Friday, June 22, 2007

The Longest Day of the Year

When the boys finally fell asleep last night, I laid on the couch, thinking, "This was the longest day of my life."

Suddenly, the meteorologist came on the news and announced, "Today was the longest day of your life."

Well, actually she said it was the longest day of the year. But close enough.

I had such high hopes for the summer. All the kids would be home. We'd to the pool everyday! Take science field trips!

I'd be Fun Mom. The one who gets all the way into the swimming pool, instead of acting like the earth would spin out of orbit if my ponytail, visor and sunglasses ensemble got wet.

After all, the boys aren't getting any younger. I only have so many summers left with them before I have to go back to work.

I definitely was not going to be the kind of mom who people look at and ask, "What's her problem?"

But since you asked, my problem is that I'm overwhelmed. Outnumbered. And overheated.

It all started at the swimming pool. I know: it's hard to feel sorry for someone who spent her day at water's edge. But I'd like you to at least try.

First, if you are a non-Midwesterner, imagine the hottest, muggiest day of your summer. Well, that's what every day is like in the heart of America. Chicagoans can back me up on this. Our daily humidity is 99.9 percent. It's the next step to actually being under water.

We had gone on a nature hike. My kids love nature hikes. The heat doesn't bother them whatsoever. But it bothers me a lot. Even in the winter, I am sweating most the time. So when we got to the pool, it looked like I was coming from another pool, where you swim with all your clothes on.

I was ready to go off the diving board like a 10-year-old kid. Do a total canonball where I cover my face and splash everyone on deck.

Or at least get my feet wet.

But there's a problem: J.J. wants nothing to do with the water. He's scared of it. It's not that he's afraid of drowning or sharks. It's that he's terrified of getting something on his shoes--which are lime green Crocs. He loves his shoes as much as Oprah Winfrey does. He wants to give a pair to everyone in the audience.

He won't take them off. He won't get them wet. So he sits in his stroller in the shade, fully clothed, like an old man. And with Old Man Heos by my side, it is hard to be Fun Mom to the other boys. I'm more like Mean Lifeguard Mom.

Since I'm not in the water with them, they can't go where the water is over their heads. Which is the only place they want to be. I'm always wheeling the old man over to them and giving the sign language for "Come here this instant." You know the one. Where you point at them and then point to your side without blinking your eyes.

"Didn't I tell you to stay on this side of the ropes?" I say.


"Well, where are you?"

"On the other side of the ropes."

I think I underestimate the power of my "you're in trouble" face because then they start crying. And I feel really bad. Even though it is not that hard to stay on the shallow side of the ropes.

After a while, Johnny wants to swim in the big pool. He's at that age where he thinks he's ready for Olympics, but in fact he struggles to swim across the pool. So J.J. and I stand there and watch him swim. Richie, meanwhile, wants to jump in and have me catch him, but I can't leave J.J. alone in the stroller. So he just has to stand there next to the pool.

Finally, we left the pool.

A side note: getting home from the pool takes some doing. Our car dies whenever we stop or even slowdown. Naturally, only cars driving 15 miles per hour are ever in front of us. And when the car stalls, it rolls downhill and the breaks don't work, so I have to jam it into park. Fast. Again: very nervewracking.

The car simply does not like the hot weather. And I can totally sympathize.

Excited to relax in our air conditioning after a long day of not swimming, I came home to find it broken.

This is after we spent almost $2,000 to fix it three days ago.

I called Justin and he arranged to have the repairman come. He was coming in half an hour. Two hours later, he called to say he'd be late.

We were waiting for him to come so that we could go to the grocery store. If we didn't make it to the store, we'd be eating a can of water chestnuts for dinner.

And Johnny had a baseball game we had to get back for.

And it was 91 degrees and getting hotter inside our house.

Anyway, to make a long story short, when Justin got home, If lost my cool.

"Call him and tell him we have places to be!" I said. "Why is this thing breaking after three days?"

And so forth. It was as if I thought Justin snuck home in the middle of the day, and broke the airconditioner with a sledgehammer--just to mess with me.

The guy finally came at 8 p.m.--after apparently having his own longest day of the year.

It turned out the inner coils were dirty.

By then, the sun was setting. The boys and I sat on the front stoop while the house cooled off.

Evening at last. Everybody made it home safe. Soon the boys were tucked in bed, trying, without fail, not to fall asleep.

On T.V., the meteorologist went on to say, "From here on out, the days will get shorter and shorter."

At first, I was like, "Thank God. There are simply too many hours in the day."

I know this feeling has been echoed through the years.

For instance, I was at a baby shower for my friend last weekend and her Grandma was talking about the early years of having kids.

She said, "I used to pray, 'Lord, just get me through until bedtime. Lord, just get me through until they start school."

But later she said, "They grow up so fast, don't they?"

After my initial relief that days were getting shorter, I started to feel sad. I remembered that my summers spent with the kids might be few. And while my swimming days might be over, seeing the boys smile after they tread water or blow bubbles is something I wouldn't trade it for the world.

While we were on our hike, J.J. took Richie's hand. Then Johnny took J.J.'s hand. And they walked through the woods. And I thought, "This is something I'm going to remember when I'm very old. And it is going to break my heart. Especially knowing that I spent half the time yelling at them to stay with me. There could be mountain lions up ahead."

I guess that's the paradox of motherhood. There are too many hours in the day, but not enough days in the years.


Anonymous mom said...

I love that one - just enough laughs and tears - good column one. Let me have JJ while you go to the pool sometimes!

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't prepared to cry. Thank you!

9:27 AM  

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