We have a rule in our house during the summer: No one talks about the date. We barely even talk about the day of the week. And we certainly do not countdown weeks until September.
For most of the year, I am oriented to time like I am to direction when I am driving or walking. But from June through August, I live blissfully unaware of the passage of days. Which is why I stare blankly and look confused on the off chance that I have to write a check during the summer. What month is it anyway?
For me this willful disillusionment is simple: I only have 18 summers with my boys, and I’m not about to rush any of them.
Okay, so maybe I wanted to rush some of the summers when the boys were little and it was up to only me to keep them entertained. You can look back at old columns and keep me honest about that. Back then, when no one could make their own lunch or tie their own shoes, I secretly counted the days in August every time someone said, “We’re bored,” or, “I’m hungry.”
But these days, my kids, ages 16, 14 and 10, are actually fun. They go sailing and kayaking. They hike mountains and don’t complain. They sit on the porch and make jokes about memes online. We go to restaurants and talk about real things. They let me tag along when they go kneeboarding. And sometimes, if I’m lucky, they invite me to play games like Balderdash with them and their friends.
The weird thing about all of this is that at exactly the moment when my children became less work and more fun, I became aware that our summers together are not indefinite. Ford will be a junior in September, and Owen will be a freshman. I don’t like to think about that. In some amount of summers (it’s too painful to count), I will be taking them to college, not watching them sail on the lake.
But I can’t go there. Not yet.
All of this is why I get annoyed when stores promote Back-to-School sales in June. Can’t you let us have our summer first? I imagine teachers must feel the same way. But the biggest transgression by far was something I saw last week: Halloween displays at the grocery store on August 1. Yes, August 1. Now we have skipped right past Back-to-School and straight to Halloween. Unless, of course, the Back-to-School display was in May while students were still taking exams.
We all hate the holiday creep (get ready for Christmas displays in September), but I think parents of older kids in particular resent the forced acceleration of time. On Facebook, we posts pictures of our children from years ago with a note like “Where has the time gone?” or “Slow down time, please.” Meanwhile, the local grocery store is packing away the summer sand buckets and shovels and bringing out pumpkins for display — in August.
The worst part is that all of this creep is meant to secure more of your dollars. No store wants to take a chance on you seeing Halloween’s offerings at another location first and spending your money there. So they try to beat each other to your wallet, while you’re just trying to enjoy summer with your family.
Even Black Friday, an event which seems bound to one specific day (hence the name), has tried to creep forward. If retailers can get your money on Black Friday, why not try for the day before that, too? In a Time article in 2013, Martha White wrote, “[R]etailers twisted themselves in knots trying to come up with a catchy term for the day before Black Friday, when a handful of the nation’s biggest chains kicked off their Black Friday sales. Black Friday Eve? Black Thursday? We used to just call it ‘Thanksgiving’.”
And we used to call August summer, not Halloween.
I mean, who is buying this Halloween candy in August and not eating it until October anyway? I can’t buy Halloween candy even a week in advance and not eat all of it before October 31. Those bags of chocolate would not stand a chance in my closet for 3 months. And it’s not different candy either. It’s just regular Hershey’s in a Halloween wrapper.
Maybe if we all stop buying into this, the stores will quit doing it. Because there is no “slow down” button on life, despite what we ask for on Facebook when we post our baby’s picture. But if there was in fact a way to package that and sell it to us, the retailers would. And we’d buy it — probably three months early.