Monday, August 03, 2015

The Search for Summer

I have several soapboxes onto which I like to climb if prompted. This happens more often on social media than it does on here, but it does happen, and I'm not all that shy about it if I really get going. I can get pretty passionate about people not being jerks to my LGBTQ friends, the importance of public education, disassembling the stigma around mental illness, and clergy self-care. These are probably the top issues that can get me rankled for various reasons. I mean, yeah, there are tons of others that I have opinions about, but I think that these set me off much more.

There's one other that has really been weighing on me, particularly because it's affecting our household quite a bit at the moment: summer.

Okay. This doesn't seem like it belongs in the same group as those other things I mentioned. Maybe it has some tie-ins to self-care, but in a different way. I should probably explain myself.

Coffeeson is in a play. He's been taking theatre classes for about a year now, and landed a part as a Lost Boy in a production of the musical Peter Pan. And both Coffeeparents are incredibly proud and excited that he's finding something he loves doing. So a lot of our time this summer has been spent driving to and from the theatre for rehearsals. By the time he gets home, he's exhausted. Then we get up the next day and do it again. Again, he loves it, and we love that he loves it.

Let me tell you what summer was for kids of my generation: bikes, cartoons, actual vacations, ice cream, swimming, baseball in the backyard, trips to the park, trips to the movies, trips to amusement parks, library reading programs, Kool-Aid, sorting through baseball cards and comic books on rainy days, and a million other things that we came up with on any given day depending on our mood.

Let me tell you what I see summer as for kids today: travel sports leagues, play rehearsals, band camps, and school activities that actually end in mid or late June and start up again in early August.

Yes, my "get off my lawn" game is strong in this post.

For the Coffeehousehold, the days of summer have been a mad rush out the door first thing in the morning to work and daycare, a rush home to shove dinner down our throats, and then the drive to the theatre. This is the ideal when Coffeewife can get out at a reasonable hour and I don't have an evening meeting at the church. When either or both of those things happen, we endure a few extra layers of chaos. Oh yeah, and I'm working with a manuscript deadline. And this is just with one kid doing one thing. I can only imagine what it'll be like in a few more years when Coffeedaughter starts up even with a single activity of her own.

What happened to summer?

Now, I can hear the pushback. Some of this is the typical predicament of today's American family caught on the hamster wheel of Too Much Activity. I'll fess up that ours is not a unique situation. I know plenty of families experiencing this same ordeal most days all year long. But, man, remember when summer was a thing? Like, a lazy, relaxing thing?

Will it ever be that again? For anybody?

When I took my sabbatical a few years ago, I was amazed at how difficult it was for me to relax. I embraced the time away and I made it a point to really stay away from church stuff, but the pull to fill every minute of what was supposed to be a time of rest and renewal was a strong one. It took me a few weeks to realize not just how busy I'd been, but how dependent on being busy I was.

There is a part of us that is dependent on the hamster wheel. As much as we crave time to just sit, I suspect that both Coffeewife and I get a certain thrill out of the rushing around, and that's a scary thing. Once one of these responsibilities is completed, we'll probably enjoy it for a second, and then move right into the next thing.

We need summer. A real lazy, relaxing summer. At least for longer than a week or two. Sabbath is good for the soul. I hope we allow it for ourselves--all of us--at some point soon.