Today is the last day of school. Blessed school. Even though our kids are looking forward to a break, we know it won’t be long before even they miss the structure. The routine. The luxury of lunch every day at the same time. They may even miss music and math and reading and science. Maybe.
I know I will miss teachers, our parenting fall guys. They’re the people in our lives who stay on task and pay attention. The ones who keep us honest with due dates and grades and attendance and tardy slips.
You may remember I have a mildly hostile relationship with summer. It boils down to the fact that both Mike and I work from home and therefore know every stinking thing about what our children do with summer and all that free time. It’s not pretty.
It really should come as no surprise that unemployed adolescents are generally about as productive as slugs on barbiturates. And yet, every summer, we seem to reach new levels of laid back we never realized existed.
I AM NOT JUDGING, you guys. I was a kid once, too, with unfettered hours of summer. How do you think I know the whole Little House on the Prairie television series by heart? Or the theme song to Thundercats? Or the lyrics to half a dozen Madonna and Prince songs? It’s not like I was reading War and Peace in my free time.
But I was alone all day, or alone with my dog and my sister who probably weren’t doing anything productive, either. No adult ever had to face the true extent of our lethargy. Both parents worked outside the home and probably told themselves that the relatively tidy house and freshly watered lawn were products of days full of adolescent industry, rather than an intense fifteen-minute flurry of activity immediately before they walked through the door every evening.
Generally speaking, about two weeks into summer, we can expect our kitchen to be purt’ near empty of every clean dish, as the distinct aroma of teen-spirit wafts upstairs from the family room.
Every year, we do try to get ahead of summer. Mid to late May, I’m gobs of proactivity, flinging lists of chores and activities like candy from a homecoming float. At some point I’ll have convinced myself I’ve developed a system whereby I can actually EARN A FREAKING LIVING and completely ignore our children at the same time, confident their brains aren’t somehow turning to complete mush.
It’s a nice little world I’ve concocted. There are sparkly unicorns. And red licorice. You should visit.
I don’t know why I worry. I mean it didn’t hurt me to spend a couple summers doing nothing more productive than watching MTV and lounging around on the deck. Well, actually that lounging in the sun thing cost me a good chunk of my nose later, but that’s another story.
But plan I do. And regardless of any such efforts, our summers generally roll out a little out a little something like this:
Day 1: Charts of chores and activities, color coded, will be posted on the fridge. There will be talk of dog walking and reading. Of family Book Club. Face-to-face time with friends. Healthy snacks and exercise. There will be consensus: down with summer slide.
Screen time will amount to 90 minutes daily, maximum, including computers, tablets, and TV (this is where the consensus thing gets a little murky and negotiations ensue, until I wonder aloud why everyone around here is under the DELUSION that this is some kind of DAMN DEMOCRACY and then send everyone to their rooms to reflect).
We will go to the library for stacks of books. Then I will need to get some work done, and cave a little on the screen time.
… By which I mean I will ignore our children for the rest of the day.
Day 2: Kids will sleep ‘til noon, then quietly sneak a box of Chocolate Cheerios to the Xbox in the basement.
Early in the afternoon I will realize no one under 18 is doing anything productive (oh my God, the quiet is heavenly) Cue major mom guilt. Commence with minor meltdown, a few sullen looks and slammed doors. Kids will hang out on the driveway for exactly five minutes and then return, complaining about the heat. Mandatory reading time will follow (after another minor meltdown), for another five minutes, after which someone will ask if they’ve earned more screen time.
Both kids will be back in front of a TV or computer by 2:20pm. I’ll have a deadline and pretend not to notice.
Day 3: Kids will sleep until 2, then do whatever the hell they want for pretty much the rest of the summer.
So … here we are, last day of school. First day of summer. I’ll admit to looking forward to the break from carpooling and homework checking. We’ll cope. Surely there’ll be bright spots. Moments where someone picks up a book and flicks off the screen, or really does call up a friend to meet at the park, and I’ll feel like we sort of rock this parent-thing.
There’ll be outdoor concerts and excursions to cooler mountain climates.
There’ll be dinners on the patio and long walks in late evening.
Summer never killed anyone. I need to take a deep breath.
See you all on the other side.
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