Today is the last Monday of the school year. By the end of the week, my daughter will be a high school sophomore and next week at this time, we'll be transitioning into our summer schedule. My quiet days of writing will be set aside, replaced by the unpredictable schedule that is part of the fun of summer.
I'm looking forward to summer - I think - although summer with a teenager is quite different from summers when she was small. The screen time I rationed then has taken over a chunk of her days, mostly because there are so many more screens available. Reading a book is done on a screen, we have several screen options (in various sizes) if a movie is on the agenda, and between live TV and DVRs, the opportunities for passive entertainment stretch from Sesame Street to Downton Abbey and back.
Still, each new summer is a different adventure. Since my daughter is an only child, she's the ground-breaker - she has no siblings who have broken me in, littering summers past with hints of what to expect at each new age. One thing I've learned is that flexibility is one of the few ingredients that's consistently necessary, no matter her age. When she was small, that meant planning days around naps that varied in length. Now it means planning my days around hers.
It's not necessary to do this, of course - she's certainly old enough to entertain herself, or even get a job if I wanted to push that envelope. Yet this desire to be available is one of the traits of an older mom - an awareness that each summer represents time with her I will not get back. Time I want to take advantage of, while being aware that I am no longer the center of her universe - nor should I be.
She doesn't get this of course, and I wouldn't want her to think in those terms. What's sentimental at 50-something is maudlin at fifteen. I want her life to be busy and fun and hectic - just the way she likes it - and when it's not, I don't want to be too busy to spend time with her. It's too easy for days spent at home to fall into the rut of accomplishing nothing - or accomplishing everything separately, with little interaction. Family or not, it takes an effort to make sure that our summer isn't spent in the same house in parallel pursuits - at least not all of the time.
Do I sound like a martyr? I don't mean to. One of the driving forces behind my decision to retire was the desire to be more available to my family, and so I am choosing to be the one who is flexible. I genuinely enjoy the company of both my husband and my daughter - and I genuinely enjoy time spent alone - so it's simply a matter of finding the balance within changing schedules.
Wish me luck.