A lot of my mommy blogger friends and Facebook friends have been posting about the onset of summer vacation.
A concept that strikes fear into the hearts of many a mother.
Like, if you think *weekends* with three little kids trashing the house are bad, how 'bout a THREE-MONTH WEEKEND.
Now, in fairness, I do send my kids to day camp for a large chunk of the summer. How families cope with summertime in the absence of day camp is truly BEYOND me. And to those parents, I offer you my highest admiration, praise, and sympathy.
But even for a mommy like me, who does get to ship her little ones out the door from 9 until 3 many a-summer's day, I am still experiencing this last week of school as if every child-free hour is ticking down my doom. So what can we do, as moms who would desperately like to maintain some semblance of composure this season, to minimize the pain?
Well, let's break it down.
If you ask me, the problems with no school are: NO STRUCTURE, NOT ENOUGH ACTIVITIES, SIBLING WARS, and STIR CRAZINESS.
Alright, so let's knock each one off one by one.
1) NO STRUCTURE. Ok. What makes the school day manageable is that there's a reliable routine. Get up, get out, do your after school activity (if applicable), come home, watch the minutes on the clock crawl agonizingly towards dinnertime (wait, what?), eat, bathe, sleep.
Alright, so what if we create some kind of reliable routine for non-school days? Like, we need to be dressed by X time, we are going to do a craft at X time, we're going out for lunch at X time, we're going to have quiet time / nap time / study hall (the goal is little NERDS, people) at X time, we're going swimming (UGH, so much effort!) at X time, we're doing board games (bored games) and puzzles until dinner.
Aargh, that sounds good on paper. I just don't know if I can carry it out. The idea of having an "activity schedule" sounds too much like homeschooling. But who are we kidding, whenever the kids are at home for extended periods of time, we moms are on the clock. So hey! we might as well get all the granola props of giving ourselves the title "homeschooler." Bring on the equivalency exams! We are officially crunchy now!
2) NOT ENOUGH ACTIVITIES. Alright, I'm fantastically guilty of spending my husband's hard-earned cash on child-related junk that I hope will buy me some calm in this house. I have an entire cupboard stockpiled with connect-the-dot books, coloring books, just-add-water painting books, paints, canvases, sticker books, etc., etc., etc. Now, there are a few problems with this approach: First, it wastes money that my husband is slaving to earn (I buy almost everything on sale, but still). Second, it SPOILS the kids rotten-- why would they work toward stickers on their good behavior reward charts, when they're being littered with small presents all week long? And third, it creates, I think, an unhealthy reliance on the material stuff. I hereby challenge myself to coming up with more kid activities that don't require me to BUY anything. Especially now that eldest is a very capable reader, I guess I should be writing out (impossible-to-complete) scavenger hunt lists and the like. (Btw, IDEAS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Come on, show off what a better parent you are!) Hey, maybe I could tell the eldest she has to teach the 3- and 2-year-old kids to read. *That* would take up some time, cost nothing, *AND* appeal to the mini-dictator in her... :)
3) SIBLING WAR. Another headache for me, quelle surprise. Having 3 girls aged 5, 3, and 2 is the best of times (when they're playing nicely) and the worst of times (when they are battling to the death over a toy that appeals to all 3 of them equally). In fact, the competition between the kids has reached new heights when it comes to the eldest and her books: heaven help us all when she declares, "I will read to the little kids now!" because the inevitable effect is all 3 of them demanding to be the designated reader. (Am very grateful that we discovered the series of monkey books by Jez Alborough-- they are picture books with a few simple words that my 3-year-old is able to read aloud-- they make her feel like she's a contender.) (HERE ALSO: SUGGESTIONS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME for very basic books that the 3-year-old can conquer.)
Ok, so what if I attempted to deal with this tension by giving each of the 3 kids a certain exclusive job that only SHE can do. For example, right now the 3-year-old knows that, after my eldest is off to school and before the little one wakes up, it's her job to take my shopping list around the kitchen and mark off anything that we're running out of (I added little drawings next to each word to help her out). Maybe the eldest could be in charge of organizing the art supplies (ugh, that will keep her busy for all of 2 minutes) and the baby could be in charge of picking up the clothes on the floor (and, when there aren't any, I will throw them all over the floor just to give her something to do) (sounds reasonable). THEN, when I see that war is about to break out, I could happily announce that it's time for all the kids to do their designated jobs. This is admittedly a stupid idea but I will try it. Perhaps I'm underestimating the power of distraction.
4) STIR CRAZINESS. Well, folks, this is your big ticket item right here. The best part about school (other than the education, blah blah blah) is that it gets my kids out of the house, gives them a change of scenery, and allows them to revel in the company of people who are not genetically related to them. During the summer, it's just a WHOLE LOT of family time. Time that is, I think we can all agree, most enjoyable in finite segments that have distinct starting and ending points. So what to do with the prospect of family time that goes on for weeks on end?
Well the obvious answer is to get the kids out of the house. Which means that I may have to tackle my irrational fear of public play areas (those ball pits! GERMS!) and other people's houses (what if their kids had been secretly sick recently? GERMS!) and the public pool (I heard that one kid got warts from the pool! GERMS!) and suck it up.
Summer "vacation" (ahahahaha) also means that MOMMY MUST FORCE HERSELF TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE ON A REGULAR BASIS. This is my downfall right here: I get so wrapped up in obsessively entertaining the rugrats, sometimes it doesn't dawn on me that *I* haven't been outdoors with an adult destination (and by this, I mean the supermarket, which is as close to adult entertainment as I dare to imagine) all by myself in days and days and days. Sometimes even a solitary drive around the block is the difference between holding it together and completely losing my sh*t. Somewhere in the house, this reminder should be put up on a plaque-- WARNING: A DRIVE AROUND THE BLOCK MAY CAUSE TEMPORARY SANITY.
So there you are: the solutions to all of your summer woes. Homeschooling... scavenger hunts... designated chores... and separate playdates for both the kiddies and the mommy.
And because I fully expect that all of these suggestions will result in an EPIC FAIL, check back here soon to hear all about how I went ahead and lost my sh*t anyway. :)