Back in my teaching days we often referred to the dreaded “Summer Slide.” It was a term used to describe the learning loss and general academic regression that took place in the months between the end of one school year and the start of the next. Every teacher knew that the first several weeks (if not months) of a new school year would necessarily be dedicated to helping students revisit and relearn the material (and social behaviors) “learned” the previous spring and inevitably forgotten in the intervening months away from school.
One thing all parents (and most teachers) know is that even while academic skills diminish in the summer months, no child remains truly stagnant. Summer learning HAS occurred, even if that learning has not been of the pen-and-paper variety. Kids learn and grow by leaps and bounds over the course of a summer, and while that learning doesn’t always translate to improved test scores, the non-classroom growth is apparent and necessary for the formation of a WHOLE child, both in and out of the school setting.
As an adult who is no longer in school but still lives in a world guided by the rhythms of an academic calendar year, I see how quickly I, too, can fall victim to Summer Slide. Try as I do to fight it, my brain tends to take a vacation in the summer months. And every year as August spreads into September, as days shorten and temperatures cool and we get back into our usual routines, I begin to see how I have fallen into summer stagnation. Emotionally, spiritually, physically—I’m not quite where I was a few months ago.
As the summer of 2022 comes to an end, I’m trying to give myself the same Summer Slide grace I would give my students. I’m forgiving the areas that may have atrophied in the past few months while recognizing the subliminal growth that occurs in the context of a less-structured, less-attentive summer. And through this lens I can see some of the lessons (significant and superficial) I picked up over the summer.
When it comes to politics and religion, there are no neat and tidy boxes.
My last decade has been one long battle against my own black-and-white thinking. I’ve grown, but still love my categories. This is especially true with the BIG things like church denominations and political parties. Through observing the political landscape and changing church dynamics this summer I have come to understand that even “specific” categories can contain multitudes. (There are MANY ways to be a Democrat, or a Catholic, or even a Right-Leaning Conservative Christian Millennial Mother of Three). I am struggling to keep up with the ever-evolving boxes; I am resisting the temptation to assign ill-fitting labels to others, and seeing how labels I thought I carried may no longer fit me (not because I have changed, necessarily, but because all the boxes have new names). I’m learning (trying) to sit within this tension. I’m also learning to identify my own motivations: when is my comfortability with nuance necessary, and when has it morphed into an unhealthy ambivalence not prompted by altruism, but by laziness or a desire for perceived conformity.
I’m a fan of (light) speculative fiction.
I’ve always enjoyed a touch of the supernatural in my reading—whether in the form of time travel, or magical realism, or miracles, or an alternative history. I recently learned that these types of books fall under the umbrella of Speculative Fiction, which is broader than many sub-genres I don’t particularly enjoy (Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, etc.) and better describes my reading taste. Speculative Fiction can be tricky to describe, but now that I have a name, I know it when I see it and I am totally here for it.
Tongue-twisting is a unique skill.
Luke recently commented on Sully’s “crazy” ability to flip his tongue upside-down. I’d noticed Sully doing this and thought nothing of it. . . because I can do it, too, and sort of assumed everyone else could as well. I have since asked nearly everyone I know if they can flip their tongue, and Sully and I appear to be the only ones who can do it. I’m a little sad I lived 38 years of my life with a skill I had no idea was special.
I spend more time worrying about what other people think about an issue than worrying about the issue itself.
I was shocked by the reactions of many professing Christians to the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June: it troubled me to learn that many fellow believers do not share my views regarding the sanctity of the unborn life. In the days following the ruling I spent far too much time (internally) critiquing others’ opinions. That’s when God got a hold of me and began to convict me in this area: why did I care so much about others’ views on abortion? Why was I spending more time grieving someone’s opinion than the actual lives lost to abortion? This was a hard truth I needed to embrace, and it has transformed my perspective and prayer life regarding this particular hot-button issue (and others like it).
There are few things better than sharing a loved interest with my child.
This was the summer Charleston fell in love with all things Harry Potter, and it has enhanced my own HP love AND my love for my son. It is seriously so much fun to have something we can both get excited about. This summer we also experienced this merging of interests with his growing love for Adventures in Odyssey and the start of his journey with independently reading chapter books. He now recommends books for ME to read, and it is just the very best.
Don’t overthink it.
Spontaneity and I don’t get along. But I had two encounters with spontaneity this summer that have me changing my tune: the first was when we signed Charleston up for a week-long church camp just hours before the camp began, and it ended up being one of the best weeks of his summer. The other was my spur-of-the-moment decision to dash to the barbershop across the street one day during naptime (don’t worry, Luke was home with the kids) for a quickie cut I’d been agonizing over for more than a year. I don’t love the cut, but I don’t hate it either, and I do love the lack of ruminating that went into it!
I’m on board with the overalls trend.
I usually adhere to the fashion advice that if you wore it the first time, you must avoid it when the trend comes back around. I adored overalls in my teens and figured that meant I needed to stay away from them now. And maybe this is a trend I really should steer clear of, but I am now the proud owner of the most comfortable linen overalls ever and I’m not going back. I see many, many more pairs in my sartorial future.
Know your audience.
I put my foot in my mouth at a women’s group this summer. Again. I am a woman of strong opinions (as you likely know if you’ve spent more than two minutes on my website) and I have a hard time keeping them to myself. But not everyone is ready to hear my hard truths, and I am working on knowing when to speak up and when to keep my thoughts to myself. I know the key to discernment is remaining receptive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance as I embrace the posture of being quick to listen and slow to speak—always, and especially in groups with new acquaintances.
Lean into the season.
At the start of summer I was attempting to make June look just like May: same schedule, same amount of time with friends, same blogging and reading routines. It didn’t work out, and it left me feeling a little disoriented. Only when I allowed summer to be summer, with its later bedtimes and lack of substantive reading and shortage of Girls Nights Out, did summer settle into something enjoyable and restful—different from the rest of the year, but still welcome.
I’m kind of loving everything these days.
In early August I was standing on the beach with my family, toes wedged into the sand, icy waves crashing at my ankles, and I marveled aloud to Luke how I had never been a Beach Person but was loving this beach experience. Luke commented, “Yeah, I’ve noticed you’re kind of loving everything these days.” And he’s right: many things I once loathed have become new loves, from the beach to rain to early morning wakeups. I don’t always recognize this stranger that is taking over my late-thirties body, but I’m liking her lightheartedness and affability and I’m kind of hoping she sticks around.
You know how this works: now it is YOUR turn. Tell me a thing or two YOU learned this summer!