re “on.” We’re prepping classes for the fall semester, doing research, reading and writing. I fear going back to school, to colleagues who will innocently ask how my summer was. I fear failing to live up to their expectations. They want a quick: “Awesome!” And I intuit that shrugging and saying that my summer was “OK” or “up and down” or “good enough” would be the wrong answer. I don’t want to let them down, but neither do I want to be false.
One Day at a Time
The truth is that I live at the edge of my emotions every single day, so that means that in one day I will likely feel amazing, angry, giddy, stable, fragile, full of love, and impatient. It would be inaccurate for me to label even one day awesome, much less an entire summer.
I would feel better answering: yes, it was awesome … and terrible, lovely … and maddening, fantastic … and plain. We had good days and bad days, and good and bad within each day. If I could give my interlocutor a complete answer, then I would feel better about their wretched question.
Here’s what my answer would look like:
Well, there was that time when my kids got the flu in July and had to stay home for a week from summer camp while my partner was away on a canoeing vacation that I arranged for him. I lost a week of work and sanity. That was hard, but I learned how to listen to my body.
Then there was that stretch of time that, no matter what I offered my kids to do, nothing was good enough for them. That was trying.
Then there was the time I was sad for no discernible reason at all, except perhaps the mystery of hormones. Then, there were my lofty work goals that didn’t take into account the flu in July or hormone swings. So not everything on my list got done.
But there was the time when I found energy to clean my home office, and that was awesome. And the time that I read Harry Potter in Spanish in the pool. Also awesome. And my two work trips that were better than I had anticipated. And some dance parties and a family game of fútbol in the backyard. The mundane parts were pretty good, too, but I wouldn’t call them “awesome.”
All in all, taking into account these and many more events, my summer was “good enough.”
Nobody wants to hear this long-winded but accurate answer. It’s kind of a let-down. So that leaves me the other option: No, my summer wasn’t awesome. I don’t believe an entire summer can be awesome. People who say that must only mean certain parts of it, like a memorable trip or day. But even a day at the beach involves sand and crying, so no, not even a whole day. My summer was good enough, thanks.
Please, Moms, no more “awesome” summers! I don’t need the pressure to have an awesome summer, not even an awesome day — not from colleagues, not from fellow Moms. But I can certainly report some awesome hours with my kids — and without them. Mostly without them.
I got to think for long stretches of uninterrupted time. I got to grow intellectually. I got to practice yoga and meditation. I got to read in my sunny window. I cooked many delicious dishes. I got to work at a more leisurely pace than during the school year. With my kids, I got to swim. I am sure that my older son will remember my swimming with him, and his teaching me to touch the floor of the pool.
Recently, I read that kids spell love T-I-M-E, and I agree.
After summer camp and on the weekends, I gave my kids my time, to do what they wanted. We did puzzles. We played Snap Circuits, Spot It, and Ball in the Hall, a game I made up because I was too tired to play outside. I read to them out loud. We even watched a few videos. I spent time with my kids this summer, not as much as other moms, but that’s ok.
Summer was summer. It was good. It was up-and-down. Do I have to say “AWESOME”? Can we start valuing “good enough”?