I struggle with summer.
For one thing, I am in Newfoundland where it is still, meteorologically speaking, winter. But my biggest struggle comes from parental guilt.
My five-year-old finished junior kindergarten and is now, officially, on summer vacation. This has given us the most delightful bursts of togetherness overload. Something about the sight of that iPad and the circulating dust within the golden cone of indoor sunlight, and the incessant, diabetes-inspiring, saccharine pep of The Wiggles (thank you, Netflix, for making sure such shows never, ever end) — it all creates the most zany combo of eye twitching and cranial pounding that threatens to blind mommy entirely.
Just days ago, one such fun-filled, suffocating ascent into madness was halted abruptly by a loud bang. Indeed, nothing symbolizes the dawn of summer quite like the sound of a bird (a cedar waxwing, according to Google) dive-bombing the living room window.
Something about that moment, that poor bird’s plight and my subsequent attempts to call the right people (my husband, ever-mister-practical, passionately talked me out of calling 9-11) birthed my solution.
“EVERYONE GET OUT!”
I turned off the TV. Staring at that stunned little bird for a solid 35 minutes, I realized that I need to set my own little birds free. No, I’m not finding my five-year-old an apartment and refusing to help with rent. I’m simply deciding to be OK with just sending him outside (where I can see/hear him, of course).
“But what am I gonna do?”
Mommy doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart, son.
Days later, as he sat, soggy-arsed on a seesaw in the pouring rain, my mother reassured me that I was doing the right thing.
“They don’t mind a bit o’ rain. These are the days they'll remember forever. Don’t you remember me giving you a bar of soap and sending you out to the pond when we were camping at Barachois?”
I do not, as it stands, remember that; mostly because I haven’t slept for five years. But I like her style. And while the specific events of childhood summers are lost somewhere in the fog of my throbbing mom brain, I will, indeed, always remember how summer "felt."
It felt like half the year. Running, unsupervised, to the store with a handful of change. Buying a bar, bag of chips and your favorite flavour of Crush because those were the three of the four food groups — ice cream, obviously, being the fourth.
It was a time of boiled wieners and Cheez Whiz (before it was found to be plastic dyed orange) and Tang; Vuarnet sweatshirts and and topless dudes with tiny moustaches smoking cigarettes while washing their cherry-scented Sunfires and blasting AC/DC.
There were more dirt roads. I loved how crunchy summer sounded.
Every day was easily filled laughing at Bazooka Joe comics found in sidewalk litter and sucking on sour candy until all the taste buds were burned off your tongue.
The time I fell out of the giant tree in the babysitter’s backyard during hide-and-seek when everyone called it a day and forgot me, and the limb broke? That was the first time I fainted. So cool.
The game “I Declare War”: to this day, I don’t know the rules, only that each player picks a country (I always opted for the beautiful country of “Florida”), then someone throws a rock and everybody runs in different directions. It was brilliant.
“Ladies But We’re Friends.” Coined by my sister, Jennifer, who was eight going on 49, LBWF consisted of walking our dolls in strollers to opposite ends of the street, then walking back towards each other and nonchalantly saying, “Oh hiiiiiii” with an air of stuffy, grown-up-ness, and breezing by each other. Armed with enchanting singer's nodules, I was the Joe Pesci to my sister's Julie Andrews for this part. Keep walking, turn around, repeat. Gold.
Remember skipping? Is “Double Dutch” even a thing now besides something you don’t want popping up in your Google search history?
We climbed things: patios, sheds, and so on. I scaled fences for no reason other than to scale them. Ten-year old me had the pipes of a longshoreman. We were doing “Parkour” back when it was just “'80s Poor."
We were as free as my 10-year-old, freshly electrolysized upper lip. Sidenote: before you micromanage your child's micro'stache, do her a favour and concoct a solid, faux backstory before sending her off to co-ed soccer where she will inevitably be questioned about the 178 pin-sized scabs adorning her numb, hairless lip.
We were offline and the world was ours. We were birds without windows.
This summer, I’m shedding the parental guilt. I’m letting the iPad battery die and giving the youngsters the freedom to truly feel summer in all it’s nipper-scabbed, Calamine-lotioned, tree-forted, soggy-arsed glory.
And the bird? Not long after punctuating my catharsis, it flew away.
Happy summer, folks!
Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger (www.heatheronarock.com), wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook. Her column appears monthly.