Since I knew the day was coming when my only child, L, would go to Kindergarten, I decided to make this summer special. Given that she would be home a lot and her fun was in my hands, I needed a goal to be sure she didn’t spend each day in front of the television. With public school close at hand, and anticipating the big change it would bring, I wanted to create a summer that created connection and love, a kind of “you and me” celebration. She might not remember much of it since L is only 5, but I wanted to remember.
The summer got off on a rocky beginning. Our first week out of preschool brought a move to a new house and a change in schedule – both of us home, all day long, with just each other. L desperately wanted to be back in class with her friends and I desperately wanted my 6 hour break. Neither of us got what we wanted. Camps didn’t begin for week. Mostly, we fought.
After that first week, though, we got a kind of rythm. No rushing. No appointments. L began to understand that summer was a time to relax. I guess I did, too. Gymnastics “camp” – 5 hours of playtime – began and though they rarely taught her any actual gymnastics, it took up time. And though I HATE putting on a swimsuit, I swallowed my trepidation and took L to our gym’s pool. A lot. Like most kids, L loves swimming and this brought her much joy. I’d pack snacks and a lunch (most times, although sometimes I had to mooch off friends – in the beginning I just couldn’t get it together) and feel like a “real mom.” I didn’t get in the water much and encouraged L, instead, to make friends. Sometimes we met Macaroni-and-Glue there with her girlie. The fun L had in the water made exposing my dimpled thighs worthwhile.
Dance Camp was also in June. Only 3 hours in the middle of the day, perhaps not the best set up. But L was with her close friend, V, and anytime she can bond with a friend I am happy.. I just love knowing that my child makes friends. And she picks the nicest ones! Dance camp ended with a performance with girls getting to wear some kind of costume. My child picked a dress up dress I bought at resale.
June made way for July, the month of French Camp. The Dallas International School offers French, Spanish and Chinese classes for kids in the summer. (In the winter, they are a full day private school.) I like French better than Spanish so I got my husband to agree to putting L in a French class. Plus I know French (a little) and thought it would be easier to reinforce what L learned. Ends up we didn’t use too much of it. L learned her numbers and few things here and there but mostly it was just fun. Not that I have a problem with that. She was exposed to another language and to another culture, which I am thrilled about. Plus she learned this great little song that gets stuck in my head with her voice singing, and how great is that?
Besides the camps, L and I had “Science Wednesday” which I created as a way to get/keep her interested in science. At first I got ideas off the internet but when I almost destroyed our stove top I decided to buy a science kit for her age. No actual explosions but lots of fizzing and colors. Pretty sure she didn’t retain any of the information but she sure did have fun. Here’s a photo of the first round of “change flower colors with food coloring” but had to be redone because this version didn’t work. (Here’s how to do it right.)
August brought down time and lots of gymnastic camp until we left town for 3 weeks. Everyone should leave North Texas for August because, quite frankly, it is too hot for human survival. First stop was Detroit, my parents’ house. L hadn’t seen her Nana since before her open-heart surgery. (By the way, Nana is doing so much better since she began exercising and looks like her old self. Well, she doesn’t look old, really, but you know what I mean.) Papa, a dentist, put a filling in one of Lillian’s baby teeth, but L was a real trooper. Midway through our visit, my sister and her kids came in, too. L played with her cousins as much as they would play with her – they are 9, 14, and 18. The cousins were very patient and loving.
The day after we returned from Detroit, we left for Wyoming. J’s dad and step-mom own a house in Jackson Hole and we visit most summers. J fly fishes as much as possible while I spend the week worried about L getting bored. This trip was better than most, since she is 5 and can both entertain herself better and could do more things. Also, J’s dad is always willing to play a game with her, especially chess, which she loves.
Three things happened that really surprised me:
1. L figured out how to paddle her own canoe and kayak. Not that we let her go it alone on String Lake (Teton National Park). J or Grandpa held a rope while she was in a boat. But she actually managed to paddle herself around a bit. The coordination was pretty surprising.
2. L pet a couple of dogs. She’s been terrified of them ever since a horrible experience with an acquaintance’s dog. Well, in Wyoming, dogs are used to being around people unlike in the suburbs where dogs are locked up indoors and when humans show up they jump like mad. J took L to an outdoor supply store where she met Paco The Wonder Dog, a super mellow dog who eventually L put a little fly box on its head. She then pet it. A breakthrough.
3. L rode a horse. Not like she sat on it and someone pulled it around. She brushed Jake, cleaned his hooves, and walked him to an arena. Her instructor, Terry, put her on and then taught L how to control the horse. L managed to get Jake to back up and turn right and left. The lesson was over an hour. I am not a rider and am actually afraid of horses, but even with my lack of knowledge I could see how this experience gave L confidence. I mean, here’s a 50 lb. kid directing a 300 lb. animal! L absolutely loved it and asked to do it again and again. Here she is riding backwards while Terry’s granddaughter leads Jake around the arena:
We returned on the Sunday before school began, the official end of summer vacation. We didn’t do everything I wanted. I wanted to take L to a museum in Dallas. I wanted to drive to Louisiana because we live so close and I have never been. I wanted to take her swimming more and figure out how to get that darn backyard water slide to work despite our (new) slanted backyard. Even with those few regrets, I believe I gave L a great time. She played with friends, saw lots of family, ate plenty of icecream and popsicles, and created a few memories, I hope. And for me? I got to enjoy my child’s beautiful face as it lit up with joy, watch her run on various beaches, listen as her laugh rang out through the Teton canyons and kiss her goodnight as she snuggled up to her stuffed animals, exhausted from all the fun.
It was, in all, a perfect summer.