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Looking back on a summer well-spent

The last day of school hits, and the kids are set free. As parents, we breathe a sigh of relief. No more homework, packing lunches or waiting at the bus stop in the rain. Well, at least not for 10 more weeks.

We all have grand plans for how we are going to spend the summer. The kids are going to stay up late, play Xbox all day and book as many sleepovers as possible. The moms probably want to get organized and clean out a closet or two, while the dads are just happy they don’t have to drive the morning carpool and can sleep in a little longer.

So as the weeks pass and we get organized and sleep late, something happens to our children. They find their way by growing and learning. One of mine learned how to make an omelet. Not a big feat, but definitely a task he needed to learn if he was going to eat something other than cereal in the morning. Making breakfast was not on my “to do” list this summer.

Some kids join clubs or leadership groups. Most kids stay active in some way. As parents, we just enjoy the sweet sounds of summer. We relax one day at a time.

But what have we really accomplished? With the new school year looming just a few days away, I look back at these last weeks and realize that my children have managed to make it through another summer of museum trips, family reunions and the dreaded chore list. I didn’t get all my closets cleaned out. Nor did I organize my craft center. I am not even sure I did anything important.

But what I am sure of is my children have suddenly grown up. I turned around, and they put another summer under their belt. They have gained the experiences of another lazy vacation filled with self-reliance and advocacy. This summer, my daughter went from walking one dog to starting her own dog business. My sons went from being hungry to learning to cook. They have managed to expand their horizons and become young adults.

While many of us do not achieve the summer goals we set, we sure say we did. It is always fun to talk to other parents about their summers. Nothing like a good boast about labeling their pantry shelves to get me smiling. I know the truth. I had grand plans too. We exaggerate and add just enough drama to make our story believable. Not me, though. My teenagers immediately did everything I asked them (gasp!), they never talked back (double gasp!), and I did not have to cook once (happy face!).

So as I prepare my children for another school year, I cross my fingers that their summer experiences have made them successful, independent learners. I look forward to the last day of school to do it all over again. Maybe next summer, I will even make them breakfast.

Colleen Malloy-Cagnassola writes about teens and advocates for children with special needs. Visit her new blog at