September’s approach hits hard this year. While still in early August, I felt myself cling to emblems of summer with particular ferocity. At first I couldn’t understand my own intense desire to make this particular summer last. Then I realized that without fully knowing it, I had come to think of this summer as the last family summer. We celebrated my younger son’s thirteenth birthday as soon as school ended. My sixteen-year-old routinely fields questions from quasi strangers about where he would like to attend college or university depending upon the side of the Atlantic from which the questioner hails.
After hours spent registering for various college entrance exams on top of the typical back-to-school paperwork, I realized that NEXT summer would bring actual applications to college for my older and preparation for high school for my younger son. The vestiges of their childhoods I still manage to maintain in the creative chaos of summer will slip through my fingers as the external demands of adulthood close in upon our door.
I rarely take days off work when I am in town, unless someone is in the hospital. This month, I have broken my pattern. I took one and plan to take two more days to simply be with my boys carrying out the mundane matters that mark the close of summer. I could multi-task and divide my attention between university and family commitments, but I have finally drawn the line. This year is too important for half-hearted efforts at memory making. The summer travel is behind us. We have photos and ticket stubs to remind us of such special adventures. Now I want to memorize the minutiae of motherhood for boys crossing the Rubicon to manhood.
At work, I sit on the far side of this process and watch other parents’ existential angst over childhoods past and adulthoods not yet established. I know what NOT to do. I have begged my friends and family to disconnect my propeller should the urge to chopper parent ever overcome me. I promise to let my boys spread their wings and leave me in my nest, messily feathered with the detritus of their dependency.
En route to a programming camp my sons attend together, the thirteen-year-old broke with his protocol of fraternal disdain and announced, “I am going to be so BORED when you go to college.” He, like my husband and I, knows a seismic shift is upon us. The son whose departure seems so imminent advised his sibling to employ his own ostrich-like strategy: “try not to think about it.” Then they made concrete plans for how they could still play games in cyberspace no matter how many geographic miles might separate them. In retrospect, I’m surprised I avoided tears.
Come September, I will make an extra effort to tolerate the whirring chopper motors of distraught parents depositing their children on my professional doorstep. I fear that a few years ago, they likely made the same anti-chopper pledges I take now. I will forgive their failings and fight the urge to repeat their mistakes. As for August, I suggest another round of milkshakes in the shade.
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