Since I own my own company, I can take time off whenever I want. I love this autonomy, although I do not get paid for vacation, which hurts the next month when my paltry invoice payments come in. I’m not complaining. For our family’s life, this flexibility is worth it.
Every spring, I start vibrating about arranging summer childcare for Aaron. For my clients do not halt work over July and August, and I need to be available to them. Each April, I lie awake at night, contemplating our options: regular babysitter, day camp (segregated where I don’t need to hire an aide, or inclusive where I do), lean on older siblings, take conference calls in the bathroom on mute with kids screaming in the background. None of these options are appealing for the entire eight weeks that is summer vacation.
Two years ago, Aaron had a really challenging year in Grade 3. So much so that we sold our house and moved in order to get him into a more welcoming school setting. I will admit to running away that year on the school break. We packed up our vehicle, and took off for a month long road trip to Idaho, Washington State and British Columbia. We stayed at a lake cottage, a winery, a yurt and a water buffalo farm. It was really awesome to have no schedule and all that time together as a little family. We took Aaron’s lead on activities, and splashed around at beaches and in pools, went to drive-in movies, and ate a lot of burritos.
When we returned, with the month remaining, we started a Summer List. This helped me feel like we had a sense of purpose to the long summer days at home. Aaron would help create the list, and each day we would pick one thing a day that we wanted to do.
Over the past two summers, we’ve tinkered with the Summer List. This year, Aaron is 11. He is now very specific about what he wants to do. Fort Edmonton? NO. Corn Maze? NO. Instead he replaces these with an infinite number of movies, mini-golfing, go-karting, meeting Dad downtown for a hot dog lunch, KFC picnic in the park, LRT train ride and Telus World of Science. Fair enough. It is his Summer List, not mine. (Mine would look something like: Walk. Bookstore. Movies. Pedicure. Drink wine with friends. Date with husband. Repeat). This is important: we only pick one thing off the Summer List a day. Sometimes we do nothing at all. We have opted out of doing the busy thing.
We supplemented that with a week at a truly inclusive summer camp (thank you, University of Alberta), where the staff was trained to work with all types of kids. His eldest sister hung out with him while I attended the occasional work meeting. This, coupled with a month in British Columbia lying on a floatie on a lake, has filled up the Summer of 2014.
There are ten days left in summer. Aaron is downstairs, slowly eating his Cheerios and nectarines and watching Spiderman on his iPad. We are not missing the morning school rush, which is a complex process that includes pulling him out of bed in the morning, setting the timer, having a contest to see who gets dressed first, combined with bribes, threats and pleading to get him out the door in time.
I’ll have lots of time over our cold harsh winter to catch up on work while Aaron is at school. Having two adult children reminds me that this time with Aaron is not forever. One day, he, too will move out and leave our nest. As the great George Harrison once said: All there is ever, is the now. Each day is a precious gift. Let’s govern ourselves accordingly.