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Copyright 2009-2010 by
Mary Brotherton
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Inside my Brain

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Saturday, August 03, 2002

I am a Summer Mom. This means that I am the mother to a rambunctious little boy for just a few months out of each year. He lives with his mother and step-father in a small town in Florida, about 45 minutes from Orlando. He lives with his father and me in Atlanta from late May until early August. This year, he is nearly ten years old. This child brings more baggage than he needs every year. He and his mother pack his bag with books that are never read, clothes that are never worn, shoes that will never fit, and prejudices that he should never have been introduced to in the first place. Each year, when we pick him up, it is like we are picking up a new person, because he has been away from our influence, our discipline, our way of living. Each year, he brings with him new opinions and new views of what he thinks is fair, what he thinks he deserves, and what he thinks would please his mother. It is frustrating to be the Summer Mom, and probably just as frustrating for his dad to know that for the present time, he can not be more than a summer dad and a telephone dad. Although, when his presence is needed, like last March, when this boy jumped from a swingset backwards and broke both arms in two places, Summer Dad drove there to be with him.

Each summer, we go through a trying transition period, when we re-introduce him to the city. This year we had an especially long transition period, but we managed to get through it, and were able to enjoy our time together. Sometimes it seems that he forgets everything we taught him the year before. He seems to have no clue about how to behave properly around strangers, or how important it is to look before crossing a busy street, or even a parking lot that does not seem to be so busy. He tells us that he forgets that we have neighbors who live directly below us, and that when he runs in our apartment, they can hear and feel his every step. Even his table manners had regressed, yet when his mother and half-sister came to get him at the end of his time with us, the little sister "caught on" readily. I have to wonder if my Summer Son has truly been forgetting everything, or if he simply was distracted, or if perhaps, he had some deeper agenda, that even he did not realize.

I know the influence that we mothers have on our sons. I believe that sometimes we say or do things in an unconscious way that our sons take into their hearts and minds and then process these ideas later, producing behaviors that are not necessarily in their best interests. Motherhood, no matter which season, no matter for how many months, is never easy. As the mother of my own, older sons, I know that motherhood never ends. Whether a boy is 8, 18, or 28, to his mother, he will always be her son, and each age brings its own challenges and joys.

Life as a Summer Mom has unique challenges that are not present to the full time mother. My Summer Son is with me when he does not have homework or school projects that need his attention, so I am sometimes a social director for him, too. This year, we made a point to see that he enjoyed many of Atlanta's sights. He visited the Georgia Dome, The Big Chicken, and Stone Mountain. He attended a special workshop at the Center for Puppetry Arts, and he Built his own Bear. Since we have families in both North and South Carolina, he was able to visit the highest elevation in the Southeast, as well as a wonderful Artisan Center. He told his mother, "When you have a family that lives in Atlanta, you can really live!"

We have the opportunity to expose him to many diverse activities, and lifestyles. We have the responsiblity of protecting him from his own innocence, too. His naive nature means that we have to be extra diligent in crowded areas, and his "forgetfulness" means that we must constantly remind him of some of the simplest things. But he is worth every ounce of energy we use. He brings us great joy and immense pleasure. He returns our love and is learning what it means to be a respectful human being.

Now that my Summer Son has returned to his home in Florida, our home in Atlanta seems very quiet and I have found myself looking for him. I miss his messiness and his noise, but mostly, I miss his hugs.