Why I’m afraid of summer vacation

Summer vacation is around the corner and I’m afraid. The hours of unstructured time yawning before me, stretching unfathomably far into the future, have me quaking in my flip-flops. The very fact that I’m filled with dread speaks to my clear maternal deficiencies. According to the internet, other mothers feel excited about all the “quality time” summer affords them. They see sprinklers, trips to the zoo, and happy exhausted children experiencing childhood without the stress and rigors of school. I see something much more sinister that mostly involves whining, yelling, tears over dropped popsicles, and sweat.

Are my children worse than everyone else’s? Perhaps other people’s children wake to a day of nothingness and think: I can ride my bike, read in the shade, chase butterflies, and enjoy my youth today! Mine don’t. Mine wake up early and already bored; the water in the sprinkler is too cold and the sun at the amusement park is too hot; the water guns got run over by the lawn mower and they don’t wanna read a book in the shade.

I suspect that it’s me that’s worse. The other mothers head off their children’s boredom by constantly organizing outings and activities. My children are insatiable though. We could spend all morning at a water park only to have them complain of boredom before we’ve made it out of the parking lot on our way home. They will play games, but only if I play with them. And here lies the crux of the problem: I don’t want to play with them. (See what I mean about maternal deficiency?) Those other mothers must enjoy the time spent with their children. I love my kids. I really do. Just thinking about them squeezes my heart in that slightly uncomfortable desperate way. But I like them more in theory than in practice.

At five and eight, their charms are not quite fully developed. Their jokes suck and their manners leave much to be desired. They’re not very good at games; they cry easily; and they whine and complain over every discomfort and delay – a mosquito bite or feeling peckish is the end of the world. I’m not much of a people person to begin with, but if I have to be around people I prefer adults, specifically the ones who have actually interesting things to say, actually funny senses of humor, and basically never ever fart on me.

We have some local day camps which my kids love. It’s a win-win situation as none of us really excel at dealing with unstructured time. The drawback is my guilt over sending them. After all, I’m supposed to be cherishing this time because it all goes so fast. Soon my little kids will be big kids, worse teenagers, and then they’ll move out and I’ll pine for these days. Today’s guilt transformed into tomorrow’s regret. They want so badly to play with me now and they’ll want nothing at all to do with me soon. Now’s the time I have to instill all the values in them, build the trust so they come to me when they’re grappling with serious problems, make sure they never drink and drive. I should be doing all of that while we cut star shapes out of watermelons and cover the driveway in chalk art.

But no matter how much I wish it, I’m not that Pinterest mom. I can’t keep my house organized with just 2 minutes per day, and I can’t spend a day with my kids without all of us fraying our last nerves. And so I’ll live with dread now, guilt soon, and regret further on. Bring on camp!

 

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Good Parent, Stupid Kids?

We’ve been talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. in our house lately, and it reminded me of this post from 2012 when I tried to teach my kids about race while they were hungry. Always a mistake. In honor of MLK day, I once again give you The Story of the Eggs:

In my house hard-boiled eggs are made by at least the half-dozen. Each kid would eat boiled eggs until explosion or yolk-asphyxiation occurs, so I have to cut them off at three each. This morning I had a mix of white and brown eggs. As I put them in the pot, the fighting started.

“I want just white ones!”

“Me too!”

“Actually, I want brown ones.”

“Me too!”

(I know this sounds like agreement, but trust me, it’s fight seeds.)

I decide this is a good time for a lesson. A friend of mine did this with her kids, and from her story it was a meaningful revelation for all short people involved. I was about to embark on an early morning good parenting moment. Go me!

Once the eggs had boiled and cooled a bit in ice water, I began my fantastic parenting, holding a brown egg in one hand an a white one in the other:

“Are these the same or different?”

“Different!”

“How are they different?”

“They’re different colors.”

“Right. The shells are different colors. This shell is white, and this shell is brown. Are people sometimes different colors too?”

“No!”

“Uh, really? Aren’t they sometimes different colors?”

“No!”

“Um, for this to work, I need you to think about all the people you know. Do they all look the same?”

“No!”

“Right, people come in different colors like these eggs, right?”

“Right!”

“Whew. OK. So, do you think these eggs are the same or different on the inside?”

“Different!”

“The same!”

“I want the brown one!”

“No I want the brown one!”

“Just wait. We’re learning something first! Let’s see if these eggs are different or the same on the inside.”

I crack and peel the eggs. The kids are fighting over which color they want. I hold up two peeled, perfectly white eggs:

“So, are these the same or different on the inside?”

“Different!”

“I want the brown one!”

“Can I have some salt?”

“PAY ATTENTION! We’re learning here! Do these eggs look the same or different?”

The kids have no freaking idea what I want from them. They just want to give me an answer that would make me shut up and hand over the eggs.

“The same?”

“Yes! They are exactly the same on the inside even though one was white and one was brown on the outside. So, what does that tell us? Did we learn anything?”

“Can I have salt, Mama?”

“NO! You won’t get anything until you learn this lesson! Does the fact that this brown egg and this white egg look exactly the same on the inside tell us anything about people?”

“No!”

URG! Remember, one was white?? And one was brown??! And people are different colors too!? But on the inside the eggs are the same??? What do you think different color people are like on the inside?”

“Yucky!”

“Bloody!”

“They have hearts!”

“They have poop!”

The kids are now in hysterics. I’ve lost my audience, which I never really had to begin with. Fuck it. Just eat your eggs, kids. Thanks for the learning moment.

Good Parent, Stupid Kids

 

Trick-or-treat, except no tricks please because my kids are stupid

My kids are still working on becoming funny. At least I hope they’re working on it, and that where they sit right now on the funny spectrum is not where they’ll remain. Funny is important to me. The fact that it’s lost on my children leaves them not getting 62% of what comes out of my mouth. Since the remaining 38% is made up of directives they’re ignoring, we have a major communication problem over here.

When my then 5-year-old son shouted back to me from the door of a stranger’s house on Halloween night, “Mom, she doesn’t have any chocolate, is it OK if I pick something else?” I realized that my kids are too earnest for my tastes.

See, I (jokingly (totally not jokingly)) told my son to make sure he gets lots of chocolate. The for me was implied. He did not pick up on the implication. He took it as a rule or mission of Halloween. He took it as advice from his mother who looks out for him and knows more about Halloween and the world at large than he does.

And nothing I said for the rest of the night could change his mind.

“Honey, I was just joking. Get whatever candy you like,” I said.

“But you said to get as much chocolate as I can. I’ll get chocolate,” he said.

“You are evil. You better blog about this,” husband said.

Every house was the same. My kid shouted back to me, “This one has more than one kind of chocolate, does it matter which I get?” and “This one has chocolate and Skittles. I really like Skittles. Is it OK if I pick the Skittles?” Once he even said to the kind stranger holding the candy bowl, “My mom wants me to get chocolate. Do you have any chocolate, maybe in your pantry?”

He had no idea that I was planning on stealing any candy from him. It would never occur to him that I’d want candy or play such a trick.

I seem to never learn the lesson that my kids don’t pick up on subtlety, irony, sarcasm, and jokes meant for the adults in the room. I made my daughter cry once when she saw me handing out ice cream sandwiches to her brother and to each of the 3 neighbor’s kids and asked “Can I have one too?” I said, “No. I’m giving ice cream sandwiches to all the other children but I’m going to give you onions for dessert.” Even though I assured her I was joking and quickly handed over the ice cream, she cried again a few days later when she asked for dessert and I said, “Onions for dessert!” Kid cannot take a joke.

While other parents anxiously await their children to achieve milestones like tying shoes and learning to read, I’m waiting with baited breath for my kids to grasp sarcasm, trickery, and actually funny jokes.

trick or treat