This week Chris gifted me with a night away, just me, a chance to unwind without anyone needing something or expecting anything from me. For me, as a stay at home mom with a husband whose busiest work and travel schedule is during the summer, the months from June to August are both a blessing and a curse. I love spending time with our son, travelling to see family, playing Legos and board games, reading books, having mornings to cuddle instead of rushing out the door for school. I love having the ability to stay home and make these summers truly “breaks” from our normal schedule. I desperately want to be fully present every minute… I know that these summers are flying past me and I can’t get them back. Soon, summers will be spent shuttling him around to friends and activities. Soon, he won’t want mom as his best friend.
And so I want to be the mom who plays all day, constantly engaged with her child. I start the summer with plans: running track together in the morning (the boy wants to learn to run), cooking together, playing games, making crafts. I don’t plan every minute or every day, I know that is not realistic. But I do plan to be fully engaged each day, pouring into him and spending his precious few childhood summers together.
Last summer I needed to train over the summer, my first hundred in September meant many hot miles. My son spent much of his summer in camps so that I could find the time to run. But this summer he asked for less camps, more time at home, more time with me. I planned my race schedule to accommodate, racing early in the summer so that school-less weeks would be during taper or recovery, with miles scrapped together as I could find them. Even with my DNF at San Diego, and the impromptu redemption solo hundred a few weeks later, I kept my miles to times that impacted him the least.
But I am an introvert by nature, and time in my own head makes me the most settled, the most me. What starts as a bonding summer vacation soon leads to me pulling away, worn down by the unending togetherness that summer break brings. I feel suffocated by the constancy of our closeness, the never ending words, the always present neediness. I long for a few hours away, time to think, to run, to write. Time to be alone.
It breaks me to voice these thoughts out loud. I feel they make me a terrible mom, even though I know that is a lie. Each morning we cuddle when he wakes. We spend the day reading, playing board games or games he makes up, watching movies or reading books, doing chores together or running errands. I take him to fencing lessons, we walk the dog, and recently we run together. We spend much of our day side by side, and I desperately try not to look at my phone, or to snap too loudly for minor infractions. But I find my mind pulling away, my focus wandering. I get frustrated at what I am not doing: not training, not writing. And then I hate myself for not being more fully present, getting so lost in the things I’m missing that I miss the boy in front of me. Each day is a cycle of immense, unfathomable joy at cuddling and being and doing with him and an equally deep, desperate hole of needing space and quiet, solitude and me.
All week I have been looking forward to the opportunity to go to a hotel, have some time by myself, write, read, and sleep without a 7-year-old presence. It sounded like heaven, it got me through the long days. But it’s funny how when the time away finally arrives, it hurts as badly to leave as it does to stay. I crave this time in my head. I have dreamed of it, planned what I would write, how late I would read. And now here I am, sitting in this room, music of my own choosing playing softly, a blank screen blinking in front of me. And all I want is to be back with my boys, back at home sitting on the couch playing video games and eating pizza. All I want is to cuddle the younger boy at bedtime and take a nighttime stroll with the older one, chatting about our days.
My heart is in two pieces, one so firmly rooted in my family that I feel broken when I’m away, the other so desperately seeking my sense of “me” that I chafe under the daily-ness of home. I want the every day to be enough, the ins and outs of being home with my son, raising a family, caring for a household. I know my work with him is important, the most important thing I could do right now. The being there, being home, being present, is the best thing I can give our family right now. But I struggle with the desire to be more, to seek the extraordinary in running, in writing, in travel, in life.
And yet, summer is only a few short weeks. School is just around the corner, even if cooler temperatures are a distant dream for us here in Texas. I know that with school will come schedule and structure, earlier bedtimes and drop offs, hours where my son and I each go our own way. School is easier, I can be both me and a mom, a more unified and balanced whole. I am ready for school, even while my son insists he is not. Ready for the reprieve school hours will bring. But this is the last summer he will ever have as an almost second grader. We have four more summers before middle school, seven before high school, eleven summers before college and dorm rooms and moving out. Summers quickly go, never what we plan and never as “real” as I hope. Our summers together are slipping away before I can even learn how to properly hold them, sand running through my fingers. And as intensely as I anticipate school, I wish I could learn to keep summer close, and never let it go.