There is a beautiful element to the seasons of change. In my town, when summer is soon to end and fall can be tasted in the evening breeze, fog banks set in. There are layers of rich color, denseness of light, long strips of water-weighted clouds that hover, waiting, right at the end of my street.
I’ll admit when these low-hanging moisture elements roll in, my first impulse is to want to crack open the sky and see the blue again. I want to feel the light breeze and warm sun around me and know what time of day it is by where the sun is visibly positioned in the sky. But on these fog bank days? Grey is the color, all day. There are only small glimpses of clear sky fleetingly visible for a few minutes at a time.
This summer coming to an end thing is something I always struggle with. I love the time I have to be with our daughters unscheduled and unplanned on most days. I am always thankful they are thriving and get to be part of another year in school, but I miss them terribly when they go back to school. And on top of missing them, I recognize that they are, with each season that passes, finding their own independent ways more and more.
And so, I tend to sit under a fog bank with dark sunglasses concealing my eyes as I transition them from summer to school days. The other day, while I was visualizing myself opening up the clouds with a chisel and a hammer in exasperation of another grey day, I began to completely weep. I have an incoming high-schooler, a daughter who has entered junior high and two elementary daughters, one of these, in upper elementary!
Old stories hover over me like low-moisture weather patterns. Have I done enough? Have I enjoyed them enough this summer? Have I given each of them enough quality time? Has the extra time I have spent with them been of value to them? Was our time meaningful to each of them? And why the hell do grey days conjure up these old stories anyhow?!
Like water droplets suspended in air, my sentiments about summer ending feel held up… but just barely. I see the girls ready their backpacks with school supplies, or signature patches to make them their own. I walk the freshly painted hallways of their campuses helping them find their classes before school begins, and that familiar welling up of emotions rises over me. I leave the high-schooler at the front facade of her new campus to navigate orientation on her own.
I watch as the younger girls write a note and gather a gift for the new teacher they are to meet and I just melt. I see them folding their school clothes or placing a few sharpened pencils in their crisp pencil pouches and my heart feels excited for them, while my lip quivers.
Being a mom is so dynamically different than any other role I could possibly imagine playing in my life. It asks all of me, all the time. And because of that, the fusion of joy and exhaustion is always closely embedded. Summer allows these two bursts of diverse characteristics to come alive in potent ways. You feel me, parents?!
For some of you, you might have had the best summer of your life. Perhaps you took a long-awaited trip you have always wanted to take. Perhaps, you saw a special person in your life whom you have not seen in ages. Perhaps you were with your family. Perhaps you found a sweet balance of work and play and kids and alone-time, etc.
Or, maybe your summer was full of work commitments. Perhaps a trip was canceled. Perhaps you had a lot to juggle. Perhaps you had family members who became ill or other family needs that were pressing and tricky to navigate. Perhaps you had to enroll your child in day camps which seemed to wipe out any of your summer savings. Perhaps, you feel that summer escaped before you really grasped it.
Summer is funny. It looks at you with glossy advertisements of palm trees and sunny skies and throws slogans your way like they are flying out of a topless mustang, “Life is better in flip-flops”, “Summertime and the living is easy”, “Summer- always on vacation!” and, “I run on island time.” But summer, (being an equal-in-length season to fall, winter and spring,) seems to press on our expectations of having fun, in all, new ways.
I am not sure about you, but I think no matter the season, and especially in summer, life is a blend of everything above. This summer, we had the opportunity to spend time with both sides of our family. We were adorned with love from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. What a gift! I was able to attend two, endearing friends’ weddings and see friends I have missed so deeply: Friends that don’t miss a beat even when years have passed since seeing one another. This kind of enduring friendship is an incredible soul-filler. I was able to have a few nights, sans kids, with just my husband. It was practically unbelievable how restful this was!! I was able to enjoy watching our daughters dance in the backyard, be with friends, hone new skills like painting, skateboarding, running 5K’s and play volleyball. I delighted in camping the coast of Big Sur and El Capitan Canyon. I treasured evening walks on our neighborhood beach, family bike rides, kayak picnics and ocean swims with my family too. I got to try my hand or both hands technically, at boxing- and watch out, I LOVE IT!! I listened to our daughters play together, watched as they danced together, observed as their legs grew longer and their faces matured and overheard kind, inquisitive talks they had with each other.
This summer, I caught the most tender tiny happenings of many magical moments. Like a caterpillar just emerging from a chrysalis, while our daughters observed. Or, catching our oldest daughter snap a selfie with all her sisters to make as her new screen saver for the school year. I saw one of our daughters dance through a blueberry field in utter bliss! And when I was giving the girls my annual start-of-school-mom-lecture (you know, the one that includes where to go if they need help, etc) they chimed, “Don’t worry mom, we will keep our eyes peeled for kids who may need a friend.” They beat me to it! Lip quiver. Again.
However amazing all of the above was, I also had plenty of moments of challenge. Balancing the four girls and their separate friend wants and activities is never easy and being a “Muber” (mother-Uber) is no joke! I worked to figure out a viable work schedule to maintain while balancing four being home. I worried as family members needed surgery or had emergencies. I dealt with an unexpected arrival of anxiety at the onset of summer and slowly, with self-compassion, time and ocean dips, put it to rest. I endured sibling chaos and watched Descendants 3 far too many times to count, just because all our daughters agreed to watch it and I just needed a break!!
There were times this summer where I laid awake at night thinking about the families separated at the border, the children who were without their parents, the school shootings, or the state of our environment across many platforms. I felt at a loss for how to speak to any of things if/when our kids brought them up.
There were times this summer that I felt overwhelmed, sad, frustrated and tired. But this is life. All of it. And mixed together, it makes for a wild summer smoothie, messy and full of all things colorful and nutrient-packed for the heart.
So, I don’t know about you, but I kind of want to pull the sheet over my head and hide from the ominous school schedules, the meeting requests already piling in, the teacher communications and school updates, the coach’s new expectations and time changes for practice…. all of it. Because the very sweetest thing about summer was simply the time to just be with my family without so many competing pieces to navigate. Summer gives us a little bit more time to show love in a present way. We don’t have to be in a magical place far away to gain that. We can even glean it on the end of our street; inside the fog bank.
So, wherever you are at as summer ends and school begins, the season is changing and so have we. Here’s to a beautiful start to a new season and for the sweet droplets of meaningful memories we all made in the time we were gifted this summer.