I remember Summer vacations as a child: sleeping until noon, watching movies at the drive-in, swimming, and biking, and the ever-present smell of sunscreen on everything in the house. I'm certain I have always loved Summer, even as a toddler, but I can't remember the reasons why.
That is, until I had children of my own.
Toddlers are not known for their ability to think rationally. Too young to appreciate the finer things in life, young children have their own ideas about Summer fun. And as is the case with most opinions expressed by toddlers, they can appear quite confusing to parents.
- Sunglasses. But only the blue pair with the sharks on the frames, but not the new ones (those are too new, too shiny, and far too accessible). It has to be the pair that belongs to a sibling, preferably the ones they are happily wearing at that exact moment and only on days when the sun is so glaringly hot and bright that it is melting the eyeballs from the toddler's sockets (or so he would have you believe), and if he doesn't get the correct pair of sunglasses right this very minute he shall clearly die. And of course, they must always be worn upside down for approximately 45 seconds before they are tossed to the ground. No questions asked.
- Open windows. Nothing says toddler logic quite like rolling down the car window in 105-degree heat and then complaining about how hot it is in the car. Except maybe the fact that the air-conditioning, which must be on full blast to counter the sweltering heat pouring in from the open window, is too loud or too cold or too tickly. It's a little like walking a tightrope, except with no net, the crowd jeering the entire time, and someone throwing half-chewed popcorn at the back of your head.
- Staying up late. While late nights are often associated with long, luxurious Summer days, toddlers take it to another level. These miniature humans are dependent on the sun like reverse vampires, and as the days get longer, their sleep cycles get shorter and shorter until eventually you find them stumbling aimlessly through the house and waking at dawn to howl at the moon. Sure, missing an hour or two of sleep every once in a while can be fun for kids, but after three months, it feels more like a form of slow torture.
- Popsicles. Have you ever wondered what the best flavor of Popsicle is? Turns out, toddlers are born with an innate understanding of this age-old question: the best flavor of Popsicle is the one they almost chose, but then changed their mind about at the last minute to pick a different one. Of course, they won't realize this until they're halfway through their current selection and must now wait for it to melt, sticky drip by sticky drip, onto their hands before they head back to the freezer to correct their grievous mistake. Bonus points if they wipe their hands on the walls on the way over.
- Going barefoot. Toddlers love nothing more than digging their heels in on a disagreement, especially when it involves offending items of clothing. Once they have decided that they will no longer wear shoes (only a single sock and only on their left hand), no amount of sizzling sidewalks will dissuade them. They will simply screw up their face and stubbornly march, like a shaman over hot coals to the middle of the driveway where they will suddenly abandon their principles and scream at the top of their lungs for you to retrieve them. You will, of course, be barefoot and scald the bottom of your feet as you hop back toward the house. That's actually their favorite part.
- Reading. The long days and short nights mean more time for snuggling up and reading before bed. Sounds decadent and perfect for Summer, right? Well, while there are thousands of exciting adventure stories and beautiful picture books to choose from, my toddler once insisted on reading The Night Before Christmas, every night, several times a night, for the entire month of July. I can't tell if he was just delirious from too much sun or engaged in some elaborate troll, but he was quite amused.
- Water balloons. Have you ever noticed that no matter how many water balloons you fill up for your children, there are never enough? Someone is always disappointed, and the entire game eventually ends in tears. And one of the children, usually the toddler, will take to hoarding their share of the balloons into the corner of the yard and then hovering over them, muttering to himself like Golem over his ring. Although he may appear as though he's not enjoying himself, should you foolishly suggest that he throw out one of his precious possessions, he will turn the entire pile on you and then resent you for ruining his fun.
- Life jackets. Pool safety is obviously extremely important to parents and something that comes to mind often when I think of Summers with small children. My kids, on the other hand, have no interest in wearing the expensive life vests I purchased for them in the pool. No, they don't need floatation devices while swimming; that's what shivering parents (and suckers) are for. Life jackets are clearly better suited to be worn to the grocery store, on play dates to the park, and occasionally to bed. They are well-loved, very dry, and obviously worth every penny.
As far as I can tell, these are some of many reasons toddlers love Summer. You don't have to understand, but if you deny them any one of these things, I'm pretty sure they'll cut you.