Tomorrow is the last day of school for us, which, at this point, feels like a real relief. In the last two weeks, I’ve participated in, prepared for, shopped for, and attended more school-related, end-of-the-year activities than is normal for a person like me. It has been two weeks of:

“Mom, I need a special lunch for my picnic tomorrow.”

“Mom, I need to wear a Kelly green shirt for tomorrow with no writing on it.”

“Mom, it’s joke day and I need 3 really good ones.”

Thank you for having them all year and now just give me my kids already so I don’t have to prepare another thing.

It’s all over tomorrow, thanks be to god.

Summertime begins, which scares most of us with kids, even if just a little bit. Because: What the hell are we to do with them all summer long?

I feel it, but also? Summer is my thing: I know what to do in summer. In summer, it’s 1987 around here again. We go to the pool, friends are around, and we have just a few anchored plans. Summer Bucket Lists where we pack in activities? Nope. Summer Bucket Lists weren’t a thing in 1987. We had a bucket and some water balloons one day, though, and I still remember it.

What do we give them for the summer? This is now a question for many of us. I don’t know that my mom ever asked this question of herself for us. She gave us plenty, but she gave us whatever was there: mostly, cousins at a lake and friends at a pool, and it all felt so fun. I think I still love summer because of how it all went down then.

Some of us want to give experiences that we don’t have the time for in the school year. And: Sure, fine, yes, let’s do that. But let’s be clear: What they consider a great experience and what we consider a great experience can be very different. So, let’s keep everyone’s expectations in check. And low.

The only activities we have planned for this summer are some little trips with friends and a camp for each of my older two kids. My 9-year-old baby is going away to a sports camp for which I’m not prepared, but since he set his own alarm on camp sign-up day so that he could register and figured out the roommate situation on his own, I figured that I needed to exit left with my fears. He’s ready, even if I’m not. He told me that it was time; I told him that he’s never loved anything in his whole life the way I love him so cut me some slack and get in every gosh darn picture that that camp posts on social media or I will drive the three hours and jump out of my car and start snapping pictures while calling his name. It’s sure to go well.

My 7-year-old loves animals. Coming from my womb, I thought there wasn’t a chance of that (I want no harm done to any animal, but could they please not come near me ever?). She’s going to horse camp. I’ll kick her out of the car and be on my way.

The baby? He wants to go nowhere. He has thumb-downed every camp opportunity suggested so, instead, he’s going to be attending Camp We Have A Big Family, Who’d Like To Have A Baby Flavin For A Morning? He wants to ride his bike all day and end up at a pool or a lake. And then go out to lunch. I understand this one really well for now, actually. We’ll get along great.

At different points in the summer, I have plans for them — it’ll be day-camp-like experiences, which I’m calling, “Camp Don’t Be An Asshole” Days. I really should trademark that. We’re going to volunteer and learn that there are so many kinds of human experiences on this planet and each of them is worthy of its place. Our job is to help make the world spin a little more towards kindness and that means learning from new people what kindness looks like for them. They didn’t register themselves for this camp; I wouldn’t have either in 1987. No worries, though, it’ll be good.

What are your plans? Are you 1987-ing it with me? Will my feral kids run into yours on a bike with bare feet? I hope so. Let them go if you can. We get 18 summers with them — more or less. My only job for this one is that when they read a line in a book someday that describes endless summer days and pick-up games and how the lake feels on your skin in the beginning of the summer versus how it feels in August and how it is to have friends in the summer that you see no other time but then, they’ll know what that all feels like. This is the only time for all of that. Camp Don’t Be An Asshole, too.

We can do this. All of our moms and dads did it in 1987, without the internet even. When it gets hard, hand them a sucker. Tell them they can’t bite it. Or tell them to unload the dishwasher — that’ll keep them away for awhile. Remember: We’re not camp directors; we’re parents. And our best job is to love them well. Here we go.

Anne FlavinComment