Pool trips and bike rides and those brightly colored ice pops that come in slender plastic packaging — summer has arrived.
Hall and Gainesville both wrapped up their school year this past week, and at my house, that means two little boys are free for the summer.
Last fall, the school year looked like an insurmountable mountain. I tried to sign our oldest up for the best of the bad options for schooling in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. And some days it felt like we were trying to hop on one foot while juggling and singing the ABCs at the same time.
There were days of virtual learning on his school-issued Chromebook. There were days when sending kids to school seemed a bad idea — but they went anyway.
There were days of quarantined learning from home. There were times we quarantined long enough it felt safe to allow others to step in and help. And there were times I was at my wit’s end trying to balance parenting and working — and feeling guilty and inadequate no matter what I prioritized.
But we made it. Our corner of the world is safer. The sunshine is bright. The summer is stretched out before us.
For the first time, we’re making the choice to keep the kids at home. We’re going to do our best to recreate the summers of our childhood.
I spent weeks with my grandparents when we’d swim in Lake Hartwell, make crafts using puff paint and run away from the playground “monster” squealing and giggling.
At home, we roamed the streets, playing games in the cul-de-sac and making a contest out of creatively jumping into the neighborhood pool.
Summers haven’t looked that way at my house. There have been later mornings but otherwise business as usual, dropping the kids off at day care and squeezing some fun into weekends in between chores.
This summer, that changes.
It’s a new season at my house. Summer, yes, but also parenting school-age kids who are putting down roots.
The weight of foster care and its visits and paperwork and uncertainty lifted a while ago, replaced with the worldwide weight of the pandemic. Now, there’s an indelible imprint of those weights, but they’re not holding us down anymore.
Everything feels a bit freer, a bit lighter. And we’re ready for it.
This summer, I expect days to start with cartoons, and then I hope to see our boys climbing over our fence to visit the neighbors and vice versa. One of my new favorite things has been watching them run out to the backyard when they hear the other kids outside playing.
I expect we’ll be providing snacks and lunches to extra kids and navigating the boundaries of how much supervision our boys need.
There will be trips to the pool and to the mountains, bike rides on the greenway and maybe even a summer blockbuster movie in a theater.
There will be time spent with the grandparents, where days are made of bubbles and my mom’s ukulele songs. There will be at least one beach trip.
There will be things I’ll miss while working at the office or even at home, but our boys will be growing in independence and confidence.
In seven years of parenting, this feels all new. It’s not just the summer stretched before us but their lives. Their lives with us in this house in this community, making friends that could last a lifetime and continuing to slowly but surely learn they are home. This is home. We are home.
Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.