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Life with a Smile: Staggering into summer

By Kate Snyder

Community columnist

Allow me to set the scene for you. It’s one o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon – the first afternoon of summer break, as it happens. You might think that you would be peeking in on a moment of relaxation and celebration. After all, it’s the summer holidays. Time to kick back, read a book, take a nap.

Ha ha ha. I couldn’t even type that last sentence without laughing out loud. It may be the first week of summer vacation but it’s the 10th week of social distancing and we’re all a little bit bonkers. 

My older daughter is parked at a desk in the corner of the living room with her laptop, Zooming with her friends. She is alternating between whispering, laughing, and shooting death glares at the rest of us for eavesdropping or talking too loudly or breathing too near her. 

I’ve been helping my seven-year-old paint her toenails, but I get distracted by a phone call, which naturally results in her brushing a still-wet, bright red toe against the beige couch cushions. For some reason, it doesn’t occur to me to gracefully end the call, so instead I attempt to clean the couch while cradling the phone to my ear. The conversation is not made easier by the periodic demands from the exasperated tween that we all go somewhere else please.

The dog is adding to the general clamor by charging from one end of the house to the other, apparently engaged in a series of wind sprints with my son. This seems like an activity better suited to the back yard, but very few people ask my opinion these days. Plus, it’s been raining for days so the backyard is a swamp and I don’t really need muddy dog prints on the couch. 

They would clash with the nail polish.

A friend of mine commented this week that we’re going into summer feeling like we usually feel in August – tired, overwhelmed, and desperately ready for the kids to go back to school. But instead of that bright horizon of structure and order, we are staring at two months of — nothing. No camps, no trips, no playgrounds, no pools, no festivals, no parties, no concerts, no gatherings. 

If we’re feeling really wild, we might invite a neighbor to sit in a lawn chair on the other side of the driveway and drink lemonade. Sometimes you’ve gotta cut loose, after all. 

But boredom is the mother of creativity. One daughter has already turned her entire bedroom into a series of interconnected blanket forts. The other is teaching herself to play Heart and Soul on the piano. My son’s floor is completely blanketed in Legos, which makes walking difficult, but which keeps him happily entertained for hours at a time. 

His other favorite pastime is starting sentences with “you’re probably going to say no, but” and then listing off all the activities he would like to be doing with his friends. Sadly, he’s usually right. Pogo stick tournaments and mud wrestling will just have to wait. We have, however, watched a number of YouTube videos about Xtreme Pogo-ing, so he’ll be ready when the time comes. First step: bounce more than five times without falling off. Next up: backflips. Or something like that.

By the end of the summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if my kids have constructed a scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of graham crackers or trained the dog to do the tango. 

For my own part, I am secretly OK with taking a summer off of extra-curricular activities. Hanging out on the porch with my kiddos sounds better than a frenetic cycle of lessons, practices, and evening commitments. 

At least for a few weeks. Check on me in July to make sure we’re all still sane.