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Summer’s Envy

By Justine Dorton

sun woman water pictureI do NOT want school to start.

Right now, we’re swimming in the pool every afternoon, we’re leaving rooms messy, we’re reading on the patio in the evening shade. We’re licking Popsicles, dancing to U2 waaayyyy past bedtime, going to week-long bug camps, scout camps, girls camps.

We just got back from a fantastic drive-across-the-country vacation where we stopped whenever we wanted, ate whatever we wanted, slept when we felt like it, stopped at Corn Museum’s and The World’s Largest Egg Beater display, listened to books on CD for hours on end.

Why would I want to end it all?

My kids will be taken from me for 8 hours a day; I’ll be left with the ugly reality of dirty toilets and dusty floor molding. I will stand in my empty house each morning wondering how it all came to this. I might have more time to write, but what will I write about? Homework? Spaghetti stains? Math Club? I’d homeschool them if I thought I could actually teach them anything at all about polynomials or planetary orbits, but my homeschooling attempts would mostly involve reading and playing.

I haven’t always felt this way.

Many an August has brought the supernal pleasure of watching my children head out the door for matriculating endeavors. I would heave a heavy sigh of relief to know that regimented and structured life had returned to our home.

But not this summer.

This summer has been a joy.

It’s been a choice.

I’ve decided that my happiness is mine to choose, I’ve decided to listen to all that advice I so easily dish out to my kids. My happiness is not something bestowed upon me like a royal crown. And since I have no idea how long my life will be, or how healthy my future will be, I’m speeding things up. I’m choosing now to enjoy it. I’m not going to wait any longer for the happy fairy to find me. I dragged her over to my house. Why did it take all that pain for me to realize that I can enjoy my life now?

I choose.
I choose.
I choose.

And I did.

Thank you Lord for my choices.

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

28 thoughts on “Summer’s Envy”

  1. I do love the laziness of summer, but with temps in the triple digits every day we've been having to spend a lot of time indoors. And if I hear one more quarrel I'm going to go insane.

    So part of me will miss having the kids around and doing nothing, but part of me craves the routine and accomplishment that I experience when school is in.

    Maybe the solution is a year of half days; some in the morning and some in the afternoon.

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  2. Wonderful, I am so happy for you. I remember summers like that when my children were younger and easier, and when they all liked each other. My youngest 2 are still delightful, my 12 year old will be lucky if we both survive this alive. I can't wait for September, it makes me sad to feel this way but I admit it will be a huge relief. I cannot take the tantrums every day, hers not mine if you were wondering. When she went to girls camp for the first time last week it was bliss. I said to my husband that some people must be happy like this all of the time, can you imagine! Yet, occasionally she can be polite, even nice to us. At church she is delightful apparently. Sorry for the rant, may you enjoy every second of happiness.

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  3. Kay: Twelve was super hard with one of my daughters. Fifteen is better there was counseling somewhere in the middle between those two numbers. Wish we had gone sooner. Our relationship is better on both ends. I'm a better behaved parent and she is a better behaved daughter.

    I do love summer and hate for it to end. I hate all the interfacing we have to do with the world. I love having all my people around me. Speaking of that fifteen year old it makes me so sad that we may be two summers vacations away from her leaving the nest. So sad to think about. I miss her already.

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  4. Mmmm… me too.
    Enjoy enjoy enjoy~what is left of your time together.
    I would LOVE to hear more about those fun stops on your trip–I heart the happy fairy.
    Jenny

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  5. So Justine (that was wonderful, by the way), I remember a few summers ago you wrote about having the kids pretty structured, and you liked that. You felt like they fought too much if they weren't as structured. Do you think they needed the structure then, and their ages make this less structure more do-able? Or is the change more in you? I'm really curious, as I will someday have actual summer vacations in my future, too. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

    I love your choices.

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  6. Thank you Justine. I loved this.

    Don't apologize Kay. Sometimes life gets in the way of our best efforts. Last summer was golden and joyous at my house. I could feel it at the moment and I savored every day. But this one is different. My mother died; my husband just had surgery (not serious, but he can't do much) and my dread of the kids going back to school is that we haven't done enough of sun and sand and laughter….not enough to get me through the coming winter.

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  7. Wendy, you're right, we do still have some structure to our days, and the kids are the better for it I think.

    But I think the change has largely been with me. I'm figuring out how to enjoy my children, and I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that they're getting older. I have to admit I'm an 'older-kid mother'. I love watching them learn to be rational and thinking; I love seeing them mature and have meaningful conversations with me.

    So as they're getting older, it's more fun for me to have them around all the time. That's so selfish, isn't it!!?

    Selwyn, the choice seems to be easier for me now that I've had a kind of harrowing year. I am loathe to admit that I couldn't figure it out without almost dying and then being diagnosed with a rotten life-long disease, but there it is. Having trials has made it easier to choose happiness. It's made it easier to love my kids, it's made it easier to savor chaos.

    I just wish I had been smart enough to figure it out without all the pain.

    And Kay, my kids are SOOO excited to go back to school. I'm sure they're ready to get away from me. 12 is a hard age, I remember being twelve myself, and I have children going through it. Don't be hard on yourself. This is, honestly, the first summer I've ever felt this way. And that's painful to admit.

    Ellen, we didn't get as far as New England. We stopped and saw our mutual Columbus friends for a couple of days, but that was as far east as we made it this trip. Maybe next year!

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  8. This summer I found a little piece of scripture that I've since made a poster of and put on my fridge:

    "…be a joyful mother of children." Psalms 113:9

    I realize that more often than not, I'm looking more like the wicked witch of the west than a "joyful mother."

    Then I remember the challenge of the General YW Presidency, and I work hard to SMILE.

    The smiling times are the best of all! Those I will miss! Teenage daughterhood I will not 🙂 !

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  9. Your summer sounds so nice. Its the summer I strive to have with my kids, but they are still in the young, physically demanding stage, and the tantrums and emotions make me work hard to enjoy being with them 24/7 (I write as my 5 year old is throwing a fullblown too-much-birthday-party-playing-with-the-neighbors-all-day tantrum).

    And yet, the sentiments you feel are the reason I am going to try homeschooling this year. I just wasn't ready for my 5 year old to be gone from me for 8 hours a day. It seems like too much. And while someday I may have to let her go, I don't have to do it yet.

    But I very well might go crazy.

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  10. Good topic. I love that we learn that happiness is a choice. It isn't always easy to make yourself be happy even when you choose, or want to choose it. But I think once you've made the choice and really try to be conscious about it, the happiness comes…even if just in fits and starts.

    Lately I have been wondering what it is about me that makes me hesitate to fully embrace happiness and life. I think I feel guilty for my blessings. How do I overcome that!? It's like I can have blessings, but not enjoy them. But I guess that's another topic.

    Summer is too short for me, and I never quite get as much fun going around the house as I want. But we have had fun being together regardless.

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  11. Wonderfully written. Perhaps next summer I will choose differently, and enjoy the summer with my kids. Right now, however, I can't wait for August to end and school to start. Most of the time. I have moments when I think that I could have my kids with my all the time. 🙂

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  12. This summer has also been wonderful for me. Don't get me wrong–there have been plenty of tantrums (mostly from little sleep and LOTS or suger) and a major crisis or two–but over all it's been BLISS. We've taken long drives, walks, bike rides. Even just going to COSTCO for samples feels like some sort of hallowed family time. My kids (3 and 7) are just at a pretty mellow stage (or maybe I'm the one who mellowed out)and it's really fun to be with them; hear them giggle, see their ice cream covered smiles.

    At the risk of sounding too "churchy"; I think I got here mentally because a friend of mine challenged me to go to the temple once a week. And now I don't yell as much, am not in a perpetual anxious hurry, and feel more peaceful. I'm also getting pretty good at living within my means, however much they seem to fluctuate. Simply put, nothing much seems to really matter but my family. I think I'm learning the meaning of "Be still and know that I am God."

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  13. This post reminds me of a talk I heard recently at a Sacrament meeting we were visiting. The young woman said that when her dad would read her a bedtime story, he would always end with, "And they chose to live happily ever after."

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  14. I find hope in your words. And hope that one day I won't have a two-year old. Hearing "No!" so often (in response to uber-simple requests) doesn't do my attitude any favors.

    Enjoy your summer. I'm struggling this summer to enjoy because my hubby is working a long night-shift (racking up between 78-86 hours per week with road construction). Poor guy is asleep during the day so I spend my days shushing kids, turning down the volume on Spongebob Squarepants, and/or leaving the house in search of noisy, energy-draining activities.

    And I spend quite a bit of time planning our belated, post-construction season family vacation. We're going to camp out in a few yurts (circular cabins) along the Washington/Oregon coast and I even gave the vacation a title: "We're Yurtin' for a Vacation!" Cheesy enough for ya?

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  15. I'm an older kid mother too. I'm jealous. I've still got a toddler. It's hard to not see all the ways that it limits me. THere are so many things I wish I were doing or teaching the older kids, but sometimes I can't even finish the conversation I'm trying to have with them.

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  16. I am happy for you that you had a great summer.

    I'm having to process the realities of my summer not in terms of what we DID (although we had some good times), but in terms of what I have learned. This was more a character-building summer than a fun summer for me. Not exactly my first choice, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

    But I think my kids had fun. I believe in play and they played a lot. 🙂

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  17. my dread of the kids going back to school is that we haven’t done enough of sun and sand and laughter….not enough to get me through the coming winter.

    Yup. Right there with you.

    So, this is where I'm mulling over stuff. I fully believe in choice, and Justine captured its power well. But, sometimes, choice is not necessarily going to lead to bliss. Sometimes choice is limited or at least altered by circumstance. Sometimes choice leads to growth and other stuff that can't be written on a child's "what I did this summer" report, but is priceless in its own right.

    I'm trying to savor what summer meant for me, even though I couldn't write a fun report about it. It's been hard. I am sort of grieving what it wasn't, but realizing that it WAS significant still.

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  18. Justine, I'm so glad you had an idyllic summer. My advice would be to savor, savor, savor these times. I remember having a summer like that six or seven years ago when my children were your children's ages. I kept my little brood close all summer and we went swimming, went to museums, read, relaxed, and played. I loved every minute and didn't want school to start. Now that my children are older and busy with their own friends and activities, our summers are very different, with our house feeling more like a pit stop where people grab food and drinks before heading back out. And I'm left cleaning up the spilled juice and otter pop wrappers. Sigh. So I am actually looking forward to school starting, I'm sad to say.

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  19. Thank you for articulating my emotions. I feel the death of summer approaching and I mourn. This year I will not only be saying goodbye for eight hours to four of my children, but I will be saying good bye to my oldest for an entire semester. If only I could hang onto these last weeks and spread them through the next months.

    The joy over the death of an ant bed, Shakespeare plays, late night talks with kids and their friends, pizza, homemade ice cream, great art, great music, late nights in the yard chasing chickens and picking fresh fruit to eat. I will miss it all.

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  20. You have written so much of what I'm feeling right now. My heart aches as I think of the quiet, still house that is awaiting me in a few weeks. It hurts when I think that when the summer comes around again they will be a year older and a little more of their childhood will be gone. Man, super depressing.

    I do love summer!

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