Do you remember your summers as a child? I kind of do.
Like all memories, well, except the really exhilarating or traumatizing ones, they start to fade over time. Or several glimpses of memories from different years or experiences start to conflate or reform into new (but inaccurate) memories, and you start asking yourself, wait, was it Girl Scout or church camp I went to that one summer? You know the one where there was a cabin in the woods and we had to take twin sheets and bug spray? I know we talked about doing both, but I only ended up doing one, right? Which one was it? Or did I do both?
If only I had my mother’s Facebook or Instagram timelines to review, I could probably answer this, but alas, it was the ’80s and there were no computers yet, and she wasn’t a scrapbooker (which, actually, I think was more of a ’90s thing, if I am remembering correctly, which clearly, I may not be).
Memory is funny. Some people take one single memory and spread it out, like a romantic icing on top of an entire time period. For summer, this usually involves statements like “we absolutely lived at their pool” or “we never left that pier” or “we must have ridden 3,000 miles on our bikes that summer.” Statements that sound like they should be a voiceover on one of those coming-of-age movies, where the narrator is now an adult version of one of the kids he is wistfully talking about. He’s wistful at least until they find a dead body or someone is kidnapped.
I used to say something similar derived from my favorite childhood summer memory: “I spent my summers crabbing on Cotton Bayou.”
Which is not untrue. My grandfather owned a little country grocery store in a small town — before there were really big-box chains all over the place — and the Cloverleaf milk company had a little cabin on Cotton Bayou they would let the grocers who carried their milk use for a week during the summer. Our family did that every year for at least a decade. And I alternated my time between catching hermit crabs with a dip net and baiting those round drop crab nets with chicken necks and catching a cooler full of blue crabs. I absolutely loved those days. And if you ask me my fondest childhood summer memories, I will tell you about the “Cloverleaf cabin days” every single time.
But that was just one week out of each summer. The rest of the days I think were spent watching “The Young and the Restless” with my grandmother and riding my bike. Maybe a Vacation Bible School or two was thrown in there somewhere. But those are all just blurs of eating shortbread cookies and drinking Kool-Aid out of small cups and standing on steps on the last day and singing songs I can’t remember. Well, except for the year we did “Down by the Creek Bank.” For some reason, I can still remember every word to every song of that album. “There’s crickets and tadpoles and turtles and frogs, down by the creek bank by the ol’ holler log.”
Memories and the brains that store them, they are crazy and unreliable, I tell you.
I have been thinking a lot about this collection of summer memories, or lack thereof, the last few weeks as my husband and I have been nearly killing ourselves, hauling our children over God’s green Earth, or really, just all over the greater Mobile Bay area, trying to make sure we are fostering our children’s interests and making sure they actually have some semblance of a “real summer,” since we both work. It’s the working parents’ guilt tax.
They have always been sentenced to summer daycare or to staying all summer at their school’s full-day camps, which are nice, but when you do that, it still kind of feels like you are going to school all year long. And we’ve always felt bad about that. More guilt!
But now that they are entering the tween years and don’t need constant adult supervision, we decided to sign them up for day camps focused around sports or activities they are really interested in, and then we would let them live the “latchkey life” at home the rest of the time.
It would be their best summer ever!
The problem is their interests are really different. And so are the locations and times of their camps. My husband and I have driven around this great city dropping them off and picking them up more in the last month than I think we have in their entire childhoods. And we’ve even had some help with chauffeuring duties from the grandparents, and we are still struggling to keep up!
My son is really into tennis, so the weather also adds another layer of insanity to this. Things are always getting canceled and rescheduled. I have literally been in the car taking him somewhere, gotten a text that a match or clinic was canceled, taken him back home, started back to my office and then gotten a text saying that the match was back on again.
Arghhhhhhhhh! Are you kidding me?!?!?
I’ve needed an Excel spreadsheet, a meteorology degree and 10,000 gallons of gas to get through this summer. And it’s not even July yet! I know we are not the only parents going through this. And the struggle is real, my friends.
Why are we doing this to ourselves, parents?
Because, we want our little angels to have these stupid, wonderful memories of their childhood summers or for this camp to be the beginning of their lifelong passion for something (or because all the other kids in their class or on their teams are doing some camp they just have to do or they’ll get behind or feel left out) and one day they will thank us for this!
Can’t you just picture it: 30 years or so from now, they will be staring out the window of their office one June day, saying to themselves, “What was the name of that camp I went to that summer? What was the coach’s name? Wait, did I even go to that camp or am I thinking about something else entirely? Gosh, I can’t believe I can’t remember. Oh well, I guess it doesn’t matter.”
And at that point, we will know all of this blood, sweat, tears, time, gas, money and mileage have been totally worth it. Totally.
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