So we're off to a rustic little mountain cabin for a relaxing weekend family getaway.
I ease onto I-526, ready for stress to melt away into the cooler temps and red clay ahead. The kids are packed into the back, DVD players freshly charged.
So, of course, my son's arm passes the invisible threshold between their seats.
Was it a brush, a pat, a direct hit? Whichever, so begins a 4-hour drive that makes me realize these kids seriously need to reconnect.
Because somehow when it's just us hiking along the Chattooga River the next day, the same girl who cannot allow her brother's arm to graze her seating area is twirling him around on piggyback down a trail.
Which makes me anxious for the coming summer.
My kids, a 4-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, spend much of the busy school year co-existing in parallel but often separate universes thanks to our many blessings of different friends and activities.
But now comes summer, a time to reconnect.
Summer means more down time, just the two of them forced to find something to do. Together.
Digging moats on the beach and catching critters at the park and splashing in the pool remain great equalizers of gender and age. Which they need.
Summer also is a time to reconnect beyond the family, with our neighborhood friends.
On our short suburban street alone, several elementary kids attend our district school, one is home-schooled and my daughter goes to a magnet school. On the streets near us, others go to Montessori schools and various private schools.
During the school year, we hardly see some of them at all.
But once summer hits, the neighborhood pool transforms into the great Welcome Center.
We meet up with all sorts of friends without planning to. Kids who barely remember each other form deafening games of cannonball and shark.
Perhaps this is one reason why swim teams are so popular here. They provide subdivision-wide reunions of kids and parents each summer.
Back when we moved into our house, we first connected with many of our neighbors in the
summer. That's when a man in a rusty old ice-cream truck still rumbled down every street, his sugary melody blaring.
Kids would stream out of houses like fire ants from a mound with dollar bills held high. Then they'd drip melting goo all over themselves until someone's parent pulled out a sprinkler so they could play together the rest of the day.
I loved it because it reminded me of my own summer memories.
My parents worked full-time, so I spent summers at the same day camp for several years where I'd reconnect with friends I didn't see the rest of the year.
I still remember my summer friends, Jenna and Paige, and how Paige broke her arm one year and had to wear this terrible cast all summer and how sorry I felt for her when an ant crawled inside it and bit her.
And I remember how the ice-cream truck came every afternoon in the Florida heat and how these boys kicked a toad to death in the grass and how it still makes me mad to this day.
So I'm starting to wonder what memories my children will form this summer.
And I wonder what lessons they'll learn from so much reconnecting.
Because once the heat drives them all inside, the kids begin to float from house to house, usually en masse, searching for a game that everyone can agree to play.
Ugly Dolls or American Girls?
Star Wars or Hot Wheels?
This creates great debates about whose house to play at and which games to select. These are tough decisions requiring discussion, debate and gnashing of teeth.
Which is why all this summer togetherness teaches huge life lessons about compromise and just plain getting along with different people.
Sometimes you get to be Anakin Skywalker, and sometimes you gotta be a clone trooper. And sometimes you agree to play Ugly Dolls because everyone else wants to, even though you think they're just plain ugly.
Or you opt to head home and play alone for a spell.
Then, hopefully by summer's end, the kids become so waterlogged and sick of one another that reconnecting with school at least remotely sounds like an exciting new adventure.