Re-imagining Summer

It is the beginning of June, and my summer looks nothing like I thought it would 6 months ago. Although we are in Phase 2 of reopening Louisiana and have several more options than we did in the spring, things are very far from normal.

When the world seemed to turn upside down in March, I was in complete shock. As I learned that school was going to be out for weeks, my whole body went cold in disbelief. After the reality sunk in, I decided to power through the spring, giving it everything I had as a teacher and a mom. It is how I cope with the things that I can’t control, to focus on what was right is in front of me. I grieved the fact that my children were missing their friends and their normal routines. I grieved seeing my own class of students in person everyday. I just kept telling my children and myself, “This is hard, but this is temporary. Let’s take this time to do some fun, special things we don’t usually have to time experience.” Then I kept reminding myself, “summer is coming, and then the virus will probably have calmed down, and we will all be out of school, etc.” Because at the end of that path, I was naively looking forward to a normal summer. As March turned into April, our summer plans began to get cancelled, one by one. I understood that for the plans that we had, every one of those cancellations was necessary. Some trips were too far away, the camps were too large, all of our family lives out of state, and the virus was still here.

At the end of May, we were finished with Distance Learning. The boys were excited to be done with school work until the fall. They went to bed, and I got out the calendar. This is the moment that broke me. I looked at my 2020 planner (I know, right?) and burst into tears. Our summer calendar was completely empty. Some of the trips and camps were ones that we had looked forward to since the fall, or even earlier.

I realize that this may sound irrelevant in the midst of a pandemic, where people are losing jobs and over 100,000 people have died in the United States, and thousands more all over the world. And in the last few days, as I have been writing this article, people around the country are seeking much needed social justice for people of color. So in the middle of this time in history, where I already feel bad for the teachers who are going to have to teach the chapter “2020” to future generations, this grief over summer plans may sound ridiculous.

But there was still the question: What would we do all summer? What we needed was some normalcy, some time with friends and family, and some unbounded joy to get through this next phase. I took some deep breaths, and my husband and I talked about what we could piece together to salvage the summer. It would look different than usual, but we were going to do what we could to redeem it. The big beach trip we were going to take was cancelled, but we could go on a shorter beach trip that was close by. We booked a condo in Dauphin Island, which is only a 3 hour drive, is beautiful, and secluded. We talked about ways to see some family members who live close enough for us to drive to, and we planned to see them later in the summer. We started brainstorming some fun activities our kids can do with their friends outside. We also decided to take some day trips to different places in Louisiana that we haven’t explored before. We set up a blow up splash pool in the backyard, which also doubles as the water gun filling station. The Red Stick Mom Summer Guide is also full of fun, creative ideas for the summer.

As we talked about ideas, I started thinking back to my own summers as a child. Although I had several more camps and activities as a teenager, as a young child I was happy in the summer to play with some neighborhood friends, spend time with family, go to the beach, and enjoy a more relaxed pace. I didn’t have camps all throughout the summer or feel like I needed them. This summer, I slowly realized, was going to be a little more like my childhood summers. And I loved my childhood summers. Then I thought about the ages our boys will be next summer, in 2021. Our youngest will be 9, and halfway through the summer our oldest son will turn 15. So this summer, we have extra time to not be as busy. And we will cherish it.

Stephanie grew up with her family in Kirkwood, Missouri. She earned a degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and then a Montessori degree in Atlanta, Georgia.  She also lived in Oklahoma for several years, and now calls Baton Rouge home. She taught PreK and Elementary school part time, full time, and had some stay-at home mom time when her babies were little. She teaches PreK four at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, and she loves being a teacher mom. In her free time, she enjoys going to Barre class, cooking, traveling, singing, girls' nights, trips to the beach, and spending time with friends and family. She and her husband have two adventurous, adorable boys, ages seven and thirteen, who keep life exciting and hilarious. 

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