Summer’s Second Half

Ryan and Riley in the pool
Ryan and Riley enjoying the pool

The question came up the other day, for the first time since school let out.

“Dad, is summer more than halfway over?” Ryan asked.

Last summer, and probably the few summers before that, this was a frequent question. We suspect it had to do with Ryan’s nerves about changing schools, but also his general need to plan everything out and stick to a schedule.

We counted the weeks gone by, and the weeks left, and realized we were just about to hit the halfway point. Ryan accepted this, glad that we were still in the summer’s first half. Thursday, he asked again. Recalling the math, I told him that as of that day, we were now in summer’s second half.

“Aww man, that means there’s less time left until school starts than there has been since school ended!” he protested.

Ryan can get easily fixated on times. He sometimes spends more time arguing about say, running an errand, than it actually takes to run said errand. After, he’s usually contrite, offering some sort of “I don’t know why I did that.”

I have to say, though, this summer has gone pretty well, all things considered. Even though Ryan is facing another school change (as is Riley this time around) the anxiety level is definitely lower than it was a year ago. There have been fewer outbursts. And though she still has to negotiate with him to the point of exhaustion, Veronica reports than on their days off together, he has begun to tolerate things like trips to the grocery.

Given all this, I prefer to look at the glass as half-full. There’s still a lot of summer left for us to enjoy, including a family vacation week. We’ve settled into a kind of groove this summer, and though there are always bumps on the road, things are more even-keeled than they were at this time last year.

The picture at the top of this post sums things up pretty well, in my opinion. I took it last week, during a visit to my parents’ house. We often have to coax Ryan off his computer or iPad to come outside, join the family and enjoy the pool on these visits. He usually protests. There is negotiation involved. Negotiation sometimes escalates to something more difficult. We always allow him time to do his preferred activities, but we will not allow him to spend the entire day inside at the expense of visiting with family.

Last week, he came outside with relatively little fight. He and Riley were soon in the pool — and annoying the heck out of each other. Yelling, fighting, carrying on after various games were tried and abandoned because of disagreements or because they became too aggressive.

Veronica and I were losing patience. My parents were rolling their eyes.

Things calmed down short of becoming truly ugly. In the end, Ryan stayed outside playing with his sister for several hours. In the middle of all that, I took a few snapshots. In them, you see nothing but calm, a typical summer scene. Two kids, enjoying the water, seemingly in peace.

In reality they were yelling, fighting, splashing each other. But a picture doesn’t show that. It captures a moment in time, a moment of calm. It is truly the “bigger picture,” because having Ryan outside, engaged with the family for hours, was worth the arguing and the bickering that came with it — if not in the moment, than definitely in the long run.

When I look back on this picture, I’ll see the calm. I’ll see my kids enjoying each others’ company in the comforts of my childhood home. I won’t remember all the drama that came with it.

I only hope that, by the time this summer is over, we’ll have made many more such memories.

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