I had such glorious plans for summer. How could they have gone so astray?
It all started with visions of fire pits and s’mores. I pictured us all standing around smiling, with nary a Wii console in sight. But … we don’t have a fire pit. And s’mores are overrated because the chocolate never really melts. Along with the s’mores, there was going to be daily devotions and fun Bible lessons involving sticky things like shaving cream and toothpaste, because children love sticky (see: s’mores).
I wish I could say we don’t have a Bible or toothpaste, but that would be a lie. We own both Bibles and toothpaste and shaving cream, but rarely were they wielded in my two sons’ direction, other than for brushing actual teeth, and even that was sort of hit or miss.
I did install a summer Bible study plan … in the first week of August. School started again the following week. So, time management was never my thing.
When I asked the kids what we did this summer, I asked a question to prepare them for the question I was sure they’d get when they got back to class: What did they do over the summer? The truth was, I couldn’t really remember. It was all a heat-induced haze.
Apparently, we went to the pool “like a LOT” and to a splash park “that was kind of broken” and to the store. There also was a trip to Indiana to visit friends and swim at a Lake Michigan beach.
“We did a lot of chores – a lot of ’em,” Henry said, complaining about the unbearable injustice of it all since summer is supposed to be about fun, not vacuuming.
But then he remembered with great delight. “We got that new Wii game! We played it all the time when you were working.” Ah, the Wii game. It was supposed to be better than other video games because they had to move around to play it. But as if following a script, it always ended in fighting and tears. I’d yell, “That’s it, turn it off!” They’d beg and plead for mercy because even though they hated each other’s guts, there was nothing better in the whole universe than playing Wii Star Wars.
This summer, we have been privy to some of the worst behaviors ever experienced in our household, and a lot of those quality moments were all mine. There is nothing like stomping to the bottom of the stairs and thundering up, “STOP YELLING RIGHT NOW! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? ARE YOU FERAL?”
The parenting wheels were getting wobbly and about to fall off. There was crying, and all humans in the house wondered if there was an end in sight. But it wasn’t summer or back to school or some other specific event that would make or break us. It was just … us.
We have hearts that mess up. All the time. Summertime just means it’s happening a lot more in our immediate vicinity. And in sweatier weather.
But here is what else we did this summer: Henry learned how to vacuum the whole upstairs, and Charlie learned how to properly mop the kitchen floor, and lo, the angels wept.
We stayed up really late and played Madden football with Dad on that horrible Wii, and now both my boys are ready for professional ball. At least, they think so. We also played about four hundred games of Life. I have to say, I still really hate that game. It’s depressing. Who wants to pay bills? As a game?
We fought and made up. Fought and made up. And repeat. And so on. And each time we did this, we looked in each other’s eyes and hugged. And even if the hug was that stiff-armed kind of annoyed submission, we still did it. We probably asked forgiveness as many times as we played Life.
Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense.
We lived and breathed together for another season. We fought over really stupid things, and then learned. We drove over eleven hours in a car together, and nobody argued. Not even once. I’m not really sure how that happened. I like to think it’s because of my super patient and soft-spoken parenting style, but I think it was more Jesus, Keebler, and Hoopla.
We prayed together pretty much every night. And when we didn’t, the world kept going, and we picked up again the next night.
We also got a new family member. One day the boys were suffering from boredom so badly they ended up making a house for the skinny gray cat who visits us every day. And I tell you, that cat was impressed. The cat has now moved in. This is a good sign, because who would willingly come into this mess unless there was a lot of redemption to be had here?
This summer we messed up, and made a mess, and kept doing the mess, with or without a sense of humor, but with God’s grace over it all.
And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.