I only have one kid, so the idea that I could get burned out with parenting is laughable to most. In fact, Ive found people generally start off with a sketchy opinion of folks who have just one child, but thats another column.
Back in May, though, we were burning the candle at both ends when it came to extra-curricular activities. I didnt mean to get so overscheduled. First, there was guitar. Then we added baseball. Then a friend wanted Tyler to take tennis lessons with him after school. I tried to dissuade him, but it didnt work.
Just about every day, hed get off the bus at 4 p.m., race through homework, wolf something down in the car at 4:45 and off wed be to one practice or another, sometimes two back to back. At 9 p.m. or sometimes later, hed get home, shower and fall into bed, while I was barking orders behind him.
Tyler did all right with the schedule, I guess, but he wasnt really passionate about any of it. One night while driving somewhere, eating dinner in the car, I thought, Is this what I want the rest of our time to be like?
Hes 9 now, so hes got about nine more years of living here permanently. And really, probably only about four or five before hell pretend he doesnt know us. And since we do have just one kid, this is it, right?
If he wasnt passionate about any of the stuff we were doing, why were we doing it? I get that its good to expose kids to new experiences and people, but at what cost?
I missed the way things used to be. Watching television together, reading before bed, going on bike rides, eating a real dinner at a real table. Then again, maybe I was just being lazy. If I had three kids and each only did one activity, life would always be a whirlwind.
But I didnt have three kids. Or two. I had one. This one.
In June, the activities began to come to a close. First tennis, then baseball. By the end of June, school was letting out, and we were getting ready to go to the beach. July is one of my favorite track-outs. I try to work ahead so we can have a bit of a summer before he goes back to school at the end of July.
I had the question rolling around in my head of what I wanted him to remember, how I wanted my time with him to be, and I just decided to take July off from everythingfrom school, homework, guitar, tennis, baseball and any number of things wed been contemplating. I was done.
Weve read the first Harry Potter book and are working on the second, and I have to say the first movie was good fodder for a rainy day. Im getting pretty good at both Uno and Battleship. I used to cream him in air hockey, and now he gives me a real game.
The other night we went for a walk at dusk and came face to face with a young male deer, his antlers just beginning to bud. The deer was too young to be afraid. We stood silently looking at him, and him at us, for the longest time.
The other day we shared a large fry and caramel sundaes at McDonalds after bowling. Those sundaes are the best. Ive been getting those since I was a kid. No nuts.
On our bike rides, we stop and pet all the neighborhood dogs we know.
And Tylers finally learned the timing of how to catch a wave on the boogie board. And how to keep his mouth shut when grown-ups are stressed out; a flat tire on the way home from the beach taught him that.
Im still doing my extra-curricular stuff, though, which may not be fair. I have a water aerobics class I go to a few times a week, and he dutifully comes along, still too young still contemplate how funny we look in the water or maybe just too smart to openly make fun of us. Afterward, we do something he wants to do. We take turns. Sometimes, we both enjoy something during the course of the day, and thats pretty cool.
I like to think maybe hes learning some life lessons this summer. Maybe not. I dont know, really. I wonder if this summers been better for him or for me. I dont know the answer to that either. But I have a feeling well both remember it. And I dont feel a bit guilty about it.