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Well, as you parents of school-age kids know, we are officially in the thick of summer vacation. For many, that means camps, family vacations, lazy days sitting poolside, watching the grass grow, kids wondering what they can do (didn't they complain all year that they wished summer would get here?), lots of outside time, sleeping in, and every other thing that comes with 10 weeks of freedom.

And then, there's the thirteen year old (or at least mine). Yes, that's the boy that I have hardly seen since I brought him home on the last day of school as he and his buddies reveled in the relief to finally escape the evil grips of middle school teachers.

I remember the summer after 7th grade. It was the first summer my mom would let us wander about town aimlessly. It was the first summer we were allowed to troll the streets of Dundee and Memorial Park at night as long as we were with a group of kids. It was the first summer I finally felt like freedom was in my grasp and surely with that freedom came invincibility, superior knowledge over all other human beings, and the beginnings of some experiences and lessons that have stuck with me to my 44th year. Oh, and yes, it was the summer of boys, boys, boys. My poor parents.

For my son, it all started that last day of school as three extra boys piled in the back of my car as I picked him up. I didn't mind that there were extras; I like that kids like to hang out at my house. It gives me the opportunity to get to know his friends better, and I think with the Saturday morning eggs and pancakes, they come to respect me as both my son's mother and as someone they don't want to disappoint (or at least I keep telling myself that.)

After snacking me out of house and home, the boys retreated to the basement where I could hear them laughing, talking, and I presume scouring the yearbook comparing notes on the people on the pages within. They then headed to the skate park for a few hours of skateboarding followed by a very brief return home for frozen pizzas and headed back out to go hang out at the park up the street where "a bunch of other kids" were also hanging out.

Sometime after 10 o'clock they came home and sat with me in the kitchen and told stories about what they did and who was there (yes, there were cute girls) and then retreated to the basement where I am not sure if they slept and exactly how many kids spent the night.

Late the next morning, I found four boys gathered around the kitchen table eating huge bowls of cereal. When they were done, they put their dishes in the sink, grabbed their boards and left for the rest of the day. The balance of the day into night was almost exactly the same as the previous night and was repeated at my house and other kids's houses for the next week. Seriously, I either had a spare kid or two at my house or no teens at all for an entire week. 

The second week of summer, he went to camp. Yes, getting to do all those fun things like learning photography, shooting guns, bonfires, fishing, and everything else that makes summer camp memorable. It is fair to say, once again, it was all about hanging out with his friends having nothing but fun.

When he returned, he had four days before leaving on a two week trip with his teenage boy cousins and my folks. First to Arizona and then on to England. One would think the kid might want to hang with us. Surely, he was going to miss us! But, the friends, the wandering of the neighborhood and the park, skating, sleep overs, and eating what seemed to be anything they could get their hands on started right back up.

As I write, he is trolling the streets of London with his cousins and having, I am sure, a trip of a lifetime. My parents told me they'd make the boys get up in the morning and do cultural stuff and then let them loose in the afternoons, so they (my folks) could nap. He's only contacted us twice, once to ask how to switch out the power converter and the other was to say he loves it there. 

He'll return to Omaha in early July. I am sure that will mean few sightings of him, lots of trips to the grocery for me so that I can feed my brood of teenage boys, and him making memories that make going back to school very tough. 

Honestly, I am okay with all of this. I'm actually jealous. The freedom of this time in a kid's life is so important to their growing up. In three years, he'll have a summer job, then college and then the real world.

Sometimes I feel like I'm being a bit lax in giving all this freedom, but then I think it's okay. He will get the freedom a kid deserves until he does something that makes me have to take it away. He's a good kid, who is open and honest about what he's doing, where he's going, and who he is with. When he's actually here, he takes the time to talk to me about just about everything. For as much as he is relishing the summer of being 13, I am too. Memories flood my brain with every story he tells making me sometimes wish I could do it all over again.

Mollie Protzman


Mollie is an Omaha native and a mom of two boys ages 13 and 8. She's been married for 20 years and spent most of those first 10 years living in various cities around the country. Before kids, she was in marketing communications and public relations and then stayed home with her boys for 11 years while doing freelance writing on the side. The day after her youngest one went to kindergarten, she just about went berserk with the quiet in the house and nothing constructiv ...

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