In three days, summer as I know it will come to an end.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s a sauna out there and the September treadmill is almost a month away. Well, for me, everything changes on Thursday at 10:45am. That’s when the camp bus will roll into that parking lot I last saw seven weeks ago through my blur of tears as I waved my three children goodbye. Now, in what feels like a week at most, they’re about to head home.
Yes, I’ll bawl like a baby when I see those faces and my arms will trap them in a smother-mother hug. In that moment, we’re a family again and I’ll be elated. I’ll also be leaving behind a freedom I haven’t felt since before my kids were born.
This is my third summer as an empty nester. For my first two shots, I spent the half of my alone-time moaning about missing my kids. This year, I got smart. I finally gave myself permission to do exactly what they did at camp. I made the most of their time away. Here’s how:
1. I stopped peeking into their empty rooms. When I couldn’t stop myself, I’d picture them exactly where they’d be on that divine summer afternoon: on the bed plugged into their laptops losing their grammar skills by the second on Facebook. Then I’d picture them tanned and free, sailing, waterskiing, playing tetherball in the sun. No contest.
3. I stopped listening for the mail to slide through the slot and hit the floor. If they are not writing letters home, I realized, it’s because they are having too much fun to miss me. I told myself that’s a good thing, a great thing. I forced my fingers not to call the camp just to badger the poor girl manning the phones to check if my children had been eaten by bears or busted their right arms.
4. Since they didn’t write, I stopped feeling guilty that I only sent one letter a week and that I basically recycled that letter for each kid. They were busy and so was I.
5. I set three attainable goals to achieve while they were gone because accomplishing anything in the summer makes me feel like the Bionic Woman. I went for house renovation, writing programs and a honeymoon with my husband, and not in that order. Last year, I learned that if you’ve got too many goals, you run the risk of sleeping instead. What a waste.
6. Although I wasn’t about to pack for a canoe trip and portage through the wilderness, I did make sure to get outside and exercise every day, even if it was just to walk to Starbucks. Even in the rain. There is nothing more nourishing than a routine that includes moving and breathing all by yourself.
7. I was a little bad – ssshhhh. I won’t list them all here, but I tried things I can’t do with kids around. Like hang out in a back room in NYC to try on corsets. Like slip six freebie vibrators into my BlogHer swag bag. Like call any hour of the day cocktail hour. OK, I’m stopping here. Let’s just say the house was ours and only the dog could hear us scream.
8. I took some time to meditate on my relationship with each child and honestly assess what’s working and what’s not. I let myself feel sad about the moments I was far from the ideal mom and thought about ways to deepen communication and enjoy the kids while they’re still living at home.
9. I never lost sight of the fact that after a long year of hard work, the kids deserve a nice, long vacation from stress, and so do I. And I reminded myself that vacations are fantastic because by nature, they are time-limited. For just a few weeks, there was no need to enter a grocery store or turn on an oven. Instead, I became a whiz at ordering in and making reservations.
10. I made myself a vow. When the air turns chilly, I’ll hold onto some of my summer by continuing to breathe, walk, honeymoon and relate to my kids. I probably should turn down the volume, though. Until next year anyway.