“The days are long but the years are short.”
I don’t know the origin of this quote, but I hear it a lot since having kids. And I find myself thinking about it more and more — especially this summer, for some reason.
I think about the chores that summer brings.
Wake up and get the three of us ready to get in the car for camp. In that 90 minute span, I break up repeated battles over toys. I hear arguments over which snack will be packed for camp. I negotiate breakfast choices. I chase them down with sunscreen. I might manage, if I’m lucky, to make myself look presentable to the general public. And I herd, beg and plead them to move just a little faster so we’re not late. Again.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Just like almost every mom in almost every house.
I also think about the getaways that summer brings.
I get everyone packed. Five million items, it seems, just for a long weekend. I field questions, complaints and multiple song requests in the car for hours at a time. I arbitrate back seat fights while driving up front. I curse any and all highway construction that halts our progress.
Here’s the thing. I know — I know — amidst all of this summer activity, I’m looking at it all wrong. I’m thinking about the long days instead of the short years.
Do I want my kids to remember me rushing them to camp in a frenzy? Or do I want them to remember the fun they had there — the favorite craft they made, the friends in their class, the names of their counselors, the excitement of Pajama Day? Or, even better, the time we spent together recapping all of these things when they came home?
Do I want my kids to remember the frantic mood I was in trying to pack up the car for a road trip? Or do I want them to remember the time at our beach destination — the dolphins we saw, the ball we threw, the way we wrote our names in the sand with sticks?
The days are long. The fights. The requests. The tantrums. The errands. The laundry. Sometimes it’s like Groundhog Day.
But the years are short. Pieces of who my kids were one year ago are already gone, and I can’t get those pieces back.
Last summer, my daughter couldn’t say lawn mower. She said “shamon.” I have no idea why, but we loved it. A la vintage Michael Jackson.
Last summer, my son continued on his Thomas the Train bender. Every train memorized by name, lined up in its place and played with daily.
Now, my daughter announces the arrival of the lawn mower as the grass is cut without a hint of “shamon.” And the Thomas engines? Well, they are sitting in a bin, getting dusty, as ninjas and dragons take their place.
It’s already almost August. The summer clothes are moving to the sale racks in the stores, and the back-to-school marketing blitz is underway. We have done a lot this summer, with a few more adventures in store, but I can almost feel the beginning of summer’s end whispering over my shoulder. And that gives me pause.
The chores. The misadventures. The sibling argument arbitration. They are so very draining at times.
The days are long. Long indeed.
But they are all parts of a greater whole. What will my kids remember about the summer when they were five and three? Maybe nothing — perhaps they are too young. Maybe a fleeting snapshot in their mind. Or the photos I’ll keep. Or maybe, if I’m lucky, they’ll remember this summer as the one when they loved their backyard pirate pool. Or the summer they learned to play Marco Polo in the water. Or the summer they pretended to have dolphin races on their bicycles in the driveway.
After Labor Day, we’ll introduce kindergarten into our lives for my son. And my daughter will go to pre-school. For just over two hours every day, they’ll both be out of the house. Both of them.
The years are short.
And I can only hope that the chores, the arguments and the repetitive tasks of June, July and August will have amounted to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. That it becomes a page in the summer memories of their childhood. The page in their mental archives before they could swim on their own and before they went camping or chased fireflies — but when they simply knew that the summer was hot, and the pool was fabulous, and camp meant Italian Ices every Thursday.
And if they don’t remember, I will.