Herding Squirrels: The long dry season

Traci Arbios

For those of us in blended-family land, it’s been a long, long summer. I never exactly know how to feel about this particular season. My husband and I are the primary parents to our massive brood of kids; but come summer, visitation schedules change, culling our herd. How would I describe it?

By the school year’s end I am ready for his change. Not ready to say goodbye, per se; just ready for the hubbub of studying and finals to end and for the kids to laze and the sun to shine and watermelon to be had. But after a week or so, when everyone is sunburned and waterlogged and filled to contentment, it is time to say goodbye to my boys. The slight reduction of my cooking load and of my laundry tasks and of grocery lists are all enjoyed immensely for at least the first three days they’re gone.

I loll. I read. I make a point of doing absolutely nothing, hopefully in the sun, with some kind of flavored tea in a cool glass by my side. The birds tweet, the grass grows, the world around me seems fresh and new. Peaceful. Slower.

And then something weird happens. I don’t know whether it’s my head clearing from the lack of Axe fumes or my vision clearing after folding less laundry; eventually, I sense the slow creep of melancholy easing in. I’m sated and complete, knowing I’ve had my fun. I’ve relaxed a bit: I’m now officially ready for my boys to come home.

And it’s only day 4.

Over the ensuing two weeks, my senses dull; my interest in activities wanes. By day 14 I just want to crawl into bed and read…

…and then it hits me. What am I doing? I have to get ready! Because the boys are coming home soon! For a visit! And I am so overwhelmed with joy and anticipation that everything I say! Or do! Deserves exclamation points! And LOLs and :^) and life is good and filled with all good things like cotton candy and crackerjacks and baseball…

…and then they leave again. And I relax. And by about day 4…

I guess the word I’m searching for to describe my summer is “bipolar.” I’m excited for the summer; but I tire of it so quickly. And then my boys return, and I want time to slow _ like it does when they are away _ so I can enjoy the blips and glimpses of them as they move about with such purpose in their own teenage lives. And by the weekend’s close, I feel guilty cursing the perfectly fine weather and wishing it would rain instead.

This past summer, due to mixed schedules and overlapping vacations and general oddities, I saw my boys once in a 9-week period. I feel slightly broken, like some overly loved and rapidly discarded toy. Like, my brain just doesn’t work right.

I am completely and utterly out of balance.

Except! Except they come home tonight _ my sons _ they come home for good!… at least until next week, when my oldest goes off to his freshman year of college.

“Woe unto them who have children.” If that’s not the saying, it should be.