Four more days . . .
Just four more days of dragging sleepy children from their beds and sending them, bleary-eyed, out into the world. Four more days of backpacks piled against the front door, lunch boxes stacked up on the kitchen table, school clothes strewn on the bedroom floor.
In four more days, my children's school will be out. And--never mind what the calendar says--summer officially will begin.
Ask my kids what they like best about summer, and they're liable, for once in their lives, to agree: sleeping in.
After months of pleading for "just one more minute" with covers pulled tight over their heads, summer brings the promise of long, leisurely mornings in bed.
No alarm clock bleating through their dreams, no mother screaming in their ears. Just drifting awake to the dictates of their inner clocks, to bright sunshine, in the middle of the morning cartoon revue.
That's what's been fueling the countdown we've been through each morning, as I've wrested the blankets from their little hands.
"How many more days, Mommy?" How many more mornings will you torture us this way?
Last year I succumbed to their pleas. I scrapped the plans for swimming lessons and summer camp. Scratched the reading clubs and tutoring sessions, the music classes and basketball teams. Gave them long days of leisure, hours for unbroken sleep.
They were thrilled in June, bored by July. And as August rolled around, I heard that familiar whine return:
"How many more days, Mommy?" Isn't it time for school to start?
We tend to wax nostalgic about the summers of our youth--days spent at the fishing hole, picking blackberries, camping out under stars.
How horrible, we look back and say, that we deprive our kids of the chance we had for unstructured leisure time; that we fill their days with play dates and computer camps, with tennis lessons and sleep-aways.
But there was no "right" way to do summer when we were young, and there isn't today. I had friends who spent entire summers away from home, shipped off to their grandparents or summer camp. Some went to summer school, and even preteens could find summer jobs. And others simply lazed the long days away, sleeping late, hanging out with their friends.
Left on our own, our choices were many. We could spend hours jumping rope and playing jacks; join neighborhood games of dodgeball and tag; take trips to the park and the swimming pool and bike rides to places we'd never explored. The libraries had summer reading clubs, the parks sponsored arts and crafts.
And around about the time August would end, we would, I recall, grow tired of it all. Of sweaty nights with nothing to do, television reruns, mosquito bites, that long walk home from the swimming pool with our heavy towels at the end of the day. . . .
We'd start to play school, my sisters and I. Scan the Sears catalog for the school clothes we wanted. And pester our mother, just as my children do.
"How many more days, Mommy?"
I'll sprinkle the 10 weeks with camp and basketball and soccer practice, and enough late mornings to give my children the best of both worlds.
Still, I know summer's magic will fade. Too soon it will resemble the school year left behind.
Camp bags piled against the front door, arts and crafts projects stacked on the kitchen table, wet towels and swimsuits strewn across their bedroom floor.
And it will be Mommy's lament this time. "How many more days till school begins?"