Think you can get some down time like when you were younger? Don’t kid yourself!
From the time I was old enough to hold down my first part-time job, the words “summer vacation” started to lose their lustre. Gone were the days of bike riding, hanging with friends by a pool, playing in the park, and, in Winnipeg where I grew up, spending super-hot days popping the tar bubbles in the middle of our concrete roads. Instead, it was hello to a hair net and a scratchy polyester uniform. It was pretty disheartening to discover that the whole world didn’t get to relax for two whole months during the best weather of year.
Fast forward and once again, I’m heading into summer with my own four kids. I understand why they are excited about counting down the days to the end of school. What I can’t figure out is why some of the moms I know seem to be excited as well. During the years I spent as a mom who worked outside the home, this period was preceded by the frantic scheduling and booking of summer camps, babysitters, organized outdoor team sports and possibly trying to fit in a week or two away with the entire family. Now that I’m a work-from-home mom, I sometimes kid myself into thinking that I don’t need to organize the kids as rigorously because I’ll be able to write, maybe even poolside, while they frolic in the sun and play stick ball, or some helmet-worthy activity.
Clearly I’ve confused my children with the Brady Bunch. My kids have never had a potato sack race in the back garden, or even gotten along with each other for longer than 17½ minutes, yet I persist in this idyllic image of what summer with my children will be like. What I have failed to take into account is that the hazy lazy days of summer simply allow for the children to have more time to do the following:
Organize playdates. First of all, don’t ever use the term “Playdate” near me. The implication of the scheduled, adult supervised, hygienic and safety element of this unfun event is in stark contrast to just racing up to someone’s front door and yelling “Can Kathy come out and play?” The key word there being “out”. Playdates always seem to take place inside the home, and always seem to involve the feeding and supervising of other people’s children who seem incapable of not hurting themselves for extended periods of time.
Also, play dates often involve video/electronic fun, which predetermines that the ideal number of friends to have during a playdate is exactly one. One kid, who I’m probably not going to like very much by the end of the summer. One kid, whose mother seems to think I am happy to provide her with unpaid babysitting while I attempt to work and she gardens and drinks tea. Just me?
Annoy each other. A favourite pastime of two of my children. In fact, when I had to fill out an evaluation form recently, and was asked to rate their tendency to “Deliberately annoy other people”, I added my own higher scale to the form. Really – who annoys people by accident? It’s always on purpose.
Pester me for food. All day long, at different time intervals. Here’s something I’ve never understood – the seemingly universal hatred for the making of school lunches. I LOVE it. You make all their lunches at the same time, you send them out of the house to eat it, where you are out of earshot of their complaints and requests for additional food or food alternatives. Where’s the downside? Doesn’t everyone still have to feed their kids during the summer too? Lunch making doesn’t go away in the summer; it just loses its structure.
Make a huge mess. While I absent-mindedly agree to the building of a fort in the basement, I always seem to forget that this will involve every available couch cushion, blanket, and towel in the house. And that it will completely block off entire rooms in the house which normally require regular usage (i.e. that second bathroom.)
The combination of the unstructured days and the unrelenting demands of work and life make summer vacation for me a time of mayhem, scrambling, and letting the rules slip. And maybe, after all, that’s just what summer should be all about. At least I don’t have to wear a hair net for this role.
Published in June, 2011.
Read more of Kathy’s tales of motherhood online at kathybuckworth.com, or follow her at twitter.com/kathybuckworth. Her book, Shut Up and Eat! Tales of Chicken, Children and Chardonnay, is in bookstores across Canada.