In the old days, (by which I mean, “before the empty nest”), the last day of school was a day of pure bliss. I hugged the students, graciously accepted the little gifts and cards, dropped by the end of year staff party, and then jumped into my car to zoom home as fast as possible. Home to my kids.
In those bygone days, “summer” meant days at the beach, or the local lake. It meant sleeping in while the kids watched TV, then making a big batch of pancakes. Summer meant walks in the back woods, friends around for sleepovers in the trailer, little campfires in the backyard. It meant “s’mores” after every barbecue and trips to Boston to see the Freedom Trail. Homemade ice cream, blueberry picking, thunderstorms to ride out in the basement.
Back when my nest was full, the joy of summer came from the fact that I could focus my full attention on the kids. I didn’t have to tune them out to write a report. I wasn’t leaving a sick child to rush to work. I could take my time to cook, serve, eat with them. I could just be “Mom”. When they talked, I could really listen.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. It couldn’t have been that idyllic! You’re right, or course, but it was still all about motherhood. Even the times when the boys couldn’t stop arguing or pushing or trying to punch each other’s lights out. Even when I locked us out of the house on a broiling day and had to leave baby Tim in Kate’s six year old arms while I climbed a ladder to break in through a bedroom window. Those times were hard, and challenging and frustrating. But they were “Mommy” days. I was the mother, I was there to love and nurture and structure and raise those kids. Summer was my chance to try on the label of “full time Mom”.
Summer was my chance to erase all of the accumulated guilt of ten months of school. Of being a “part time Mom”.
But now its different. Today I said goodbye, with many tears, to my class. I hugged and took pictures, and clung, just a bit. I packed up my room and headed to the staff party, where I lingered over the food and wine even after the young women had left to gather their children. I drove home the long way, taking a winding, picturesque route. Taking my time, because no one was waiting.
Summer now means rest, and good books, and maybe a bit of shopping with friends. It means dinners with the family, and even a couple of camping trips.
But it no longer means “Mommy” time for me.