A Midsummer Maternal Airing of Grievances

It’s getting kinda crazy up in here, people.  My children have been out of school for exactly a month now.  We have about 6.5 weeks left to go.  Holy crap, I just looked that up to be sure.  That’s longer than I thought!

I’m trying to enjoy summer with the kids, really I am.  We made our summer “bucket list” in June, and everyone contributed all of their very excellent and creative and expensive ideas about how we, as a family, can squeeze every ounce of fun out of our short Upstate New York summer.  Never mind the fact that in order to execute all of these fun things on the bucket list, both the hubby and I would need to get second jobs to have the money to pay for all the amusement park fees and movie tickets and road trip expenses, and then NOT ACTUALLY SHOW UP TO WORK AT ALL for 4 straight weeks so that we have the time to have all the fun.  Who’s stupid idea was a summer bucket list anyway?  My kids learned about this from school.  They actually came home with a drawing of a bucket that they had colored and cut out, and there was lined paper on the front to write out all the ways that they hoped that their parents would disappoint them over the summer.

Let me give you an example to illustrate how well our family activities are going so far this summer.  This is an actual conversation that occurred in the car today:

Kid:  You know what we should do?  We should go play glow golf!  It’s so fun!  I played it at a birthday party last year!

Other kid:  Yeah!  Glow golf!

Me:  Glow golf?  That sound fu–

Husband (interrupts):  Are you kidding me?  You guys are the WORST to play golf with!  Every time we go golfing you fight over who’s going to go first, and cry if your ball goes in the water, and someone has a meltdown before we even get to the second hole.  NO WAY am I golfing with you guys.

–silence–

So, yeah.

When it comes to parenting and family life, I usually look for the path of least resistance.  Typically, I’m all about keeping things simple, planning in down-time, and not over-scheduling our lives.  Everything with parenting has been feeling really hard and sticky and overly busy and difficult since summer started, and I haven’t been able to get a grip on why that is. Where are you, path of least resistance?  And that’s when it occurred to me.  THERE IS NO PATH.  There may be a path from September through May, but in the summer, the path is hidden under piles of Goldfish crackers (also lovingly referred to as lunch), popsicle wrappers, summer camp schedules, wet bathing suits, and a huge pile of laundry that multiplies exponentially every hour because everyone changes their clothes four times a day.

Let’s talk about the fighting.  Good Lord, please make it stop.  I know my mother is laughing right now and you can just stop it, mom.

And bedtime. Disastrous.  Every night.  I never told them they were exempt from bedtime in the summer.  But they seem to think that bedtime should be optional when school is not in session, so every night is like trying to herd wandering cats.  Listen kids, if you want me to like you in the morning, you need to be in bed by 9 pm.  End of story. Feel free to go at 8:30 pm for bonus points.

Don’t get me started on the mess.  No one can “remember” to hang up their wet towel, or put their dishes in the dishwasher, or put things away.    I told the kids I felt like a broken record, and they were all like, “What’s a record?”

I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but some days it feels a little bit like a house arrest situation.  My guards are short, demanding, prone to mood swings, and hungry all the time.  They do not allow me to have showers or bathroom breaks without supervision.  They follow me everywhere. They interrogate me multiple times per day, often until I am close to tears.  Their main tactics to break my spirit are constant interruptions, talking to me before my morning caffeine load, and repeating my name over and over.  Sometimes I am allowed out of the house to drive them places or to gather additional rations.  Sometimes they bring their friends over to help them make large amounts of noise.

In addition to driving everyone to and fro, the extra laundry, refereeing the fights, getting harassed poolside, and reading the same sentence in my book over and over (see constant interruptions in the previous paragraph!), I also have to make time to prevent summer slide.  I usually don’t even think about summer slide until it is the end of the day, and then it’s too late!  They have already slid.  They are sliding, a little each day, and it’s all my fault.  Today I broke our screen time rule and let them play video games for 2 hours straight because I just needed some peace and quiet and yes, it was glorious for me.

Moms and dads, fess up.  Tell me what your summer looks like.  Not your Instagram version, but the real stuff.  The messy stuff.  We need to talk about it.  I can’t be the only one.

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A mother’s ode to summer

Oh, summer
Most favored of seasons
Bursting forth with sunshine through clouds
Life teeming in lakes, rivers and flowerbeds
Your warmth melting away all memory of harsh winter.

And yet, as you stretch out before me
I feel a pang of dread.

Eight weeks on my calendar
Once filled with the hope of reading quietly in the shade
Day trips, star gazing, lingering over all of your sweet offerings
Interrupted so cruelly
by the fruit of my loins.

My car, now a taxi,
its inhabitants messy ingrates who never pay the fare.
Who demand to go hither, yonder, and back again
with no concern for your burgeoning gas prices.

My bank laughs piteously at my account balance
My wallet lies in ruins.
Pay for summer camps or listen to bored children whine–
The choice is obvious.

Wet swimsuits bedeck my carpets
Mud and dirt adorn my once luminous hardwoods
Goldfish crackers and half-completed art projects litter tables and floors.
Who shall clean this mess?
My laments are met with silence.

My tranquil moments of rest in the shade
As sun speckles through leaves
Playing patterns in the grass
Now suspended by the battle cry from a cacophonous band of neighborhood ne’er-do-wells
Coming to accost me with water guns.

“Play with us!” they call.
“Feed us snacks!”  they demand.
“Arbitrate our juvenile debates!”
My attempts to redirect their endeavors are futile
A fruitless exercise culminating in frustration
and the quiet plotting of maternal revenge upon my offspring.

And yet, in my midst
I see smiles unaffected by my fatigue
Freckles blossoming on little noses
Hair streaked light from the sun
As bubbles blow and chalk draws on blacktop.

I watch as one once afraid to fall
Bravely takes off on two wheels
And the one who, once timid near water,
Now jumps in with a splash and dives down deep to the bottom.

I see my vision of lazy days with a book and a hammock
And laugh.
There shall come a time for days such as those
Or so I am told
But no time soon.

This labor of taking pleasure in small joys
Will give birth to gratitude–
So say the wise women who have gone before me.
And yet I doubt their canned advice
Knowing the tendency of my own memory to recall only the sweetness.

Nevertheless, I check my impulse to anger
(sometimes)
And reject my instinct to lock them outside
(most of the time)
I strengthen myself with caffeine
And I join in the chaos
One day at a time.

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