I had planned on writing a post about how to prepare for a long hot summer with little children. I had thought it might be helpful - tips on finding routines that work and ideas on how to keep little minds and hands busy to beat the boredom. I wanted to share with you ways to stay calm when you might feel challenged in this long, hot summer with children home.
But it's Sunday night and as I'm writing this, the back door is still open. The dark sky is streaked with threads of purple, like the stains of crushed plums on your lips or berry juice running down your wrist. The air is warm and quiet and honestly, summer doesn't feel anything like an itch right now. It doesn't feel like a chore to confront, like endless time to fill to keep little people amused and active. Actually, at this very minute, it's sort of feeling like the most perfect place to be and I want to capture it all like a snow globe, only one full of sunlight falling through the leaves on to scorched earth instead of snowflakes. I can't make preparing for summer, for this mood, for this stillness, into something practical at all. There is much amiss with the world. It is not perfect. But this mood I'm in? I want it to last. I want it to stay all summer. Ever after.
At the risk of sounding terribly in love... well, hands-down, I guess I am. I'm in love with this summer mood and my little family as our little world comes turns together on its axis every day. Cringe, by all means if you must. But I honestly can't turn this into a post about how to prepare for summer as if it's an ordeal, when really, you just need to step right into it. Let it wash over you. Fill yourself up. I'm not even talking about the heat. I just mean the feel of it.
We've not even done all that much. We've had day trips to our favourite National Trust places on weekends (Cliveden and Osterley Park are top of our list at the moment for their beauty, wildness and freedom and pockets of joy in nature), but mostly we're just easing into it each day. Early morning walks to the park before it gets too busy and too hot. Friday afternoon swims in the cool of the air-conditioned gym. Lunches on the deck in the shade or simply indoors. Dinosaur treasure hunts in the garden. Dot painting at the dining table. Simple, little things.
I don't mean to make it sound easy. But I'm learning to go with the flow. Last year, I didn't - I did camps and clubs for the boys because that's what everyone else did and I thought we should too. But really, I know now that all they want is home and I'm grateful I can be here with them while working on Our Story Time. And I am not afraid to make choices that don't sound like we're trying to keep up with everyone else. My boys are just fine. They seek out their own little adventures.
As it so happens we will spend a good amount of time travelling in August. We shall escape London, since the air has got so heavy that it hurts our heads and the pollution bounces right back off the hot pavements, staring hard and shiny right up in our faces. We will have long journeys to make, and no doubt whiney voices along the way, but come what may. We will make peace with the stress of airports and travel. We will gently rub the little legs that complain they're too tired to walk anymore. We will get to where we're headed. And when we do, we will breathe it all in.
So my advice for this summer?
Ditch the bucket-list. Go with the flow. Wake up early. Throw your doors open. Dip your bare toes on the grass or in an ice cold paddling pool. Let your kids catch you with the shower spray of the hose pipe. Give them strawberries for dinner. Don't tell them off too much. Book your tickets, don't miss your flight, but don't prepare too hard either. If you do, you might just miss out on the little things that will make memories. Things like falling out of a hammock and ending up with dried yellow leaves as pretty as tiny buttercups in your hair. Things like holding hands with your beloved as you walk across an ochre field. Things like watching your baby try and catch a pizza slice of sunlight off the floor and into his little clammy hands. Things like seeing your boy run wild through straw grass even though just five minutes before you were quite insistent that he stayed on the path and came home, right now.
Capture those moments. Don't stop looking.
Wishing you all a full summer of love.