By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
Will I be able to write a post about the challenges of having three elementary aged kids at home during their school’s summer break with them all underfoot? I couldn’t even finish that sentence without having to step in to keep the seven-year-old son from punching the six-year-old daughter over a shady Monopoly bank withdrawal. Sigh. Yep, it’s that time of year again: the school has kicked them out until August, and, wow, does it remind me how woefully underpaid teachers actually are. It’s up to me to entertain, feed, and referee the whole gang, all the while trying to hold a job or two. Hold me. I’m afraid.
Ah, summer. Some of you moms are so impressive and proactive. You’ve planned camps, an hour-by-hour schedule of enriching family activities sure to entertain and educate your vacationing brood, healthy and nutritious snacks, and a comprehensive chore and reward chart. You? Are so not me. And it begs the question: which came first, OCD or Pinterest? But I digress.
I’m just saying, some of you frighten me a little with your grand parenting machinations and lofty expectations for summer enrichment of your children. When did parents become required to become camp counselors and/or play therapists for the summer months? Why can’t I just largely ignore my children until the street lights come on like my parents did me?
I long ago got comfortable with the concept of good-enough parenting. Which means I am more than okay that my kids’ summer doesn’t have to be executed with the help of an Excel spreadsheet. I just need a daily scheme to keep them out of my hair and from killing each other. As long as we limp into the fall without any permanent mental or physical scarring, I’m totally alright. It seems to me no fires and no blood are completely acceptable summer goals for my family.
Yeah, it’s summer…and the object of the game for me is to get to the other side. The living is supposed to be easy. So don’t judge me if you’re one of those mothers who somehow manage to work, wear makeup and clothes that aren’t yoga pants, and have managed to put together a summer itinerary that puts a Rolling Stone anniversary world tour to shame. You do you. Plan your summer curriculum to include teaching your kids French or how to papier mache. Ima gonna do me. I’m going to make sure they get fed.
No, this is for the rest of us who just want to make it to the next school year without child protective services being alerted or requiring an up in our medication. For the rest of us parents, the use of some of my handy summer survival tips might just salvage your summer and your sanity and banish the guilt. Because I don’t remember anyone creating the ultimate summer schedule for me when I was a kid. It was kind of understood I needed to entertain myself back when the world was a little more family-centered than child-centered.
Thus, tip number one: Kick ’em to the curb. When in doubt, throw ’em out. The neighborhood has other bored kids; they should all get together and poke frogs with sticks and climb trees together. Pay the older ones to watch the younger ones. Let ’em run. Remember the days when kids made up their own games and didn’t need adults to tell us how to have fun? Let’s bring those days back. When did adults become kids’ favorite toys? Give ’em a ball. A hula hoop. Some chalk. A sprinkler. Boom: hours of entertainment. It’s low tech, but it’s worked for ages.
Embrace your family’s inner beach bum. Now is the time for questionable clothing choices, the sporting of pajamas until noon, sleeping in if you feel like it, and being in the moment. Not every moment has to be orchestrated, packed with meaning, or the perfect learning opportunity. No, some time the day is simply about keeping the kid with the meanest streak that day from drowning a smaller kid. That’s what we call a good-enough parenting summer win.
Let ’em be bored! Usually this inspires creativity if you don’t provide them the entertainment. Or, they just end up vegetating on the couch. Either way, a break for you. Out of boredom has come great invention. It’s not a dirty word, “bored.” Plus, if you’re bored, you can help me clean. If they’ve got time to lean, they’ve got time to clean. I’ve got a game, and it’s called Pick Up Your Damn Toys Before I Give Them to Goodwill.
So here’s to all us good-enough parents slouching towards the start of the 2013-14 school year. You have my permission to completely waste time. Because if you enjoyed it, it wasn’t wasted time. We can do this. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for one of my favorite summer rituals: I’m about to head over to the neighbor’s with the kids and a wagon loaded with tequila and margarita mix. Time for the season’s inaugural play date happy hour with the other moms in the ‘hood. Since it’s summer, we can start at three instead of five.
And that, my friends? Is truly a summertime, good-enough parenting scheduling win.