Summer vacation is here, and I’m not ashamed to say that I am ridiculously excited about it. I know for some parents it feels like a prison sentence, but for me it feels like freedom. The last month of the school year, I nervously observed the wheels loosening on our “we-have-our-shit-together” wagon until the last one finally fell off.

We could not get out of bed. We could not pack lunches the night before. We lost brain cells trying to remember to complete the end-of-the-year school projects (Seriously? Two huge projects due the final week of school? What on earth are you guys thinking?), jot down which days we were supposed to spend part of our final afternoons without our kids at school with them (field days, field trips, presentations, class parties, is it seriously pajama day?, and can’t we just freaking be done already??), not to mention simply bathing them, filling out the reading log, and locating our shoes and raincoats in the morning. We. Were. Done.

I work part time, and my summer schedule is even lighter than usual. Two mornings a week I bring my girls with me to work so I can teach 2-3 music classes and be done by noon. They play in the childcare room, I teach, we’re done. And the rest of the time? Sweet freedom, my friends.

This is the third summer I have enjoyed what I call a “1980s Summer” with my kids: we don’t have summer camps, activities are minimal, and we just hang out as much as possible. We swim at least twice a week. We visit the zoo, the museum, the mini-golf course. We play with neighbors. For the love of God, we SLEEP IN, and honestly? Sometimes the kids just veg in front of the TV while I do stuff, like write this blog post, for instance. I know this sounds boring as hell and like a recipe for disaster for some families, but for me it’s perfection.

My kids, like me, crave massive amounts of unstructured time, and for three months of the year I am so thrilled to be able to give it to all of us. They are at the perfect ages right now: five-and-a-half and ten, closer to eleven, the calm between the storms. Yes, my tween sometimes falls into an inexplicable pubescent mood swing, and my youngest can be a serious pain in the ass. But all in all, they are easy, and I genuinely love being around them.

So, about that. When I started writing about parenting, my oldest daughter was a toddler, and I clung to my cathartic creative writing time like a life preserver. My maternal identity crisis was in full swing, I had no idea who the hell I was anymore, my child perplexed me, and often—to my great guilty consternation—annoyed the crap out of me. I missed my independence, and I felt like a failure because I had no idea what I was doing half the time, and worse, I periodically found myself actively disliking moments of motherhood.

And then a funny thing happened. Years passed, flew by, really. Yesterday I found myself standing in the street, helping my five-year-old attempt to find the courage to ride her bike without training wheels, singing and laughing with my girls, and I realized we were in the midst of one of those perfect moments.

Then I started doing panicked mom math. My husband and I had just been talking about adoption day: seven years ago, he adopted my three-year-old daughter. Those seven years have gone by in a blink; we added a second child to our family, and all of a sudden she’s done with kindergarten. I realized that if the past seven years went by that quickly, the next seven years probably would as well. And more sobering was the realization that seven years from now, my almost-sixth grader will have graduated from high school. And I can hardly bear it.

I stumbled upon an article called “Eighteen Summers: It’s All We Get” a few days ago, and I haven’t even been able to bring myself to read it; the title alone is enough, and says everything. We only get our kids for eighteen summers. And I’m over halfway done.

What happened to the woman who longed for freedom, who was so weary of yet again wiping a toddler ass in a public restroom, who forced “quiet time” on a non-napping preschooler just to get a few moments of peace, who desperately fought to excavate her personality from the all-consuming cave of motherhood? It seems my identity crisis has taken an entirely different turn: Who will I be when I’m not Mommy?

While I’m well aware that come August (and who am I kidding, early July perhaps) I will give anything for my kids to spend all day in school so I can have a private phone conversation, take a yoga class, get some freaking work done, or meet a friend for coffee. I mean, after all, there’s this:

and this:

It’s sort of like transition during childbirth. It’s so uncomfortable and unbearable that we know it’s time for the big push. At the end of the school year, we are losing our shit and will do seriously ANYTHING to avoid having to locate backpacks and shoes and get our kids to the bus on time. And by the end of summer, we will do ANYTHING to get those kids the hell out of our house. We can no longer tolerate the constant togetherness. And that’s OK; it’s like how I am always ready for the change of the seasons. It’s just time.

But right now, I am acutely aware of how time is passing us by. I am counting down the summers in my head. And this summer (at least right now), I want to be with them every day. I want them to come into my bed in the morning and fall back asleep and snuggle with me. I want to have deep conversations with my tween daughter while I drink iced coffee on the back porch. I want to watch as my five-year-old (eventually, hopefully) learns how to ride a two-wheeler. I want to swim, and play, and tiptoe into their rooms to whisper how much I love them every night after they fall asleep. I want them with me, all day, every single day. Because, dammit, that cliche is true: It’s going so very fast.

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