Summer Vacation is an Oxymoron by Rachel Nemhauser

In 24 hours my kids will officially be on Summer Vacation and it’s fair to say that I’m officially starting to panic.

I know, I know. Summer Vacation means sunny weather, popsicles, lazy days, trips to the beach and a reprieve from nightly homework battles. It means slower mornings and long, balmy evenings in the backyard. Spontaneous weekend getaways and quality family time.  Suntans.  Fruity drinks. Freckly noses. I get it, I really do.  I used to love summer and look forward to it all year long.  Now I would say I don’t so much “look forward to it” as “count down the minutes till school ends in a frantic combination of dread and denial’.Ok, that sounds dramatic, but it also pretty accurately describes how I feel right now.

In my house, Summer Vacation is an oxymoron. There is no vacationing for me over the summer.  Instead, there is a moderately tyrannical but incredibly charming 9 year old with developmental disabilities to supervise, entertain and support for the next several months (along with his older brother Isaac).  After many months of successful teamwork with the school I can’t help but even feel a secret sense of abandonment when we go our separate ways in June. I’m aware it’s irrational, but I thought we were in this together!

For me, Summer Vacation means my house is under siege as Nate fills his long, lazy days finding new ways to “decorate”.  Even short periods of quiet mean trouble is brewing and must be investigated. Summer means that although we have twice as many televisions as we do children, my boys still have battles over viewing choices.  With one of the  battle participants being largely nonverbal, these fights get loud, shrieky and physical almost immediately.  Summer means trying to fill long days and weeks with things to do when playdates, birthday invitations and sleepovers are almost nonexistent.  My kids are always around, usually bored, and often causing trouble.

I think what it really comes down to is that summer means spending a lot of time with my kids, and that’s not easy. Summer reminds me that I always envisioned wanting to spend loads of quality time with my children, and that my reality hasn’t really met my expectations.  I love my time with them, but I also love when they go away for a little while every day.  Nate’s disability ups the ante, making every day he’s not in school a little more intense, laborious and frustrating than you’d expect.  Every well  meaning mother who tells me how much they look forward to summertime unintentionally makes it a little worse by reminding me that we’re different.

The good news is that the first day of school is only a few months away.  Also, Nate looks exceptionally cute in a bathing suit and sun hat, and will still squeal unselfconsciously while water laps on his toes. That might not get me through the whole summer, but it definitely brightens any day.  I will spend my summer looking for all the ways my kids make me smile, and  I will try to steal some actual vacation when I get a chance.  Mostly, though, I’ll be counting down the days till September, when school starts again, panic dissipates, and I reclaim my peaceful daytime reprieve.

Have a great summer, and stay strong!



  • Translate