A few years ago the office supply store Staples ran what is my favorite back-to-school ad. Andy Williams sang his famous Christmas song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and the adults participated in a synchronized dance of sorts. Parents breezed through Staples happily tossing school supplies into their carts. Some glided through the store, riding on the cart with one leg in the air and joyous expressions on their faces like children on a scooter riding down a hill. Although there was no breeze (because it is Staples), the wind-in-my-hair effect shone in their faces. Behind each blissful parent was a child or two with folded arms and pouty faces.
The reason I love that commercial is because I can identify with those cart-gliding parents. I am not one of those parents who is sad to see summer go. Don’t get me wrong, I love the first couple of weeks when the kids sleep late, laze around on the couch catching up on Disney, and when bored go outside to play with the neighbors. I seem to have more energy at this juncture and may even play a board game, bake some cookies, and set up a craft for the kids. I have been known to take a bike ride or two. And, of course, I enjoy any type of vacation we can get even if it is a “stay-cation.” More than anything I just enjoy the peace–that is, not fighting with kids over homework, uniforms, haircuts, showers, tests, teeth brushing, and getting out the door before the late bell rings at their school.
Just leaving behind those pressures changes my entire demeanor. Suddenly, Mom doesn’t look all pinched and angry. I can say my eldest child’s name in a normal decibel. And, the dog doesn’t run under the bed every time I grab the car keys fearing a panicked stampede to the garage. So, yes, I am a nicer person during summer—that is, for the first two weeks or so…Then, it feels as if all three kids are break dancing on every one of my nerves.
This is the part of the summer when the kids get bored. They zombie-out in front of a computer—for hours on end—and then have a difficult time getting to sleep because they have been exposed to so much “blue” light emitted from the technology. Then, when I pull the plug (yes, you can hear the howls two blocks over), they want me to entertain them. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to perform my juggling/unicycle act. Stilts, maybe, but after too much rain, the grass is soggy. I offer to act out an entire opera with yours truly singing all the parts, but for some reason, the kids always nix that idea. Their loss.
I try to send them outdoors to play: “Go out and ride your bikes, toss around a ball, play tag, ANYTHING!” Unfortunately, we live in Houston, and this summer in particular we had many days in the triple digits. It is hard to tell a kid to go run around outside when the heat index is 117 degrees. Heat stroke is a reality in this area of the country. Alas, the days of shoving kids outside and locking the door until lunchtime are gone. (Heavy sigh!)
Since mama-style entertainment and outdoor fun is a no-go for them, the begging begins. They want outings to more expensive forms of entertainment, like the movies. I do this sparingly because taking 3 kids and 1 adult to a movie during the day costs me about $22 in tickets (only for the morning shows), and then if I buy a large popcorn to share and drinks, it is another $30. That is a lot of money for a two-hour jaunt to see a Kevin the Minion. Of course, there are bounce house places and indoor trampolines, but I have to leave the comfort of the suburbs for that, so that’s a no. Then, we are back to TV–hours upon hours of mindless preteen pathos and canned laughter. If they would do something productive while watching the TV—say, build a toothbrush holder with Legos, paint Christmas cards, try origami mobiles, fold clothes, learn Vietnamese—I might not mind it so much. But, no, no they just want to veg.
And, what do pre-teens do when they veg in front of the TV? They eat, drink and make messes. Some days I wonder if they are having a contest to see who has the highest pile of discarded wrappers, tissues, paper, and all types of unidentifiable organic matter. And, of course, my kids constantly stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open and say, “We have nothing to eat or drink.” What? I just went to the grocery store. What they really mean to say is, “Mom, we don’t have any soda, candy bars and ice cream sandwiches to eat in an unlimited supply.” Yep. I’ve heard of color blindness, but is there such a thing as fruit-and-veggie blindness? Because the bowl of apples and bananas on the counter somehow escape their notice.
In some ways, I see my kids at their best in the summer. They are not stressed by homework, there is no shuffling to overlapping activities, they get as much sleep as they want, and so they are pleasant and sweet. At the same time, I see my kids at their worst: Slovenly, lazy, TV/computer junkies who find flushing the toilet difficult.
Needless to say, by the time the first day of school arrives, I am not one of those moms who is sad and depressed to see my little darlings walk into the halls of learning. Nope! I am no Boo-Hoo mom. Rather, I am a Woo-Hoo mom. I am the crazy lady doing a very awkward Irish jig in the school parking lot singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”