This year was, in all likelihood, the only summer I will ever spend at home with my kids. I wish I had been able to fully enjoy it.
I hope, in hazy memories, my kids will think of these three months as happy.
We were home, and safe. There were days spent entirely in pajamas. They ran through the sprinkler and ate snacks in the cool shade of our maple tree. We had campfires and s’mores. I panic-bought a projector and screen for outdoor movies.
If not the slice of timeless Americana, they may remember the lawlessness of our liberal screen time policies.
My six year old became a Pokémon expert with the commitment and enthusiasm of a first year graduate student. I suppose we could have harnessed that energy toward something productive, but here we are, humming theme songs and knowing the difference between the Alola and Kalos regions.
Naturally, our summer wasn’t supposed to look like this.
After a year of kindergarten, this would have been our first summer without year-round care through our daycare and preschool. I researched camp descriptions and considered full-day options that would work with our 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. On the first day of camp registration, I delivered a completed enrollment packet with the eagerness of a Boy Scout. I was so early the front desk didn’t yet have a folder to place my paperwork.
Months later, the school year ended with a whimper.
I shuffled my kids outside for end-of-year photos and started the summer with a clenched heart. In between incessant snack requests and fights over Legos, I clawed out moments for remote work. What does that do to a person, living in a state of constant distraction?
As we plodded ahead, back-to-school season morphed into something unknowable.
My Boy Scout parenting strategy (“always be prepared!”) strained under the weight of constantly changing plans. I adapted to stay on edge, ready to pivot. I became the type of person to live-stream a school board meeting during dinner. There are so many unanswerable questions. The answers we do have are the best of a list of terrible choices, and “best” is up for constant debate. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.
And then, blink. August.
It’s against that landscape that my kids play make believe and ask for more string cheese. How will they remember this lost summer? Can they reconcile the canceled vacations with the magic of sparklers in the driveway? Will they remember me as distracted, fumbling to balance the impossible task of remote work with 24/7 parenting?
Most frustratingly, instead of learning from 160,000 lives lost, Americans are stumbling into the fall, still disoriented and divided. As a country, we have all the feelings, and manage them like a toddler.
I wish I could say good riddance to this dumpster fire of a summer, but I worry it’s going to keep burning straight into the fall.
Still, ever the optimist, I need to believe we will turn a corner. If not this fall, we will find our footing soon. And then, who knows — maybe I’ll remember these months without my blood pressure rising.