By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
Ah, the dog days of summer. The last weeks before school cranks back up. It’s a dicey time for parents. All the vacations are done. The beach has been seen. The relatives have been visited. We’ve gone to every kids’ movie Hollywood has seen fit to put out this summer, regardless of its quality (or lack thereof). We’ve splashed in every form of chlorinated water: jumped in pools, whizzed down water slides, danced on splash pads. We’ve inflated every raft, ball, and water wing in the Western Hemisphere. We’ve eaten ice cream, slushies, and sno cones. We’ve conquered every bounce house and indoor trampoline park that would let us in.
Yeppers, we have seen and done summer at this point. Now, as the temperatures spike into the 100s, and the last few weeks of the school break unspool, I find myself in a conundrum: what the heck do I with all these people in my house? Because I’ve seen what happens if I allow it: my children will stare at their television, computers, gaming systems, or any other electronic device they can find until, not unlike a Shel Silverstein poem, their faces would turn into screens and their ears to buttons.
To wit: my seven-year-old son has listened to two Psy songs on my iPod so often, I fear I’m going to find him dressed in a tight suit and women’s sunglasses next. It can’t be good for the psyche. My nine-year-old loves Pokemon more than cake. And my six-year-old daughter simply shouldn’t be able to sing along with the title sequence of every pre-teen piece of pablum the Disney channel can regurgitate. It simply isn’t right.
But what to do? North Texas has got to be like North Dakota in the dead of winter. You just can’t leave the house. In North Dakota, your face would freeze before you got your car down the street. In Texas, my little white babies might just combust by the end of the block this time of year. The impetus is on me: Alex, I’ll take “Kids’ Entertainment That is Cheap or Free and Preferably Indoors” for five hundred.
But I’m a wily sort; y’all know me. Imma plot and scheme. And in my infinite wisdom, I somehow decide during a break in the 100-degree temps to take my golden retriever and the kids to the city dog park. It’ll be fun, I told myself. It’s shady. The kids can frolic with other dogs. The dog can frolic with other dogs. Maybe I can sit and drink a cherry limeade. Yes, let’s go to the dog park! Oh, there is no optimism like the optimism of parent with a plan.
Alas, as they say: the best laid plans of mice and men. Or in this case, of hapless mothers with fat golden retrievers. After the obligatory half-hour house departure prep (see previous blog) and a swing by Sonic for tasty drinks, the dogs, the kids, and I are all trundling to town for our dog park adventure. But what happened next? I like to call it the parental “Oh, no, you don’t.”
You know this phenomena, parents. Got a babysitter and plans? Oh, no, you don’t. Your kid will get sick. Got an important presentation at work and only one decent outfit? Oh, no, you don’t. You will be vomited on or discover one of your shoes eaten by a pet. Have a day you can actually sleep in? Oh, no, you don’t. The kid’s up a five needing an escort to the bathroom. You get the concept, I’m sure.
Would we have a darling time at the dog park? Oh, no, you don’t. Because your golden retriever is the only canine in the world who makes like a beeline for the picnic table top to climb atop and perch. She will not get down until urged. There are only three other dogs in the park. The kids are nonplussed by the lack of frisky new canine pals to make friends with, and they’re hot outdoors. When finally forced off the table top, the dog is hostile to the other dog who amiably tried to make friends and looks (as much as a dog can) completely taken aback at my pet’s rudeness.
Summer entertainment fail! In shame, I pack up my recalcitrant canine and my brood of babies back into my van, the Blazebago, having spent more time getting to the dog park and back than we were there. Sigh. Even the seven year old had the insight to say as we pulled out, “Wow, Mom. That was a COMPLETE waste of time.” Thanks, kid.
Wish me luck. Heck, send me ideas. Or better yet, a duffel bag of money. Maybe if I ship this crew to Epcot or something I could fulfill their amusement needs over these last, lingering, smoking hot summer days. I’d pay some puppeteers or something. Because as of right now, all I have to rely on is my wits and the grace to limp into the upcoming school year and have yet another long, hot, Texas summer at home with the kids under my belt. But the dog? That one is so totally on her own.