Yesterday I was hiking along a river with 12-year-old and 7-year-old daughters. We were about an hour from our home in rural Oregon, and someone told us there was a waterfall about half a mile away. It was probably some of the clearest water I've ever seen, almost bathwater clear, and it was a place we'd always talked about going to as a family, but never actually had the time. We were all in swimming suits and we jumped in pools along the way.
We chatted about who knows what, taking our time, just trying to get the most out of the summer. My wife and son were behind us, checking out a pool on the other side of the river that they thought looked interesting. We planned to meet up later at the van, drive back into town, and get some drive-thru.
Naturally, this outing doesn't sound like much, but we've been doing a lot of these little afternoon trips to different locations around Oregon this summer. When we haven't gone on family hikes, we've watched movies every night after dinner. We've shared almost every meal together, gone on walks as a family around our neighborhood, and rode bike rides across town. On the weekends, we almost always roast marshmallows in our backyard.
To contrast this with the summer of 2019—or as many summers as I can recall as a working father and husband—I've never had this kind of time to spend with my kids. Never. I work two jobs, one in education and another as a freelance writer. On a normal day, I'd get up around 5 AM to write, then drive 30 min to my university job, work until 6 PM or later, drive home, have dinner, get the kids to bed, and then maybe write some more before going to bed. My wife also works full-time in education, so most of our interactions have involved coordinating our lives so we can set sail in different directions, managing our work lives and our children's lives.
Weekends have always been filled with sports, or summer camps, or church activities, or shuttling kids to friends' houses. We'd often take a week off here or there to drive to visit Grandmas, aunts, and uncles, all in different states, rushing from one house to another to see everyone, and then rush home. All so I could get back to getting up before my children to rush into work and getting home with just enough time to share a meal and hassle them into bed.
But now, in the summer of 2021, I'm kind of in this strange middle zone. I'm still working from home for the time being, so there's no commute. The summer programs I usually run were reduced because of budget cuts, so I have more time to be with my kids than I've ever had in my nearly 15 years as a dad.
I have to admit, right now I'm kind of dreading sending them back to school. It seems so clear that life is going to go back to what it was before, and I feel a very urgent need to get the most out of this summer.
Don't get me wrong—the pandemic has been terrible. My wife spent just over three weeks in the hospital last October, three of those days in the ICU, and I've never been so afraid of losing the most wonderful person in my life. Having the kids learning from home while my wife and I worked from home was easily one of the most stressful experiences of my life. And all of this is just what I've gone through personally. It doesn't even touch on the financial hardships and the heartbreaking loss of life that literally millions of people have gone through in the past 18 months.
But right now, I feel like I have this opportunity to be with my kids before the madness of school, working endless hours to make ends meet, and extracurricular activities come kicking in my door again. I have this time to just hang out and chat with my three kids, listening to their dorky laughter as we play another round of UNO or as my 12-year-old daughter breaks into her hilarious impersonation of a squid.
So I'm doing everything I can to maximize it this time. I'm savoring it because I know that I might never have it again. We are doing all the hikes we've thought about but never done. We are watching all the movies we've talked about streaming but never had the time to actually stream. We are sharing all the meals, and all the laughs, and all the time that we've never had before.
And I must say, I'm loving it.
Clint Edwards is the creator of the daddy blog No Idea What I'm Doing. He is a parenting contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post. He has been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, and The View, and he is the author of three books on parenting. The most recent is Fatherish.
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