The dog had his legs crossed. His boy had taken to sleeping in.
“Please walk Jake,” I implored, as the boy, who’d dutifully walked him every morning before school but was still in his pj’s, instead watched a video.
I hated to harangue him, but the dog had to pee. It was the third morning of summer break and already I’d grown weary of sounding like a shrew.
I’m not wild about worrying, either.
A couple of days later my phone rang. An hour late.
“Hi, Mom,” he said.
“Hi, Hon. I thought you were gonna text me when you got there?”
“Don’t forget, next time, or I’ll come looking for you. And wow, that could get embarrassing,” I promised, as I issued my best evil-Mom laugh.
He laughed and made promises, too, that it would never happen again. Smart kid. Good plan. He had other plans, too. Big plans. And he needed cash to execute those plans, which meant he needed a job.
As it happened, I had maple trees springing up in my gutters, a bush eating my front door and weeds cropping up on the patio. So, we agreed that he would do yard work to earn some money. But other stuff cropped up, too, and the weeds continued to grow.
It was time for a talk. Reflecting on what a drag it was for us both to nag and be nagged is not my favorite way to begin a summer’s day – or a summer.
I’m a no-drama mama. It makes me feel icky. I had a hunch Noah didn’t enjoy it, either, and a peaceful summer is what I’m after, so I suggested we conjure a plan. We compromised that he’d walk Jake by 10, as long as he at least let him out first thing in the morning, and he decided which mornings he’d also tackle the yard work. It’s on the calendar.
So far, so good. I think he’s relieved. I know I am. Expectations were clarified, brainstorming happened and compromises were struck.
Now things get done and then the balance of the day is his to spend as he likes. After all, that’s what childhood summer days are for. Noah turns 15 next month. Those days are numbered. But I got a glimpse of one the other day.
Wednesday afternoon we stumbled upon LeRoy Oakes Nature Preserve in St. Charles, where my kids had never been before. This sweet spot is right out of a storybook. We admired the sturdy hardwoods and waded in Fersun creek. Holly followed a frog and Noah threw a few stones.
“I’m not leaving ’til I hit that rock,” Noah said, after we’d been there a while. He always did love a challenge.
He was barely knee-high when he hurled his first stone into his first creek. But now he’s big enough to man the mower. And in no time at all, he’ll be learning to drive. Which makes this summer – the last one before all of the other big “firsts,” which will eventually spirit my babies away from me – my absolute favorite.
And I’m gonna milk it for all it’s worth. Which means wading with them every chance I get.
And, instead of worrying about what’s getting trampled in my cramped closet when Holly and her buddy hide there, appreciating the fact that they still play hide-and-seek at all. Walkie-talkies in tow, they play a new version of an old game, “calling” each other when they’ve found suitable hiding spots. Counting is so yesterday, apparently. But Jake gives their positions away as he sniffs at the air, or at a foot not quite hidden behind a curtain.
I wonder if he recalls the last time Holly played with me, when his girl let him hide with her, too, his big red tail giving them both away? The memory makes my heart swell.
Noah hits the shower after finishing his chores, and Holly steals behind my chair in the kitchen as I type. Jake, fresh from his walk, follows close behind, hoping he’ll fit there, too. These are the days.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.