The summer puzzle


School’s out for summer! Except when you are a grad student, or otherwise an academic researcher. For me, summer mostly means easier parking for lab meetings, and a shortage of subjects for experiments. If anything, I’m supposed to get more of my research done.

The yawning gulf of Phoebe’s summer vacation has been menacing me for months. “Sort out Phoebe’s summer plans” stubbornly stayed unchecked on my to-do list, day after day, week after week. Theo’s schedule seemed pretty uncomplicated; he’d just go to the same home daycare he’d been attending since he was an infant. This was also an option for Phoebe, as this was where she went after school and also a place she’d been going since she was an infant herself. However, she’d be the only school-aged kid there with just a couple of 3-year-olds. Plus Phoebe had expressed an interest in going back to the place where she’d gone for pre-K. They have a summer program, and she had some friends going.

I didn’t look forward to those double drop-offs and pick-ups. Even though both places were pretty close, with the time spent settling and collecting each child, the two-location solution gave even work-at-home days effectively an hour-plus commute, twice a day.

Then there were all the other enticing summer options. We’d already signed up Phoebe for karate camp at her dojo for the first full week of her vacation, and there was the option of a 2nd week at the end of August. Elsewhere were art camps (Phoebe loves art). Swimming lessons (Phoebe should learn to swim). Spanish camp (an appealing option). Camps for horseback-riding and gymnastics (Phoebe has been asking to do both of these activities).The number of options was dizzying, as was the thought of trying to get her to so many places. Not to mention that all these options were either expensive, and/or had really awkward hours. Plus it seemed like Phoebe should have some time just to enjoy the summer in an unstructured way. She loves to make projects for herself, and to play outside and look for rocks and bugs.

After weeks of hemming and hawing, trying to work this out in the blur surrounding my trip to China, I was considering just having Phoebe join Theo at the home daycare. Thus reducing the expense and the hassle, if making summer potentially less exciting (and social) for Phoebe.

Then our daycare provider broke the news to us that she would be closing her business. In two weeks. There had been a decline in enrollment, and it was looking like our kids would be the only ones left come the fall. What’s more, I’d already told her that I was looking to start Theo in a pre-K program in the fall, so he’d be going down to part-time. It wasn’t feasible for her to stay open, and she found a new full-time job.

In some ways this change made things a bit less complicated, if not exactly easier. We wouldn’t have to consider how our childcare choices would affect her income, or her feelings. (She’s been our main childcare provider for almost 6 years, and she’s been like family to us, given that our families live so far away.) She put us in touch with a couple of her friends with home daycares with openings, both of whom we’ve met and like, and who have interacted with our kids on things like joint daycare field trips and other meet-ups.

In the end, though, I thought it would be easier to just let Phoebe go to the place Phoebe wanted to go, and have Theo start pre-K earlier, thus having them both go to the same place. In deference to summer, I opted to have them in childcare only 3 days a week, giving us more time for things like seeing friends and summery fun. I picked Tuesday through Thursday at the center, leaving more options for long-weekend trips. I managed to get my lab meetings shifted to Wednesdays from the planned summer schedule of Fridays. I was going to start the kids in the summer program on Tuesday, July 10th, after the planned to my in-laws’ the week of the 4th of July.

I had solved the big puzzle. I’d made it all fit.

Then I remembered that I’d left out some pieces.

Like meetings with an undergrad for a summer project. Due to her other job schedule, we’d talked about meeting either Mondays or Fridays, starting in July. And that one lab meeting on Tuesday this week, the last meeting of the month with all 3 of the professors I work with. (John ended up taking both kids into his office.) Plus having the kids in childcare only 3 days a week leaves me only about 20 hours of week-day work time, even fewer on the weeks when I have to commute into Boston. And then there have already been sick days (Phoebe’s and mine) and business travel (John’s) and other unscheduled schedule conflicts.

Summer is great big jigsaw puzzle, but I’m pretty sure that the pieces aren’t all from the same box. Not all of the pieces fit together, not all of the gaps can be filled, and I’m still trying to figure out what the end picture will look like.

I think I’ll only have that figured out come fall.

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5 responses to “The summer puzzle

  1. Yeah. My daughter has the same problem with Audrey, grad students, research, driving, and unscheduled stuff. Pity you can’t phone Grama and ask for help. It looks to me as if you have done a good job of stretching the impossible to fit as far as possible.
    As for swimming lessons – total necessity, in my opinion. And a character builder. Audrey’s camp this week was swimming camp and she passed her deep water test on Tuesday. Her feet did not touch the ground as I walked her home, listening to a blow-by-blow account of how she is now allowed to jump off the diving platforms. Eep, thinks Grama.
    Wish you all the best of luck in keeping things tucked in.

  2. I like your last line: I think I’ll only have that figured out come fall. That’d be the theme of my life. You made me smile with your honesty on that one.

    FWIW it sounds like you have the summer schedule under control. I can see where it was quite an effort to do so. Crossing my fingers that it all works our smoothly for you.

  3. “The yawning gulf of Phoebe’s summer vacation.” Yup. That sounds about right.

  4. Augh. So much juggling. I feel for you. And empathize.

  5. It is really hard to find the right mix in summer for kids and adults. We always expect things to “settle,” but the nature of life is change.

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