This is the time of year that you tend to see lots of posts on parenting blogs about summer vacation, summer fun, what to do with the kids during the summer, day camps, sleep-away camps, being done with school, family trips, etc. Things are significantly different for my household, because summers look much like the rest of the year for my family’s activities. This is driven primarily by the nature of what I do for a living, and less by the dictates of the school year, even as my preschooler transitions into Kindergarten this fall.
A good majority of Connecticut school districts hold their annual review meetings for students with IEPs during the period running from late spring to the end of the school year in June. These are the meetings where the student’s special education program for the coming year is proposed, and since we represent the parents of these students, we attend quite a few of these meetings (so-called PPT meetings) around this time. And then we spend most of our time between May and July filing requests for due process hearings with the State over our clients’ disputes with the school districts over their kids’ special education programs. And THEN we attend mediations that extend into the summer, not to mention what I call “straggler” PPT meetings that happen in July and August, in which the unhappy school employees are called in to work to form a skeleton-crew IEP team and handle whatever unfinished business from the previous school year needs to be completed.
The point is, summers are hella busy for this particular working mom. My “slow” time tends to happen sometime after Thanksgiving and conclude in late February or so, and in recent years, even the winter holidays have been crammed with unfinished work demands.
The only thing slightly different this summer is that my soon-to-be Kindergartener is attending a real summer camp for the first time. It’s run by the local YMCA, and she does archery and swimming, instead of playing dress-up in an air-conditioned classroom and skipping through a sprinkler on the daycare lawn. She even goes on field trips, riding 45 minutes on a big yellow school bus to go swim in a lake. This was terrifying – for me. I consulted with about 127 million people, including my niece/babysitter who is a certified lifeguard, before finally deciding that I would neither keep my four-year-old home on field trip days, nor ride behind the bus and stake the campers out at the lake. My kid is having so much fun, she is learning to swim, and shares exactly none of my fear of the water. This is good, very good.
But beyond summer camp and its provocation of my latent neuroticism over my child’s safety, things are busy, as usual. Reflecting on this, it occurred to me that I barely notice the changing of the seasons, since it is not my practice (and by extension, not my family’s practice) to stop what we are doing and take time to observe holidays and other annual signposts of the progress of time. I think that’s why, for a while, I was obsessed with pagan religions that revolve around our observations of the earth’s movements in relation to the sun, and the resulting seasons. It’s nice to have a reminder that our brief lives are measured in this cyclical fashion, giving us recurring reasons to feel grateful for our life-sustaining sun, and bestowing upon us a sense of order and expectation as the weather changes and our daily tasks transform from sowing the harvest to reaping it – even if only metaphorically, in this modern world.
And that brings me back to my own period of summer bounty. The ripe, metaphorical fruits of my labor are … more labor. The measure of success in practicing law seems to be how busy you are – more clients, more money, but this also means more work. I may be working in a once-solo practice that is expanding into a multi-attorney firm – a law firm start-up, if you will – but I guess you can’t really call me an entrepreneur. First of all, I am not the owner of this business; I’m a worker bee. Second, a true entrepreneur grows a business, working very hard and investing lots of time on the formation and development of the company, but eventually stepping back to let others do the work while the owner/founder profits somewhat more passively from the whole operation. Lawyers are generally paid for their time, and without some kind of sweet partner compensation model carefully engineered by those at the top of the food chain, lawyers who stay lawyers for the entirety of their working lives will generally toil away for the rest of their lives until they have enough money to stop.
I don’t say all this to be a total downer, or to complain bitterly that other folks get to relax in the summer while I work my ass off. I’m just reflecting on yet another reason why I often feel so out of step with my fellow mom community, nay, with the community at large. But with that said, I am willing to bet that my less-than-relaxing summers are not as uncommon as they may appear. I’m far from being the only person in the world whose workload seems to increase in the summer. It’s just that no one else seems to talk about it, because we have a tendency to talk about and pay attention to those markers of the seasons that give us comfort in their familiarity and remind us of where we stand in the passage of time, just like the adherents to those earth-based religions. And when I get caught up in dwelling on the differences between me and my peers (other moms, other lawyers, other people I live with here in my town, other bloggers), I try to remind myself that we also share many similarities.
Image credit: “It’s summer time 04” by Huhu Uet – Own work.