Just 18 childhood Summers

“We get 18 Summers with our children”, someone once told me when I was in the trenches of toddler mayhem, writing a thesis, and working long hours as a birth suite midwife never really knowing what time of day it was or what meal to prepare after a 12 hour night shift. Running on empty, after caring for others, trying to be the best mum, wife, friend, daughter and feeling guilty I did not enjoy the downtime, the simple pleasures because my mind was always fixated on too much to do, the mental load, and always looking ahead on the calendar.

Have you heard this saying, how do you feel when you speak these words?

For me, those words have stayed in my conscious mind, they have caused me to take stock at times, slow down and enjoy making memories in the outdoors with my family, but at other times, they have caused me immense guilt as I try to cram experiences into the end of each year which is always full of expectation and trying to keep two children entertained during the long school holidays whilst working.

I actually never knew the origin of these words until recently, a fictional book written by Michelle Cox & Rene Gutteridge, called “Just 18 Summers”. A story that follows four families dealing with change and the different life transitions that the majority of us will face at one time or another, a new baby, a death of spouse, children leaving the nest or getting married and the busyness of building a career. Each parent learning about guilt and grace, and when to hold on to their kids and when to let go. A beautiful read and reminder, we are in this together, what ever stage of the parenting journey you are at.

When I think of these words now a little older and wiser than when they were first spoken to me in what was a well intended, off the cuff comment, they have a little more meaning. I am now the mother of an almost 16 year who chooses whether to spend the weekends or Summer days with us. I cannot pinpoint when the change happened, his pull to hang with friends stronger than his family ties, that I am now the one pining for his attention and I feel like I am running out of time! I have built my career, I have written that thesis and now my focus is on how many down days I have left with my boy that at times once drove me to want to wish those days away.

So, with Summer now upon us, once again those words swirl to the front of mind and I have mixed emotions caught between losing another year not having holidays plans and what really matters especially after the year we have all had. I urge you not to waste time on guilt, remember not everyone gets time off in the holidays, and lets face it, travelling with small kids in toe can be stressful. Just get excited by the longer days of sunlight, focus on quality time not quantity, so easily we can forget how little we really need and how precious and fleeting time together is. Extend the bedtime and watch the stars, play in the pool, enjoy backyard BBQ’s, visit the beach, lay in a hammock and sing songs…. Let these words just be a reminder, we have more than 18 Summers with our children, we have every season in between, it’s just they only have 18 Summers of childhood.

A little poem I found that struck at the heart strings I think every parent should read:

I’ve only 18 Summers before I am a man,
So let me live them to the full and do everything that I can.
Let me climb those tree’s so I can touch the sky.
I’ll never know my limit’s unless you let me try!
Let me run barefoot across the fresh cut grass,
I’m living in the moment, for too soon the years will pass.
Let me dig in the dirt and have a water fight
Stay up past my bedtime while the sky’s still light.
Let me build a den and go hunting for bugs,
Go easy on the worry, but heavy on the hugs!
Let me build a fire, and camp out in a tent,
The years go so fast, you will wonder where they went.
Let me run around naked in the Summer air;
While I’m not embarrassed, while I just don’t care.
Have picnics in the park, and make castles in the sand,
Let me explore the world, so one day I will understand;
To live life in the moment, to live it wild and free.
To cherish every memory, to make them the best that they can be.
I’m not a child for long, so let me enjoy it while I can,
I’ve only 18 Summers before I become a man.
~ Lauren O’Grady
November 29, 2021 — Lauren Williams

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