We’re counting down the last days of summer at our house.
That’s standard fare for parents in August. This year, it’s particularly true, since our children haven’t been in a classroom since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, ending the previous school year a couple months early.
In my mind, they’ve been enjoying an endless summer. The weather’s been nice that whole time, and they had the freedom to do whatever they liked.
It turns out my perception might be completely wrong.
I asked my two middle daughters about their ideas of the summer ending. One actually snorted at the idea it was an endless summer. To her, it wasn’t summer at all, just a warm spring that never ended.
In her mind, summer means vacations to busy places. It means spending our weekeends going to and fro, enjoying little bits of nature or culture in nearby places. It means our annual trek to Chicago, filled with sightseeing, family fun and a little bit of watching baseball at Wrigley Field.
When it comes to those measures, it wasn’t summer at all. The pandemic wiped out everything that made summer feel special before the return to the scheduled nature of a school year.
I can hear the trolls now, calling them poor babies and telling my girls to suck it up. But in our family, we’re creatures of habit and slaves to our schedules. Everything’s predictable, which makes us feel very safe to our natural children and to the foster children placed in our care over the years.
We didn’t give them that stability this summer, though. They meandered through their days, living like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” except the weather’s been a little warmer every day. It’s a minor miracle they keep track of what day of the week it was, since every day looked like the one before. Instead of the safety of a schedule, we gave them the monotony of a pandemic.
In our efforts to protect our children during this crisis, I worry we may have damaged them too. If you thought children were too obsessed with their phones and devices, just wait to see what happens when they start interacting with non-family members for the first time in five months. We even gave them permission to learn off those devices at the end of the year.
They’re looking to us to tell them everything’s OK, when most parents can’t even agree on what OK looks like anymore.
I’ll give my children a break about wanting to rush them off to school. I want to try to salvage what’s left of the days before they return to the classroom.
We’ll try to use our weekends to go to and fro somewhere nearby, socially distanced of course. We’ll try to enjoy nature and culture. Chicago isn’t in the works, but maybe we can sneak in a virtual trip to Wrigley and watch some Cubs games together.
There’s still time to turn this endless summer into something worth remembering.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.