GROWING PAINS: Summer at the Dacha An Exercise in Sacrifice




Only a few more days are left until the school year is over, and this of course is a great joy for the kids. No less delighted with the coming vacation are parents of not-very-diligent students, like my 8-year-old son, Yegor.


I'm not frightened at the prospect of having him home all day for three months. I'm willing to devise new entertainments, organize meetings with his friends, take him out to parks or children's theater performances. I'm prepared for anything, so long as it's not helping him do his homework for hours or asking him every day not to look out the window during his lessons or attending roditelskiye sobraniya, parents' meetings, to hear again how many centimeters the margins in his notebooks should be.


The only problem I foresee this summer will be taking Yegor and my 1-year-old daughter, Dasha, out of the polluted city to the fresh air of the dacha.


"You can't keep them locked up in a dirty city during the summer," my nanny insists. "They would be sick the entire year."


Hundreds of Muscovites agree, and, like Anton Chekhov characters, they abandon their warm city nests to be closer to flower-filled meadows, cool forests or picturesque rivers.


Although I don't think the children's health problems can be solved so easily - and I can only stand dacha life for a maximum of the three weeks when the hot water is turned off in our Moscow apartment - I nevertheless feel obliged to provide my kids with long bike rides and a chance to feed squirrels or dive for crawfish, as my parents did for me when I was a girl.


Self-sacrifice, though, is not the only thing; finding an appropriate dacha to rent - with easy access, a picturesque neighborhood, a reasonable rent and household conveniences - is no easy task. Usually you have to compromise on something. Last year, our comprises included foregoing some "extra" conveniences, such as hot water, and putting up with some excessive darkness of the lot due to the many tall pines looming over the house.


Exhausted from battling mammoth mosquitoes day and night and the kids' constantly runny noses, nearly every week I thought up excuses to go to Moscow at least for a couple of days, say, to have Dasha vaccinated or to check on our apartment renovation. Yegor didn't object; he was afraid of spiders and missed his Sony Play Station. Besides, there were few other children living nearby, and none his age, so he was bored with building his sand castles alone.


We've rented another dacha this year, with a lovely, grassy lot and a family with three children living nearby. But what if we haven't foreseen other possible disasters? I only hope the inspiring example of my energetic, optimistic nanny will give me strength so I won't sneak back to my city friends and running water.