HAPPINESS:

The Last Days of Summer

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By Tanya Ward Goodman

My daughter’s legs are pink from the sun.  Her skin is dry from chlorine and itchy from hikes in the park.  After her bath, I cover her in moisturizer.  The sweet, honey scented lotion reminds me of the very beginning of parenthood.  Before my daughter was born, when I had only one new baby boy, I would unwrap my son and let him be naked on the bed while I massaged his arms and legs and the dumpling round of his belly.  I’d take the time to admire each toe, each silvery sliver of fingernail.  We had no homework to do, no karate classes to attend, no summer camp, no piano lessons.  We had all the time in the world.

Now, I’ve got two kids and I keep track of their lessons and classes and play dates on a calendar color coded by name.  I notice their fingernails when they are dirty.  I take time to apply lotion only when there is sunburn.  Once school starts, with its avalanche of homework, activities, fundraising and the daily creation of a box lunch, it will be hard to notice anything at all.  That is why I plan to spend the rest of the summer trying to enjoy the little things that are not on the calendar.

We’ll hit the farmer’s market for fresh peaches and come home to bake a pie. Measuring out flour and butter and sugar is a great way to slow down time.  Rolling piecrust and cutting fruit are terrific jobs for older kids and gives them a sense of accomplishment that is sweeter than pastry.

Instead of rushing off to another museum, we’ll stay in the back yard and make our own art.  Sitting around the picnic table with a stack of paper and a box of watercolors, the hours will pass in a gentle spiral.  Little threads of conversation will weave through our paintings.  We will make discoveries (all the paint mixed together is always going to be brown) and suggestions (more purple is always better.)  My daughter will carefully paint horses and birds and cats and my son will paint a field and then paint soccer players and then play soccer with his paintbrush until the paper dissolves into a soggy mess.  In the end, we’ll take the garden hose to the picnic table and hang the paintings on the clothesline to dry.

My kids pretty much Hoover their way through dessert, so I’ll help them slow down by introducing each part of the cookie.  How heavy is the cookie in your hand? What does it feel like when you bite it?  How does it feel on your tongue?  Do all the bites taste the same?  What happens when you run into a chocolate chip?  You can run through the same drill with anything and I bet the end result will be that it tastes better.  This is because when you slow down, you have time to actually taste it.

At night, after we’ve read a chapter of our latest book (currently “The Black Stallion”) I’ll help my kids relax by talking to all the parts of their body.  Goodnight eyebrows, goodnight nose, goodnight chin…  Just naming these parts brings attention to them.  They may be surprised to find that their eyebrows are furrowed or their neck is stiff.  A conversation about this can lead to deeper conversations about how their bodies feel when they are angry or happy or sad.  Noticing these feelings can help them to be less scary.

Really savoring these last few weeks of summer will help my children to be relaxed and ready to go back to school.  I also think it will help me.  It is not just the kids who have a crowded calendar.  Autumn will slide fast into winter and that will disappear into spring, but for now, it’s summer.  I’m going to relax and let it be.

TANYA WARD GOODMAN is a writer living in Los Angeles, Ca with her two children and husband.  She  is an award-winning memoirist, and weekly contributor to Thenextfamily.com.  In addition to writing about parenthood, she also scribes travel and food articles, and is currently at work on a novel.

Posted in: Happiness, Holidays, Parental Wisdom