We're winding up the school year this week, and already I'm starting to feel suffocated. Not by the heat. (Because there isn't any.) And not by over-scheduling. (Because we don't usually cram a whole lot into the summer months.)
It's a panicky sort of suffocation that I might even venture to call a depression. I tell my husband that I'm not so sure if I even like summer, and he's convinced that I'm deranged. (And then he offers to get groceries and make dinner. I love this man.)
Don't worry. I'm not going all Sylvia Plath on you. I just don't know what else to call it. But I wonder if this floundering melancholy is common among homeschool moms.
Here's the lowdown. We schedule and schedule our days from September to June, and our lives revolve around making some sense and order out of the curriculum, lessons and chores that seem to fill every waking moment. Then, on some arbitrary day in June we say, "Okay, folks. All done!" And the kids shriek and shout because that's what the release of tension does.
But like the cartoon we silently wonder, "Now what?" Guess we'll just walk right back in and keep on doing what we always do, even if it no longer revolves around memorizing presidents and reducing fractions.
I sometimes envy my public school friends who look forward to that last day of school. They know it means that they get to spend all summer with their kiddos and soak up every minute that they can before putting them back on the big yellow bus in September when they will, no doubt, dissolve in tears after a blissful three month holiday. (This is a completely accurate portrayal, I'm sure.)
I don't put my kids on the bus. (Sometimes I really want to.) They're home, not only during the summer, but during the fall, the winter and the spring. Every. Blessed. Season. Don't get me wrong. I love it. (I repeat this to myself from time to time as a mantra.) But I'm also aware that there isn't a marked change that occurs from one season to the next.
We're still all home, and we're still all spending the whole entire day together. Still.
So this is where my suffocation creeps in. Isn't there supposed to be a drastic shift from school days to summer days? Yes, it's great to be done grading math papers. And yes, I love sleeping in. But still.
This morning I began my day in the Psalms, which I'm learning is a good way to begin my summer days. I focus on Psalms 145-150, because that's where I want my heart to be. The Psalms of praise. I am created to praise, no matter the circumstances, and will be most true to myself when I am doing just that.
When I feel suffocated, I remind myself of the rhythm that comforts.
I read Psalms of praise. Even if I don't feel all praisy, I know my spirit is refreshed by the truth of His word. It's a good way to begin the day. (Especially when accompanied by a hot cup of tea.) I'm learning to observe other "sacred pauses" throughout the day, and have set my phone alarm to remind me to praise through the Psalms at intervals throughout the day.
I do the next thing. Years ago my mother-in-law taught me about Elisabeth Elliot's wise words. When I feel burdened with a weight that I can't describe, when I want to sit down and mope, when I want to stay in bed and wallow, I choose instead to do the next thing. Do that thing in front of me that needs to be done. That basket of laundry that needs to be folded? Fold it.
I choose small goals. This is similar to doing "the next thing." Rather than "clean the entire house today," I give myself a pat on the back for scouring the kitchen sink and wiping the milk that spilled in the fridge. I know that tackling the bathroom in one day is realistic. Organizing the garage is not.
I focus on the gifts. Even this morning, as I forced myself to list "the good," I soon found myself overwhelmed with the great number of gifts. God is so good to His people. I thought of my kids laughing as they jumped on the trampoline. I was grateful for their ability to pour their own bowls of cold cereal when I didn't feel like whipping up some impressive super mom organic breakfast. I thanked him for my husband, working hard to support six people.
I anticipate the good. I know there will be lots of fun adventures this summer. I look forward to camping, a family reunion, time with my grandparents, jaunts to the river and the second annual Cousins Camp. In the past I've used summer goals for our family (which we'll do again this year) and my own personal goals, too, like the pursuit of knowledge, health and beauty. These keep me grounded and a tad more sane.
I know I won't be in a fog for three months straight. It just kind of feels like it from time to time. So I remember the good. I cling to grace. I hold on to the truth. I remember where I've come from and I remember where I'm going. And I thank God that I'm His.
How do you respond to the summer months?