Archive for August, 2014

The Weapons of Goodbye

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The last week of August is the week we transition between summer – strictly unschooling – into a slightly more structured version of homeschooling. I usually take the week off from work so we can devote attention to getting the kids set up on the math and science websites/apps they would like to use for this semester, start social studies with a leisurely morning of reading and historically appropriate baking, and ensure the books they will be reading are downloaded onto their Kindles. It’s a week of excitement – looking forward to the new year ahead. 

In the midst of the excitement, A came home yesterday to let us know his friend was moving away at the end of the month. Luckily, his friend is not moving far away, but this has been the older friend who A loves to play with outside, or at each other’s house, since his friend’s family moved in down the street a few years ago. This is the first friend A made on his own, and he has managed the relationship by himself. While we have met the family several times, the relationship is primarily the boys’ own. Although he understood the reasons they were moving, A was devastated by the news.

A and his friend played together for one last time yesterday afternoon, down in our basement playroom. While they will still likely see each other, they won’t be down the street from each other anymore, able to pick up and play at a moment’s notice. The two boys yelled and ran around as they always do, but with a little more vigor – and anger. I heard the usual Nerf guns firing, sword fighting, and noodle wars. After a few hours, the two boys then said goodbye as most boys do, with a simple “see ya” as they went to their respective houses. I’m not sure if they will see each other again for a while. 

This morning, I went down to vacuum the basement, and picked up the carnage from yesterday’s play session. Normally, I’d have A pick it up, but this time, I’m glad I didn’t. As I picked through the blue and orange Nerf darts (I’ll never get them all!), the foam and wooden swords, and spent Nerf guns of various types, I realized this is how they said goodbye to each other. While they played and fought pretend wars, they connected one last time, and let go of this phase of their friendship. 

I came up from vacuuming crying, and at that exact moment, A came down from his room to get some help with a math problem. I hugged him, and he stared back at me bewildered and confused. He’s already started to move on a little bit – fall soccer started last night, and flag football starts later this week. This fall, I’ll know what to do when he gets lonely for his friend who moved away – we’ll have a Nerf gun fight in the basement. 

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The Boys of Summer

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“Nobody on the road /
nobody on the beach.”

– Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer”

There’s an interstitial period at the end of summer that I always forget about until it’s on top of us. Suddenly, the lines vanish, the traffic subsides to a manageable thirty-mile-per-hour level, and the sonic content of indoor activities drops to a whisper. Pools glass over, and deck chairs are abundant.

The Boys of Summer are gone.

For intense kids like ours, it’s a double bonus. Mine wear out eventually, the din of daycare camp kids running roughshod in the museum dulling their interest, the nineteenth Nerf football that errantly dings them in the head bringing pool days to a close earlier than they otherwise might. But when the Boys of Summer have gone, they’re given this magical two-week window of free rein, and I am blessed and lucky to see it.

What games might they play in an otherwise empty pool? How long would they stay to read museum placards explaining the trilobite’s role in the Devonian? What would a day look like for them in a world that – there’s no other analogy, really – has been neutron-bombed to their benefit?

The Boys of Summer depart at precisely the right time, too. It’s been a long summer of spinning plates for me – trying to give my clients exceptional service while giving the kids a summer of adventure and fun, both while not allowing the house to fall into utter entropy. That’s involved some sleight-of-hand in places – responding to an email or two* with a hand over my phone in the museum IMAX theater, or overseeing a pool day from the second-floor gazebo that happens to sit right atop the WiFi router. (Thank God). By this point in the summer, I’m usually tired, and what’s facing me down is the fact that we’re getting started in two weeks. Am I ready? Do I have Vonnegut’s voicing and character development predilections under control for E? Do I remember where H left off in sixth-grade math, and what her challenges were? Am I really ready to swapwrite about A’s Dungeons and Dragons character for months on end?

At precisely the same time this weary level of concern arrives, I pass the Boys of Summer on the way out, and I am reminded of why I do this: the pure fire of curiosity and passion that emerges in the quiet the Boys gift as as they go. Absent the pool din, the need to queue up to look at a model of a Titan IV rocket, the path-sharing on hikes and the raw entropy of Jump Street at its rainy-day worst, I can hear them again. Their questions, their discussions, their endless love of learning why and how.

They never left. They’re still the same passionate learners I said goodbye to, at some level, when I threw the switch into full-on Summer Dad Mode at the end of May. They’ve just been submerged in the summer chaos itself, their voices the bubbly blurble of shouting underwater at a pool under clear Colorado skies.

The only MARCO I hear now is theirs, and while I might not have said it even a week ago, as I sat in construction traffic, I am, indeed, ready with a POLO of my own.

Let the fall begin.

Soon.

But first…let me enjoy this.

Because the Boys of Summer are fun, but they’re raucous and exhausting, and by mid-August, I’m not sad to see them climb into their Deadhead-stickered Cadillacs and go.

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* Five hundred fifty-seven