I’ve always been a big fan of summer.
This is not a shocking revelation, I’m sure; lots of people love summer. Summer is all about freedom. Fewer rules, fewer schedules, fewer responsibilities. School is out; camp and vacations are in. You’ve heard of casual Fridays? My wife’s job had casual summers. And even though I work full time as a social worker, summers are a bit easier for me because it’s a lot easier to schedule home visits with families when their kids are out of school.
More importantly, summers are about family. Everyone has taken those road trips with their families at some point or another. My brothers and I were masters of the game of “I’m not touching you, you can’t get mad!” My son can’t talk yet, but it’s just a matter of time before I hear him asking, “Are we there yet?” Summer family vacations are about singing together and playing 20 Questions and getting on each others nerves. They’re about driving for 12 straight hours in traffic and torrential downpours because dad refuses to turn around and go home.1 They’re about seeing things you’ve never seen before, whether it’s the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, a Civil War reenactment at Gettysburg or the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Summer vacations are about making memories together.
All that being said, I’ve heard about many parents loving the fall because it means their kids are finally going back to school2. My son turned one this past June, so he’s still going to be home all day with my wife even after school is back in session. For me, school starting is not as happy an occasion. As I mentioned, part of my job includes making home visits, which have to be scheduled later in the afternoon or evening so I can see the children when they’re out of school.3 The other issue is that I work two other part time jobs at our local synagogue during the school year, which take up a lot of time on the weekend. Add on other tutoring appointments and I’m losing between six and eight hours each week that could be spent with my family. That may not sound like much over the course of a week, but if you add in naps and bedtimes, that’s a considerable chunk of time that could be spent watching my son’s constantly developing problem-solving and communication skills.
So why do it? I have a full time job which would be able to pay (most of) the bills, so why should I take on other work that’s going to cut into my time with my family so severely?
First of all, we do need the money. Even if we could pay the bills with just my salary, we need to move to a bigger apartment and still plan somewhat for the future so the extra income is handy. Second, I’ll admit that I do enjoy my extra jobs (most of the time, at least). They help me maintain a connection with our community and our religion. The biggest reason, though, has become about the message I’m sending my son. I want him to know that it’s possible to work – a lot – and still be there for your family. It’s possible to spend an entire day with families who need help and still be able to find the energy to be present and attentive to your own family’s needs. (It’s not easy, but it is possible.) Even if that concept might still be a bit too complex for him, there’s no question that he knows his father is paying attention to him as soon as he walks in the door. He may not be seeing his father quite as much because I’ll be working, but he’ll know that when I am there, I’m all his.
And that’s the most important thing.
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1. This is one of my wife’s stories.↩
2. I’m assuming that these parents never sent their kids to summer camp. Although I did love this commercial from a few years ago.↩
3. Yes, I’m still getting home by 6:30 or so most nights, but we try to have our son in bed around 8:00, so time with him is limited.↩