Threats, bluffs, and tears

“You can’t take off naked.” Her head tilted back and nodded furiously in agreement.

“There’s no layer after that,” my coffee date laughed over her iced latte in empathy, “When it’s cold you can always put on more layers but there’s only so many you can take off before you hit naked.”

It was the first time I’ve been interviewed about my writing and I went from sweaty nervous wreck to a babbling vaudeville show within seconds. Lucky for me, she liked me and, lucky for her, I didn’t even do my Sally Fields impression. We covered many topics but one that we passionately bonded over is our great distaste for summer.

Every day, beginning in June, I check the weather forecast. Yet after July 1st, once the heat ascends, I procrastinate until after I drink my first coffee. I feel like Katniss getting picked for The Hunger Games. If it was a Magic 8 Ball, I would keep shaking my phone until the answer pleased me. Instead, I pack backpacks full of snacks and over prepare for any potential meltdown because, honestly, my summer tantrums are worse than the kids’ meltdowns.

I’ve never asked someone so often, in a nonsexual way, “What’s in your pocket?” And I’ve never asked it so harshly that someone has cried. That is, until that hot summer day.

Owen was smiling his mischievous smile, and looking downright nefarious after the botched haircut I gave him, but it wasn’t warming my heart. I know that smile. It either melts me or splits my sanity. In that moment my mentality was a glacier cracking into the ocean. I could hear the “goosh” as the penny dropped.

His head was still slick with the oil from the mobile lice removal clinic that had just left. He looked like Tommy, the 1920’s era English mobster, from Peaky Blinders.

He giggled and ran his guilty gallop around the corner pumping one arm only. It looked like a wounded turkey doing the hustle.

“Owen, I know you pooped! Ok, no scooter then!”
I hear the Scooby-Doo gasp of indignation, “NO! NOOO! Owen do scooter, Owen do scooter!”
“Then come lay down so I can change your pants!”
“Ok, p’iiine!!!” (Translation “fine”.)
He smirked and started to sneak away once again.
“Owen? WHAT is in your POCKET?”
His lower lip quivered. He was nabbed.

You see, any other parent wishes for their kids to go outside during the summer but I dread it like taxes. I know it’s coming but I don’t like to think about it if it can be helped. The heat, the light, the insects, my swollen joints, my aching body, sweating, people’s body odor, the grit in my shoes, blisters, heat rash, insomnia, road work, traffic, slathering sunscreen on the kids, the feel of sunscreen on my hands, changing them in and out again from swimsuits – shall I continue?

I commenced changing his diaper and discovered what was in his pocket. Oatmeal from that morning’s breakfast…at least I think it was.

I hate summer.

Yet my children love playing outside. So what’s a girl to do? That’s right, extortion.

“Owen, hands off your penis or no front yard.”
“Nora, change your underwear or no playground.”
“Owen, park then bath time.”
“We pick berries not noses. Tissue!”
“Stop licking the cat or no bike!”
“We change your diaper or no car ride…I mean it.”
“Brush your teeth or no play date.”
“Put your shoes on or no car wash.”

Then, there’s the other moments. Like tonight. They didn’t want the day to end, lice scare be damned, and they walked to bed as if it were the final steps to the gallows. I reminded them we would have fun tomorrow and produced their freshly washed stuffed animals. All was right with the world again for them. Then it happened.

I didn’t suddenly fall in love with summer but I remembered what this time of year meant. Less rushing, no school schedules, and, most importantly, they have more time with each other. I held my breath at the wondrous moment before me as if a unicorn just sat down in the room.

I watched as they crawled into bed, towards each other, clasped hands, and fell asleep facing one another.

Ok, summer, you’ve redeemed yourself for a moment.

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