RachaelRachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

Our entire summer was a slow and wonderful slide into glorious late mornings, lots of sleep, and doing whatever we wanted during the unstructured days spread before us. After my daughters were born, I became a morning person by necessity. But that changes when school lets out and we are looking at two-plus months of summer vacation, open and free.

Our schedule began to shift when we started staying up later at night. My 7-year-old reads independently and enjoys a good book — or two or three — before bedtime. We let her stay up later and later as she progressed through the Ivy and Bean chapter book series.

“You’ve only got two chapters left,” I’d say. “Go ahead and finish your book if you want.”

We stayed outside to play and eat Popsicles and splash in the kiddie pool in the back yard. We stayed late at Six Flags, making the most of the season passes our in-laws gifted us. We watched movies in the living room and ate popcorn and pushed back against bedtime. My oldest daughter and I stayed out until midnight one night to catch a production of Beauty and the Beast at a popular outdoor theatre. Sometimes we weren’t doing anything in particular, just playing and losing track of time.

Of course, late nights have a domino effect. We began sleeping later in the mornings. It felt good to lie in bed with the cat stretched next to me. We stayed in our jammies, watched cartoons, played funny cat videos on YouTube, and didn’t make breakfast until people complained they were hungry. When we got around to making breakfast, it was good stuff like French toast or homemade bacon and egg sandwiches on English muffins. Who needs McDonald’s anyway?

On days when we wanted to go somewhere, it became harder to get moving and out the door on time. Who would have thought an 11 a.m. playdate was early? Six Flags opens relatively late at 10:30 a.m., but we had to hustle if we wanted to get there when the gates opened.

The summer weeks slipped past.

And then the S word.

It was time for school to resume.

Recovering From Summer

Two months is too short. The calendar says it is still summer until the autumnal equinox on September 23, but that hardly counts to school-aged children.

It’s time to curtail the late park outings and movies and lengthy bedtime reading sessions. No more long mornings spent assembling Lego Friends sets, puttering around on pbskids.org, and frying up strawberry pancakes in the kitchen.

It’s time to get back on a schedule. Time for me to rise at 6 a.m., get in some exercise, and make breakfast (with a cup of caffeinated tea, please). Now I sometimes have to wake the kids rather than allowing them to rise naturally when their bodies are fully rested, so I can get the grade-school-aged kid dressed and fed and walked down the street to school.

It can be a battle to get a small, school-weary body out of bed. I pull back covers, turn on lights, fling open the curtains, and make a few threats if needed. I can be heard calling through the house, “Stop lying on your bedroom floor in nothing but your underwear,” and “Brush your teeth and stop poking your sister.” And why do they always insist they have to use the bathroom one more time right at the moment when we need to walk out the door?

Soon, I’ll add preschool drop off for my younger daughter to our routine on some mornings.

My oldest was less excited about going back to school this year. By now, she knows school is not always fun. “I wish I was still on summer vacation,” she said.

I feel her pain. While it feels good to get back into a routine and be productive, my house is so … quiet.

In a few months, I’ll be wanting that extra sleep, wanting to not be a slave to the school schedule and homework. I’ll be wanting my oldest daughter home even though she can be a goofball and even though she squabbles with her little sister. I’ll be wanting to slide back into our laid-back summer schedule, doing fun things whenever we feel like it, packing up and leaving town to camp or visit family, knowing our neighbor will take care of the cat and mail.

Summer is freedom.

Summer is tranquility.

Summer is drinking tea in my jammies in the sunroom.

Summer is deciding on a whim to pack a picnic lunch and spend the day at that cool playground across town with the splash park feature.

Summer is letting my house-cleaning routine go to the dogs because I’m too busy having fun with my family.

Also, summer is over by our calendar.

It’s time to start recovering from summer. It’s time to dust off our alarm clocks. It’s time to put away all the camping gear piled in our basement and time to pack the kiddie pool back into the shed. It’s time to print some of our beach photos to put in the frames on our living room wall, like a memorial to summer. It’s time to begin thinking about apple picking and Halloween costumes and, before long, Christmas shopping.

Also, it’s the perfect time to start planning and dreaming about next summer. We’re thinking maybe a trip out east.

In the meantime, we’re counting the weeks until the next school break of any significance. Long live Christmas vacation.

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Category: Family Free Time

Tags: Back to school