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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