Summer breaks are a sacred rite for teachers. They provoke feelings similar to the ones I got as a kid on the last day of school, but more significant — a rush of excitement, joy, triumph, and relief.
Driving home after that last school day in June, I remembered how I used to spend that time planning my summer, looking forward to the bands I would see, the places I would travel, the friends I would visit. This year my excitement was simpler, but bigger. I would go home and spend the entire summer with my son, Arden.
When I was furloughed from my job in June 2020, a part of me was excited to give everything I had to a new career and spend that sudden stretch of free time getting better at things I enjoyed. This summer was much more special, because that time off would be spent getting better at one thing … the only thing that really matters lately: being a dad.
It’s a deep experience waking up to the sight of your child, spending every moment of the day with that little person, watching them go to sleep and anticipating doing it all again, day after day. And it feels even more profound when that child relies on you for everything.
This summer, I’ve had time to discover my parenting style, its intricacies and contradictions. I’ve learned that routines should be kept, but not to be afraid to break them and learn to be resilient. I’ve learned that 9:30 is bed time, but if Arden is happy to play until 10:30, then let him play until he’s ready to sleep. I’ve learned that he prefers his own space, but will adapt to places we bring him. I’ve learned that each day holds something new.
Arden is almost 7 months old now and, even though he won’t, I will remember this period of my life forever. My son and I have become so incredibly close the last few months that I can’t help think about how different it will be when I am not home 40 hours a week. I feel very lucky to have had this time off to learn together every day.
My wife and I and Arden have got a lot to show for our summer of firsts. We went swimming at our favorite spots, spent a few nights at state parks, watched the fireworks on the Fourth, and enjoyed some concerts.
With each trip, we all become a little more flexible. Taking Arden out doesn’t seem like a hassle anymore, it feels like it’s always been this way. We’ve got a beach trip planned before the end of summer. I know it’ll be a hard adjustment to return to teaching. I’ll be distracted from anything that doesn’t involve Arden for a while, but I’m already looking forward to continuing our year of firsts.