The school-to-summer transition always is a strange time.
May and June, like the holiday period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, always is a crazy period in our lives. Inevitably, we’re dragging the kids to the finish line for school, tired and weary ourselves from getting up early and going to bed late. Meanwhile, all the end-of-year activities jam the calendar, leaving us to rush from one place to the next at a more chaotic pace than usual.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Alexandria. My daughters are up the hill, dancing in the first of two performances of “Grease.” Ben is in New York, performing in the matinee and evening “Billy Elliot.” Jill is in Seattle at her conference. And Nicholas is in North Carolina with his other family and his girlfriend.
For the first time, it looks like our family won’t be able to take an extended summer vacation. As the kids get older, and activities become even more diverse, it’s becoming more and more difficult to string a week of days together that everyone can be together.
This is a transitional period in our lives as a family, a cycle that every nuclear unit goes through to a certain extent. It has been extremely difficult for Jill, much more so than for me, because I find transitions and changes generally come easily. For Jill, this time of year is doubly hard because of the work/family conflict caused by her conference and the recital always falling on the same weekend.
Despite our best efforts, cloning is not something we’ve managed to master.
At times like this, it’s hard to imagine that we’ve lived in Northern Virginia for 10 years, that my kids really were 3, 3, 4, and 8 when we moved here.
This year, more than any other, I’ve been aware of that transition, which is one reason I’ve been hanging around the auditorium where the “Grease” dress rehearsals took place. Normally, I can’t wait to get out, to the point where my kids have perfected the tuck and roll as the van hits the parking lot.
But this year is different. It likely will be Kate’s last year to dance; she’s planning to play field hockey starting this fall when she enters high school. Over the last few months, her enthusiasm for dance has waned. You can see she wants something different.
Emma, on the other hand, has really stepped it up. If anything, it’s another part of her emergence from the wide shadow cast by Ben and Kate, another example of how she is growing into her own.
Watching the girls and their peers, you can see transitions occurring for other families, too. Some are getting ready to go to college, like Nicholas. Others, the ones you remember from grade school, are driving themselves to the theatre.
Little kids — fortunately I’m seeing a lot more boys this year — are dressed up in their costumes and don’t want to leave. Their parents, having not been through the drill before, can’t wait to go home.