In just a few short days my kids are going to be done with 7th and 3rd grades, and all I can think is- holy shit, where did the year go? Holy shit- where did the last 13 years go? And also, what the hell are they going to do all summer? And, also, I’m really, really jealous of them. And, also, I haven’t even bought this year’s supply of sunscreen OR bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year. And also, I don’t think I have a bathing suit that isn’t stretched and faded to the point of being embarrassing. And also, I haven’t even cleaned out our beach bag from last summer yet. I shudder to think what I’ll find. A pound of sand? A half-eaten candy bar? A single water shoe? Some crab carcasses? Waterlogged magazines and books? Yes, probably all of that. And also, seriously, what are they going to do all summer? I mean, they are both signed up for sailing and camps here and there, but the days are long, and the potential for shenanigans is high, at least with my daughter. My son, I’m not so worried about- I can picture what he’ll be doing in his free time: read, lego, repeat. But my daughter… well, I’m sitting here letting my imagination run rampant.
The summer I was 13 my parents sent me to Mexico City to visit my friend, Erin. Erin was my next door neighbor when we lived in Panama. We were inseparable in 5th and 6th grade. But, she moved right before 7th grade; her lovely family replaced with one with two bratty kids that weren’t nearly as fun. I made some hard-earned babysitting money off of them but that’s all they were good for. They told me I smelled and that I needed to shave my legs (which was probably 100% accurate but made me hate them all the more). It was a long year without her. Also, I wasn’t too thrilled about moving to Alabama (after living in paradise for three years it seemed like a crappy hand to be dealt) so the Mexico trip was presented as a way to soften the blow.
I was only there a few weeks, but we did a lot. The things I remember most are: stealing her parent’s car and joy-riding around the city; meeting up with her older brother’s friends to drink “cokes” that made me feel giddy and nauseous; making homemade aloe face masks that left us rashy; visiting like 200 museums with mummies and pyramid replicas; spending a dusty, hot day at some Aztek ruin that I didn’t appreciate at all; staying up til all hours of the night watching highly inappropriate movies; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road heading to Ixtapa; eating tortillas hot out of the oven from roadside shacks; sneaking out and smoking cigarettes on the beach when her dad went to bed; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road on the way back from Ixtapa; and wishing her cute older brother would get back from wherever he was already (I had a mad crush and he was the first and only boy I’d ever kissed). He never showed, but that was still the best vacation I’d had in my young life.
So this is why my mind is going to all places crazy right now. I do not want to imagine my daughter driving, drinking, smoking or kissing this summer. Eh gahhh! But left to her own devices anything could happen, right? She is the same age I was that year and look how I spent my time! It was probably a good thing that I moved to Alabama after that and spent a miserable year friendless and mopey, listening to Elton John sing Sad Songs Say So Much and pining for my old life. It definitely tamed the wild side that Erin introduced me to. But what’s going to tame my girl’s wild side? Wait, does she have a wild side??!! Ugh… I don’t want her to find out. Not yet.
Our town isn’t nearly as exotic as Mexico, but there are similarities- there’s a beach for example, and boys, and cars. We even have a museum of sorts. And we do kinda buy into that free-range-kid philosophy to a degree. I like that both my kids have their independence and that they can take off on their bikes to meet friends at the general store, the beach, the playground, or any of the other local hangouts around town. I do trust that my daughter will make good choices. But we’re getting to the point where those good choices are going to be harder and harder to make. How much freedom do we give her? Enough to feel independent, but not enough to get into trouble? But what does that even mean? Here we are, entering into another phase of parenting and I am completely unprepared. I don’t even have bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year…