By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
Talk about your desperate housewives. All the parents of school-age kids I know are going more than a little insane right now: there are two weeks left of summer vacation, and every kid I know is beyond surly and swinging from the fixtures. We are being held captive in our own home, and the terrorists are winning.
Okay, I’ll admit it when you won’t: I’m sick of ’em. The kids. Truth be told, I’m sure they’re pretty sick of me, too. I think more honest parents will admit some summer vacation fatigue right about now, no? It’s getting dicey. So, naturally, and in the interest of heading off violent crimes in my home, I turned to the Internet to try and educate me about some good family fun to keep each other from killing one another in some spectacularly splattery way. Surely research could save me.
But I was left cold and uninspired. There was some despair. Because clearly Pollyanna and/or Mary Poppins came up with these kids’ entertainment ideas. Who actually DOES this stuff? Do these parents actually exist? Either I suck much more than I feared at this parenting gig, or people without children are making these activities up. Here’s some of the Internet’s best and most laughable suggestions about wholesome diversion for my children during summer vacation:
“Get them in the kitchen!” chirped one site. There are simple recipes for children, it purred. Let the children experiment! Excuse me. But is this author on crack? I have three children aged nine, seven, and five. Each and every one must do what each and every other one is doing. We would have to triple the ingredients for each dish. There would be hand to hand combat with raw eggs.
Plus, there’s three months in summer, sunshine. We baking every day? Once a week? My kids have the attention span of three, exceptionally entitled gnats. I’m already cleaning up after three meals and two snacks already before some grand cooking expedition with my children, who are not exactly known for their anal retentive qualities. Not to mention: there are lots of sharp objects in my kitchen. Enough said.
“Go fly a kite!” suggests another site. I’m in Texas, you imbecile. A kite, would there be any air to lift the thing aloft, would incinerate mid-air in average July temperatures. Poof. Spontaneously combusted under the August Texas sun. Where does this author live? In a Pippi Longstocking book? Go fly a kite, indeed. Check me in March.
“Teach them to cross stitch.” Hilarious! I think I actually fell out of my chair on this eager suggestion. Sure! I’ll give my kids with some vicious sibling rivalry issues NEEDLES! And tedious, eye-straining minute work they must still incredibly still to complete. Threading alone would cause grand mal tantrums. What kid will sit and cross stitch who wasn’t raised by Miss Havisham? Has this author MET children?
“Write a story together.” Sure! Because my different aged kids want to do schoolwork together. One project. Because they share so well. And my dyslexic son just lives to write (and yes, there’s a whiff of sarcasm in the air). And they all can agree on a topic. Hell, they can’t agree it’s Saturday, much less coordinate efforts to publish a ptome. And I can hear them now: “Why?”
“Have a dance party!” Okay, and after that 15 minutes of fun that deteriorates into a shoving and tackling party, then what?
Oh, and one of my favorites: “Tire them out.” No kidding, Sherlock. It’s 106 degrees outside. Total indoor play fun includes bounce houses costing 10 bucks a pop. Do the math with three kids, Einstein. And my local McDonald’s play area is so nasty I’m just sure they’re gonna catch SARS or Monkeypox taking off their shoes in the joint. Perhaps a nasty flesh-eating virus. Or, God forbid, they might want some of the food. My options for running them like dogs: limited at best.
“Host a scavenger hunt!” Unless there’s a $100 gift certificate at the end of that rainbow, folks, I can predict to you the reaction of my children to a suggestion they search for an locate an intricate trail of paperclips, canceled stamps, or rubber bands. They are not fools, and they do not suffer them.They will look at me as if I have lost my damn mind. Which, mind you, I may or may have not.
“Get them gardening!” Okay. We’ve spilled dirt everywhere, poked a hole in it, put a bean in it, watered it. I count seven minutes of entertainment.
“Hit the library!” And what do I do after the kids pick out more movies and then say they don’t care about picking out books because we’ve been practically camped out there since June?
“Play a board game!” One more round of Candy Land, and I may run amok. I’m about to teach the lot of the Texas Hold ‘Em. Maybe at least they could earn their keep.
“Go to the movies!” Which begs an excellent point: I am being held hostage all summer. Why in the world isn’t Hollywood taking advantage of my captivity? They should make a kids’ movie every four days. It’s not an issue of high quality holding them back. Surely they know I will be forced to see whatever animated pablum they produce. There were only three kids’ movies this summer. But then again, when it’s 40 dollars for tickets and popcorn? I probably couldn’t afford any more.
So, that’s it. The Internet has failed us. Who knew? So and thusly, I hereby give myself and you permission to do some “Good Enough” parenting for the next two weeks until the boundaries of the school year are once again upon us. Because all the ideas I’ve found on the net to entertain kids? Laughable. At least for my rag-tag gang of vagabonds. Who knows? Maybe these ideas worked like gold for you. Maybe you’re raising Heidi. Good luck to you. I’m raising, I’m convinced most times, felons.
But for the rest of us parents of hooligans, here’s to reality for the next two weeks: endless Netflix marathons, PBSkidsgo.org orgies, X Box overload, and DS players on overdrive. Here’s to pounds of crappy chicken nuggets and staying in our pajamas until it’s time to change into fresh pajamas. Because I think we’re at that point, my friends. It’s white knuckle time. And a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do when the interwebs fail you.
See you at the finish line: at the front door of the school August 27.