Well, the countdown is almost over. Next Friday ends the annual month-long trek towards summer vacation. It will begin. Understanding that summer vacation marks the beginning of nearly 3 ceaseless months of making lunches, breaking up sibling tussles and trying to entertain bored kids, I am still kind of excited about it.
Summer vacation is still magic. At least the idea of it is. My own summer vacations were filled with adventures and exploring the deep mysteries of the neighborhood. I learned to make bike jumps that wouldn’t fall apart. I learned how to tie water balloons that didn’t explode in my face. I learned to mow lawns and get my chores done ten minutes before my parents got home from work. I played soccer and football and fished and crabbed. I wore the tires off of my bike riding around town with my friends. I split and stacked wood and swam and spent a lot of time with my cousins and grandparents. My summers and the experiences they held shaped me. I hope the same holds true for my kids. But so far, it’s not looking good.
They are already fighting and my nerves are already showing signs of wear. Not good. Nonetheless, I am excited for school to get out. The magic of the last day still lives. Few experiences in life provoke the same giddy sense of excitement and anticipation as the last day of the school year. I am glad my kids get the enjoy feeling this feeling. I am going to enjoy feeling it with them. In my own nostalgic wanderlust, I will return to my last days and remember that it was pretty damn awesome.
I will enjoy this for about a week. Historically, a week is about my threshold for having my kids around all day long fighting and needing. After a week, things get squirrelly. I yell and find lots of ways to distract myself. I will spend a little more time working at my gym than necessary. I will find excuses to just be gone. A few minutes are all I need, but I need them.
In spite of my natural desire to escape, I will not…for long, anyway. I will serve. I will find distractions for them. I will drive them to camps and friends’ houses. I will set up the sprinkler and slip-n-slide. I will get smores fixins’. I will stand by the grill and cook hot dogs and hamburgers for them and their buddies. I will do this not because I must, but because I know how great a summer can be and I know I can help them. In spite of my instinct to hop the fence and keep running, I will not.
Come first light, I will make pancakes and say “What do you guys want to do today?” They will respond and so will I. A week before summer break, I am filled with noble intentions of shedding my laizze faire Dadhood and being better, more attentive and engaged. I am hopeful that we can all enjoy a summer that we will remember. Time, as it always does, will tell. But those are my hopes today.
So, the countdown narrows and next week the hurricane of summer will begin. The wind will blow and the tears will fall. We will laugh and we will play. We will smile the wonderful smiles that only live in the long days of a kid’s summer. With sunburned shoulders and bare feet, we will share our summer for as long as it lasts.
In about a week, this countdown to summer will end. About a week after that, I will begin my own countdown marking when summer will be over and these fantastic, smart, creative, beautiful and interesting creatures of mine will go back to school and order can be restored.
Until then, I will ride the wave of this summer with loose hips and a grin and hope I don’t hit the sometimes shallow reef.
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]