Summer began the afternoon of June 7. Students were home, classrooms were packed and teachers were done with the last meeting of the academic year.
On June 8, I broke my foot.
I knew it the moment it happened. Being no stranger to injury, I realized the moment my ankle and foot shared the floor that it was not awesome, despite how much I tried to talk my swollen, aching appendage out of it.
I got The Boot June 10.
That Boot and I shared the summer together. I’ll admit I wasn’t the best patient, but The Boot wasn’t the best nurse, either. It slowed me down. It changed my plans. It hindered my driving ability. It didn’t match my cute summer sandals. It made me tired and grouchy. It made me hot.
And, like most people, I’m a big fan of summer.
The kids and I make grand plans for water parks, sleepovers, movie nights, trips to the lake, trips to museums, trips to see friends in the big city, trips for shopping … trips, trips, trips.
The point is, I’m a planner, and The Boot messed with my plans.
I became a planner the summer my oldest child turned 1. As soon as she was able to “do stuff,” we did. We would head out early in the morning on a simple adventure, make it home for lunch and then she would crash for naptime.
It was a great plan – a great system. I continued planning as both my sons were born and as our family grew up. While I will concede that I suffer from possible stir-crazy-syndrome, I will also admit that these field trips served many purposes.
For one, they wore out the children. My offspring were born with an abundance of energy, and as a young mom, one of my main goals was to use up all that energy.
Second, and more importantly, I loved watching the looks on their faces as they experienced something new. I loved watching their eyes widen in wonder. I loved giving them perspective.
It’s that perspective that I’ve dubbed their “other education.” We’ve spent many hours sounding out words, counting numbers and figuring out why things happen, but there are other things, many things, that can only be learned through experience.
Their other education is the reason for driving through New Orleans on a road trip or looking up the lyrics to “American Pie.” It’s the reason for watching every single Disney movie or for saving classics like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “The Breakfast Club” for just the right morning. It’s the reason for Aggie football games and summer camp.
The other education is a big deal, and I felt like this summer I was expelled from school. Because of my expulsion, we were home more often than not – just us in the backyard.
Somehow, we would have to redefine our plans, and I think we succeeded. We had friends over; we had campfires; we swam; we watched the chickens (yes, it’s THAT entertaining); we played baseball (well, they did); we watched movies, and for the first time ever, we slept in. Everyone developed their own routine, and we seemed to settle into this grown-up family.
Believe it or not, there were actually moments of quiet, of solitude, and real conversation. There were also moments of too much togetherness, but that’s a given.
During those moments, it felt so strange to see these kids I have mothered for 12 years function seemingly independently. They managed to feed, bathe, dress and entertain themselves. They didn’t seem to suffer from “stir-crazy-syndrome” like their mother and even made plans on their own for the family.
It struck me that these kids – these hoodlums as I call them – are becoming people. Real-live, honest-to-goodness people.
I’m out of The Boot just in time to set the alarms for early wake-up calls, to go school supply shopping and to attend the first teacher meetings. And while The Boot was a bummer for me, I guess it was a lesson in my “other education.”
As we embark on a shiny new school year for our academic education, I’m reminded that sometimes plans change. Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes backyard dinners are just what the doctor ordered.
Danielle Scroggins is a Decatur resident, Decatur High School graduate, teacher and mother of three. Life is Kids Stuff is a monthly column about kids, family and life in general.