Despite my best intentions to simplify the summer calendar, my daughter asks me, “When are we going to get to sleep in late?” My parent blog for EP at the end of the school year proclaimed that I was going to do things differently this year and let my kids run and be kids and have fun this summer. I promised to have a relaxing summer, a calm time free from schedules and full of green grass and outdoor time.
I have some confessions…er, I mean comments, on how it is really going. Let me set the scene for you:
We are halfway through the summer and have been up early and out of our jammies with barely enough time for coffee, much less a shower for mom. I’m burning the candle at both ends, staying up late to make up work that I skipped earlier and I’m perpetually in the laundry room reloading the next load of beach towels and smelly soccer socks. We are making time for whole wheat pancakes and maple syrup for the kids in the morning, but not enough time for a pot of coffee for the driver. We have completed an excellent soccer camp run by friends, art class, a drama class and for the last two weeks, morning swim lessons. In other words, we are doing the exact same stuff as during the school year, but the homework is on mom’s schedule. At home mom is working the dishwasher, the dryer (and even the toilet plunger when a home experiment by the youngest involved two rolls of toilet paper and the guest bathroom).
So how am I holding up? I knew the craziness of our summer schedule was getting to me when my son unknowingly held the mirror up to my stressed-out face last week.
Picture my little towheaded boy with his hands clasped together behind his neck and his growing arms now bent like chicken wings so his elbows flap over — and cover — his ears. He is standing like this, with his eyes squeezed shut and his chin tucked to his chest and he is saying, “Mom, stop yelling at me. ”
“I was yelling at you, but it was because you will not stop yelling at your sister!” (Uh, that’s not the child talking. That would be me, the mother, the parent, the grown-up who needs a time-out.)
Next to him is another child with her forehead furrowed and her nostrils flared. She is in her PJs and her sister has just taken her last hairband from the corner of the drawer in the bathroom that holds all her important middle school accessories in neat rows. My pre-teen stomps her foot and tells me that it isn’t fair that her younger sister loses all of her hairbands and then wisely knows right where to go to find a replacement. My oldest daughter is wrestling between sharing and getting the drift that her stuff — and her organizational talents — are being exploited.
“Well, when I was a girl my sister used to come in and take my shirt and wear it and spill something on it and my mom could never do a thing about it. So I just learned to hide them,” I said, exasperated. (Hide them? Where are my wise words about communication and problem solving? It is week four, I’m all out of ideas.)
I take a big breath. I gulp another slug of my coffee. I look at the ceiling and do some counting. I look inside myself and get out my best happy face and announce, “I did not go to school to be a teacher. I don’t seem to be doing well with the new summer schedule and with having to listen to three conversations simultaneously!”
I sit down and put together a list of things that I will pay money for. I will pay for sanity. I title it the “What Makes the Family Work List”.
I will pay money for unloading and reloading the dishwasher, for hanging up towels and suits after we swim. I’ll pay for trips to the compost pile, for emptying the splash pool, for picking up outside toys, for hanging bike helmets up and for taking out the trash. I will pay for putting laundry away, for someone to do a ten second tidy in the family room before bed, for making their own lunch.
I erase the schedule on the white board by the fridge and put three names across the top and announce that I will also fine them for throwing a tantrum, for screaming at a parent or another person, for hurting, hitting, squeezing, holding down, or karate chopping some one. We agree that parents will make bedtime earlier for throwing tantrums or things we deem extreme behaviors.
We go outside and sit under the cave that is created by the hanging branches of the willow tree. We look up and see a bird’s nest. We lean on each other, we hide in the cool shade. We turn and wave at the neighbor boy who comes up the path to play for a little while.
I overhear my middle girl inform him, “My mom made a list and now I know just what to do. Want me to read it to you?”
About Annita Wozniak
Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at annitawoz.wordpress.com