I remember summer without kids. I used to read a lot. Lie out in the sun in my yard (and read). Drive up to the beach in Ogunquit for the day where I’d lie out in the sun and read, swim in the waves, and go for long walks. I’d hike up the local small mountain (Wachusset) with my equally small dog, go on slightly longer hikes with friends. I had a part time job where I sold coffee in a bookstore, in an air-conditioned locale and cleaned and organized and chatted with my co-workers. I went out at night. To bars, cafes, the movies. That was summer before kids.
Summer with kids, for anyone who has never done it, is completely different. I still read, but it’s only during naptime or after the kids go to bed. (Unless of course it’s “Bad Dog, Marley”, et cetera, which I then read aloud. With voices.) Instead of lying in the sun, I fill kiddie pools and pick up sand toys, pull wagons around the yard and push swings. I still go to the beach, but it’s either the closer lake beaches in the area, or it’s an overnight trip with tons of extra baggage. Sand castle making has replaced lying in the sun reading, and carrying around my 4 year old in the waves has replaced swimming. I haven’t been on a hike in over 4 years. (A large part due to the fact that my daughter HATED the hiking backpack I spent $115 on and while my son might tolerate it, my daughter is still not old enough to hike any sort of distance.) My part time job is part of the distant past, and instead of working in a bookstore organizing, I chase two children around the bookstore making sure I’m not making extra work for the underpaid employees. I almost never go out at night, because my husband works nights. Forget going out with him. For us a date is some TV and a bowl of ice cream on a Sunday or Monday night. This past Sunday we watched the Simpsons.
That said, there are many rewards that make up for all of the lost freedoms. Tiny arms around my neck and gentle kisses on my cheek accompanied by ”I just love you, mommy”. I am now hilarious—at least to my 1 yr old. I have passes to both the Mystic Aquarium and Southwick Zoo, and go fairly regularly. Watching my 4 yr old grow from a baby into a toddler into a pretty smart little girl. Knowing that no matter how frustrated any of us get, the love between us is unconditional and will survive all of time.
So, do I miss my lying in the sun, reading all the time, hiking up mountains persona? I do. But for now, I’ll trade her in for a toddler-toting, toy wrangling, swim-lesson chaffeuring sticky-kiss-receiver. I know the other me will be back as my children grow and seek their own independence. And when she does, I know she’ll miss these days as much as I now miss the others.