Parents come in many forms, exist in many different walks of life, and live a variety of lifestyles. But for the purpose of illustration, I’m going to oversimplify and break us all down into four categories. And yeah, I’m operating under the assumption that one parent (if two are present) operates as the primary caregiver. I want to live in a world where everything is fair and even too, but let’s not kid ourselves. If you do happen live in a household where parenting responsibilities are divvied up exactly 50/50, I salute you. Otherwise, just roll with it. I have a point.
Here are the four categories:
- Working parent to preschool-aged kids.
- Working parent to older kids.
- Stay at home parent to preschool-aged kids.
- Stay at home parent to older kids.
Summer vacation means very different things to each of these four parents.
(While typing the above sentence auto correct changed ‘working’ to ‘whoring.’ Please do not be a whoring parent. At any point in your child’s life.)
- Fresh air! I don’t have to bundle this baby up in ten-trillion layers that I’m supposed to take off when he’s in a car seat, then put back on before walking fifteen feet into my childcare center. (Huge bummer at -37 in Nebraska)
- No school bus. Now I have to get up a half hour earlier to accommodate an extra stop in my already overwhelming schedule: Childcare Center/Starbucks (not optional)/Work/Running errands on my lunch hour because it’s the only time I’m not at work and the DMV is open/getting into a scorching hot car and burning my thighs on black leather while waiting five minutes for the gear shift to cool off/picking up kids in heat that somehow makes me feel like I’ve run a marathon.
- Fresh air! I’m not cooped up in my house being forced to watch ‘Dora the Explorer’ five hours a day. In your face, backpack! I’ve got better things to do, like take walks and go the park and talk to my friends while claiming I went there for my kids’ own good but really, more for mine.
- I’m Olaf. I have a nifty picture of summer in my head, but in the end it’s actually going to kill me.
I’ve been all of these. This summer I’ve already been in categories two and four. Last summer, and the summer before that, I was in category two exclusively. And so on. It is my opinion, based on these experiences, that summer vacation with older kids, working or not, is pretty much the worst part of the year.
Every year I convince myself otherwise. That’s because I was trapped in the almost-out-for-the-year-and-I-don’t-have-to-dospelling-words-anymore! and it’s-eighty-two-and-gorgeous-outside-and-we-have-so-many-plans! phase. Let’s face it. You can tell yourself it’s going to be a fabulous, magical summer all you want, but a month later, when it’s 105 degrees out, you’re singing a very different tune.
Remember the arrival of your first baby, when you were patient, appreciative and overwhelmingly in love? Then eight days later you were like, “What have I done?” It’s kind of like that.
There’s a concept frequently utilized by writers and actors known as, “Willing Suspension of Disbelief.” It tells us our audiences will voluntarily ignore the implausibility of a storyline, as long as they’re invested in the idea. It’s also like that.
You know how you can recall how painful childbirth is, but then you forget and convince yourself to do it again? It’s like that too.
Here’s how summer really works:
The rules don’t apply.
My kids seem to think that summer vacation somehow empowers them with the authority to choose which rules they should follow. For example, “Knock before entering other people’s bedrooms” means barge into my room with a video camera. “Go to bed,” means “Go in your room and stay up until two o’clock in the morning.”
Constant “Can I?” questions.
You know those “Can I?” and “Can we?” and “When are we?” and “Where are we?” questions kids ask? When the weather’s warm, the opportunities increase tenfold. They ask to go to the park without an adult, to turn the sprinklers on, to go to so-and-so’s house, to invite so-and-so to our house, to have a snack every half hour, why does so and-so get to do something I don’t, when are we going on vacation…??????? Five hundred of them a day. All. Summer.
I never get anything done. Because I’m too busy answering asinine questions. The few tasks I do accomplished, are only accomplished via acts of extortion involving cookies. I know you’re not getting anything done either.
The fourth of July.
In Nebraska, basically everything is legal and it’s almost impossible to describe just how many commercial grade fireworks will be going off in my neighborhood that night. It’s kind of awesome. Everybody’s kids will be running around with lighters, throwing fireworks at each other. Okay, maybe that’s not such a good idea, but it’s not what bothers me. The fourth of July is on the fourth of July, not the third, not the eleventh, not June twenty-sixth. The ridiculousness is applicable to one day and one day only. I’m definitely not going to appreciate being awoken at three in the morning every night for two weeks straight.
It’s easy to embrace the idea of summer when it’s sunny and seventy-nine degrees outside. That lasts roughly four weeks. Then I’m going to be listening to incessant fireworks at three in the morning and it’s going to be ninety-five degrees outside. I’m going to be every bit as miserable and every bit as house-bound as I am when it’s -10 in the winter.
Preteen/early teenage limbo.
Those of us who have kids between nine and twelve are stuck in a weird sort of too-young-but-too-old-to place. The children’s museum isn’t interesting anymore, but I certainly won’t be able to drop them off at the movies. Instead I just listen to them complain. For months.
Year after year, I go into summer swearing I’m going to limit electronics to an hour a day and force my kids to get up and go outside. I’ll even fight over it for a bit. But I’m also going to be hot and sleep deprived, in a messy house with bored preteens. Say you won’t overlook your kid spending a few non-questioning, non-bored hours on a console, quietly playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and I’ll call you a liar. Also by a few hours, I mean like eight.
Becoming my parents.
I’ve already said, “in or out!” and “I can’t feed the entire neighborhood!” at least a dozen times.
I’ve been there before. I actually moved my entire family to a new home just to get away kid I firmly believe is a true sociopath. And the sociopath’s parents of course, don’t think there’s anything wrong with a kid that… I won’t go into it, but it was like living in prison. I couldn’t let my kids out of my sight, I had to keep our blinds closed, I was burdened with nonstop anxiety. I guarantee the people who lived near me will back me up on this one.
Hopefully you don’t have it that bad, but I know a number of you will spend your entire summer watching out for the kid who bullies. The kid who kills your kid’s beloved butterfly while laughing in his face. The kid who shows up at the park with an Airsoft gun. The kids whose parents never, ever, see any of it. And don’t care anyway.
People in love.
Seriously. Go hold hands in your own house. Teenagers, quit making out at the park. Why does this season mean I have to endure constant displays of public affection?
The ice cream man.
My nemesis. I. Hate. That. Guy. Every single day this guy drives a vehicle around my neighborhood, a vehicle that exists for the sole purpose of getting kids to pester their parents into giving them money. Every single day! I’m already dealing with fireworks and sociopaths. GO AWAY.
I really hate the ice cream man. Seriously. For real. Forever. The end.
Yeah. Summer is definitely not my favorite part of life. But hey, at least I found this cheap set of pink flamingos to liven up my super-trashy back patio.