That magnificent hour equates to: Calm. Quiet. Freedom.
“Set wide the window. Let me drink in the day.” ~ Edith Wharton “Vesalius in Zante (1564)”
This glorious quote paints a vibrant, inspiring image. It was featured in the June 2016 issue of “O Magazine,” which paid homage to summer and all of its delights. To be honest, I haven’t made it through the entire magazine yet, but so far it’s rejoicing sunshine, warmth, travel, and lapping up the lazy days of summer.
And yes, the gorgeous summer weather and lack of school routine are divine, but in my world that does not equate to no schedule, no activities, nor a free pass to simply relax. There is no laziness, no lounging, no kicking back and reading a book in my hammock with a sweet tea. I’m not gleefully meandering through meadows sniffing flowers and daydreaming. Nope, none of that. There is a lot of shuttling, scurrying, entertaining, consoling, calm-collecting, and waiting for the sun to set. Even more than during the school year, I relish night time. The gorgeous starry skies, the cooler temperatures, yes, those are nice. But to me, it’s all about bedtime—sorry Honey, the kids’ bedtime—in the summer. That magnificent hour equates to: Calm. Quiet. Freedom.
I may still be folding laundry, cleaning up, or planning for the next day of swim team, camp, and however else I will keep my children away from the screens and from killing each other and/or pushing me over the edge. I may sit and have an actual conversation with my husband that lasts longer than 2 minutes and isn’t interrupted by needy voices. Or I may just melt into the couch with a tall pour of wine and the DVR remote. Either way, what I do is completely on my terms, at my own volume and speed, and without any drama. No one is tugging on me, yelling for me, or howling about something totally solvable, but which is ruining his or her life. There are no whines or cries about how unfair or mean I am. Just me and the calm.
So, unlike Oprah and her magazine, I will not quote a literary great, but will highlight the words of Sandy and Danny from the movie Grease: “Ah, those summer nights.”
I love my three little ones, and I think I’ve learned this summer that I may love them even more when they are sleeping. Okay, that’s only partly true. Of course, I adore watching all of their amazing feats and listening to their sweet voices and spending oodles of together time with them. Okay, that’s only partly true too.
What I’m trying to say is, that as a stay-at-home mom, during the summer, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Camps and activities are fabulous, but we are still revolving our lives around these minis: getting them there; planning for lunch, dinner, snacks; cramming in errands and cleaning so that we can actually accomplish something before racing back for camp pick-up. There may be a few sacred moments of loitering alone at Target or hovering online a little longer than usual, or even a delicious adult conversation or phone call without ridiculous screaming as the background noise. If my life reads like an untamed zoo, that’s how it feels most of the time. We are not in tranquil, go with the flow, Oprah-style summer mode around here.
Nonetheless, those few hours—the sweet spot— between the kids hitting the sack and crashing myself; those hours, which seem to arrive later than ever thanks to the kids’ rising ages and the stretching hours of daylight, are a godsend. Nighttime allows us to be alone or uninterrupted with people our own age. People who can start sentences that don’t start with, “Mommy!” or whine, “I’m bored,” or want to stare mindlessly at their iPads for hours, at least we hope they don’t. It grants us space to create, veg, think. It gives us a break from the nonstop circus of camps and training and entertaining and snacking. It’s unbelievable how much these little humans eat. We may just need to move into the grocery store when they are teenagers.
My favorite part of those quiet hours, though, occurs just after I turn off the porch light and before I crawl into bed. It’s the five minutes it takes to walk up the stairs, and peek at three sleeping faces. Seeing them still, peaceful, and usually sprawled and twisted in their blankets, fills me with joy, pride, and fuel to greet them in the morning. I actually miss them a teeny bit. In each of their calm faces I flash back to when they were infants. When I could hold them close and stare at them to my heart’s content. Somehow, when they are asleep, I can clearly see each of them as they were as babies. I am reminded of their sweetness, how young and innocent they still are, as well as how far they’ve come. I am flooded with gratitude and struck by how fast it all flies by.
I feel grateful that God gave them to me to love and nurture. That I am their mom—even though I will be reminded of that, by name, at least 100 times the next day. That I get to respond to their cries for help with a hug and a “You got this; get back out there.” That on really great days, they take a few minutes to sit and talk with me, and I do myself the enormous favor of actually stopping and soaking the moment in. Being present in their recollection of camp, their birthday party wish list, or even the details of the fight they just had with their horrible sibling who always ruins everything. I look at them. I listen. Time does slow down a bit.
Yes, the summer days are long, busy, tiring, and exasperating. Yes, throughout the day, my eyes check the clock, and my brain calculates the hours till the quiet will arrive. Yes, there are numerous occasions I consider sneaking away from all of them to escape for a few weeks—er, hours. Yes, I breathe a little easier and feel more productive, and although exhausted, alive, in the calm of their sleeping hours. But, I wouldn’t trade their waking hours for anything.
Remind me at 3 PM that I said that.