I’m counting this summer as our first true summer as a family. Last summer at this time, Nora was a not-yet mobile 9 month old and we were embarking on a truly scary change in our lives: moving from Minneapolis to our small town in Wisconsin. It was a summer of hard choices, moving boxes, saying difficult goodbyes, and too many long drives. We were exhausted.
Even if we hadn’t moved states, we spent too much time worrying about sunburns and dehydration and sugar consumption, not worrying enough about having fun. We were (still) new parents and we were terrified.
This summer has been a gift. During the past two months, I’ve worked part-time, which means I’ve spent more days with Nora and Aaron enjoying summer. Since we live in a small town with limited entertainment, we’ve centered our summer experience on simple things: picking rocks in our yards, walking around the block after dinner, and exploring our local parks. It might just be where she is developmentally and it might just be our small summer activities, but Nora has bloomed this summer, into a wild, brave outdoor girl.
She collects rocks and sticks, tries to sneak them inside the house. She picks at dandelions. She can name three types of birds on sight (robin, sparrow, and cardinal). She calls out to the bunnies she sees on our walks. She tromps confidently from our driveway to our neighbor’s house two doors down, to visit his dog.
She’s become a water baby. She can play forever in the kiddie pool, scooping water into cups and jars. Circling the four-foot pool, practicing saying “Excuse me” when she needs to pass by our feet. We play in the sprinklers, running back and forth while holding hands. She’s getting used to being sprinkled and enjoying it, rather than shying away.
She’s learned about the joys of so many summer foods: baby ice cream cones from the two ice cream shops nearby, grilled sweet corn, watermelon. If I peel it and chop it, Nora can finish a whole plum in ten minutes flat. She has a permanent stain on most of her clothes, from the juice of one fruit or another dribbling down her chin.
She’s become brave. She rides both the baby swings and the big kid swings. She’s just learned how to conquer the slides. At the park closest to our house, she slides down the largest slide with a slight look of fear. But as soon as she gets to the bottom, she yells, “Again!” The bump on her forehead, by the way, has been healing for weeks, after a nasty trip on our driveway.
This is the way that summer is supposed to be when you’re a family with a toddler – full of bumps and adventures, lazy afternoons and evenings outside. We’re learning to relax and savor every bug bite and ice cream cone, every small moment that drifts by.