Thursday, July 09, 2009

Summertime and the livin' is...

You'd think summer would be a time of unmitigated fun. Lots and lots of pool time. Farmers markets. Perfect weather. The annual Maine trip. Lots of extra time to do kid stuff with fewer constraints.

It all sounds great, but the truth is that summer is becoming a time of deep melancholy. The school year means a predictable routine both with the kid around the house and with a reliable school pattern. The summer, however, means a break in patterns. Camp throws different schedules into the mix — especially when it comes to the weeks at the beginning and end of the summer. The kid's mom and I also shift to more of a shared schedule. And this is where the real problem occurs.

We generally work well on parenting and scheduling matters when the schedule is reliable. When transitions occur, our communication moves into less reliable territory. Moreover, the differences in how we approach parenting really come into play.

As the switch to a week-to-week schedule approached, I told Buttercup about it. She seemed genuinely surprised. She asked why we would change schedules, and I explained that it's what we had agreed upon a couple years ago. I also reminded her that we had done it last year. She accepted that, but she still seemed a little off.

That feeling has continued a bit over the past couple of weeks. As the switch to staying at her mom's has approached this week, she has had a few bedwetting incidents. She has also seemed needier and much more sensitive, in her own world in ways that can be both adorable and frustrating at the same time. Apparently, this is just another case where our feelings are in concert, however, because I too have been a roller coaster of emotions and stress.

It seems I've also hit the point where I can't shut off my parenting side at all. The house is lonely without the kid, no matter how many people are around. The thought of not having to get her ready for camp in the morning brings no solace. In fact, I will end up spending much of my "down" time wondering whether I'll be called on for a pool trip (good) or an emergency (bad). This feeling is nothing new, and I've written about it before. What seems different this year is the depth of it. In fact, I feel the time away from my role as dad even more this year than in previous years.

The bright sides are few. I will be busy at work and busy trying to get a handle on things at home again. I will also have a bit more time to enjoy adult time. For Buttercup, the bright side is of course that she gets more time with mom. I can't help feeling, though, that her surprise at and questions about the shift in schedules are a sign of a deeper reliance on something else.