Paying Attention to Summer

Jackie Alvarez we love


Hello, Dearest,

Happy Summer. Wait, it’s summer already? That came up fast. I’m certainly not ready. I haven’t made plans to take advantage of the special warmer days and longer nights. I don’t know how I’m going to enjoy this summer.

I find solace in the words from an article we published in the summer 2013 issue of our magazine that starts, “I almost missed my daughter’s first summer.” Because sometimes it feels like summer goes by in such a whirlwind I barely get a handle on things, and then the days are already cooling down.

We’ll be talking about summer all month on the blog in ways we hope inspire you, give you some good ideas, and let you know that we’re all in it together.

I’m going to cut this letter short and let you guys glean from that article reminding me to take a deep breath.

Warmly,

Jackie Alvarez
Executive Managing Editor


I almost missed my daughter’s first summer. I was with her, we were at home together, but somehow, in my shroud of attentiveness, preoccupied with feedings and changings and tummy time, I failed to notice The Summer.

I orbited around her, as a planet does the sun, perfunctorily providing all the necessary elements to ensure her timely development. I planned our days in increments of fluid-ounce intake and plotted our weeks in growth curves. My self-esteem hinged upon how my daughter’s progress compared with the illustrated babies depicted in The Books, several of which I consulted daily. I read about sensory-stimulation, sensitive learning periods, invisible sunburns and mosquito-borne viruses. I made shape mazes and texture tunnels; I shunned toxic sunscreen and lethal bug spray. I shaded the windows in her bedroom to block out the bright sunlight and kept our house at a temperate 75, regardless of the outside temperature (or air-conditioning bill).

By August, I was burned-out, anxious and exhausted from straining against the rhythm of the natural world. My daughter gained, grew and moved as projected, but barely napped and seemed restless. I longed for a reprieve, but worried any lapse in assiduousness would result in her not reaching her full potential. My mind played a nervous-thought loop: Babies are impressionable and malleable and dependent: my daughter needs me. I must be on guard to protect her, nurture her, show her … be everything, know everything …

“Relax,” said my mother when I asked her advice. “Enjoy your summer.”

“Summer? Hello?!” I balked. “I have a baby!”

“The two are not mutually exclusive,” she said, amused. “Enjoy summer with her.”

Tired of the nagging fear of inadequacy that the books gave me, and desperate to silence the voice saying, you should be doing more, I took her advice and, with my daughter in tow, plunged into summer.

The air outside, sweet and heavy, surrounds us, and my daughter breathes a deep sigh. We venture down to the pond by our house, escorted by a cadence of crickets and frogs, hidden in tall grasses. We crouch amidst these noisemakers, my daughter’s eyes wide, her head cocked, listening. We brush our hands over the tops of the dry grass; gone to seed, it feels at once sharp and soft. The pond entices my daughter with its filmy stillness, a dark reflection of her and me, until she splashes through the wet surface and chortles in surprise. I hold her baby hands, wadded in concentration, as she dips a curved foot into the pond’s mucky bottom. She reaches for the dripping mud, wanting to feel it in her mouth. More sensory stimulation than she’s ever encountered.

By the time we head in, we’re both flushed and sweaty; she, asleep in my arms and I, calm and utterly refreshed.

~ Michelle Riddell

How do you want to enjoy summer with your children this year?

 


You can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to magazines@mops.org, and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.