DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince got it right in “Summertime”:
School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
But back then I didn’t really know what it was
But now I see what have of this
The way that people respond to summer madness
These months present challenges for parents everywhere. School ends, schedules are disrupted, and madness can ensue. How do the Introverted Moms cope?
Summer is no big deal to Señor Lunchbox. He will wake up and go to school. This is good because he desperately needs a structured environment. Dreamy and I will wake up and go to work. This is good because we need to keep our jobs. Princess Slim will, on the other had, wake up and go somewhere new every week. For her this summer will be one of constant adjustment to new routines, new places, and new people. She bears the brunt of summer insanity, and it breaks my heart.
Princess Slim is signed up for seven — SEVEN — different camps this summer and I have two weeks left to fill. Really hoping to draft some grandparents into service so the poor girl can sleep in late and have some down time once in awhile. Guilt isn’t my thing, but booking her into all these activities has made me feel guiltier than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Why?
Some of it is undoubtedly tied up with childhood memories of long stretches of unstructured time and the exhilarating sense of freedom felt upon finishing the school year. Perhaps I need to let go of my expectations for these months and acknowledge my anxiety stems from the fact that I want summers back, the kind with long days and seemingly limitless choices. These experiences were critical to my development, I think, and I desperately want Slim and Lunchbox to have these same types of opportunities.
As Kathy mentioned to me, however, these kinds of summers “aren’t possible any more for us.” And let’s be real: even if I did have summers off I would still be looking for things to do with the kids, who most likely would not want to sit around and read all day. Hello, adulthood calling. Responsibility on lines one and two. There is no going back, only forward, and I can’t let unrealistic expectations mess up my head.
The other guilt-inducing part is murkier. As a mother, isn’t it my job to spend time with my kids? I find it impossible to reconcile my roles as Mom and Working Mom during the summer months. My job is deathly quiet in the summer but I still have to show up and appear to be working even though I’d much rather be goofing off with Slim.
These thoughts hurl me into an ugly insecurity spiral: what the hell are my priorities? Why do we live in an area where two incomes are required? Kids are only young once, you know, and you are fracking it. all. up. Why did you even have kids if you can’t spend time with them? You are a terrible mother.
Ugh. A solution must exist. It may be as simple as taking a vacation day once every few weeks and declaring it “Slim and Mom” time. It might be as complicated as changing careers (anybody need an English teacher? I have no experience or certification but I sure do love words and books!). This isn’t coping at all; it’s a mess. And I don’t like it one bit.
I’m not very good at summer. I’m not talking about the heat, the humidity, the bugs, the sand, or the sunscreen, although I’m no good at them, either. I’m talking about the vast expanses of unstructured time.
This is pretty ironic, because, as an introvert, I’m all about the unstructured time. I need it, I crave it. If I had 10 weeks to myself… sorry, my head just exploded.
But managing Doodlebug’s summer is one of my biggest challenges as a parent. It’s gotten easier – iDad was still working in an office when she was small, so I basically resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get any writing done until preschool started again in September. Now that he works at home we have much more flexibility, but it’s still complicated.
How much of Doodlebug’s time should be completely open? If we sign her up for camp, will she hate it? (Still smarting from the Art Camp Debacle of ’12.) When can she see her friends, who are all on different home/camp/vacation schedules? Do we get to take a vacation? When will iDad and I work? And how will I fit in my own downtime?
The last one, of course, is where I always get tripped up. As a kid, summer was a time for slowing down — sleeping in, reading, taking a break from the social pressures of school and being by myself for a change. But now that I’m a mom, summer is exactly when things ramp up. I feel like Doodlebug’s social director, carefully planning enough fun to keep her entertained but not over-committed.
We spend more time together, which is wonderful. During the school year, we only get about six hours of Doodlebug time a day. Most of that is rushing through our schedule, trying to hit our targets: breakfast, dropoff, pickup, dinner, homework, bedtime. I don’t miss that craziness. But that doesn’t change the fact that summer, with more emphasis on my Mom role, is draining for me.
I know, from past summers, that certain things do not work. Wide-open days with nothing planned? Cranky mom, cranky kid. Swapping half-work days with iDad? The blocks of time were too short to accomplish much, and we never spent time as a family. Vacation here, camp there, free week in between? No routine, and I thrive on routine (so do kids, I hear). Playground playdate + picnic lunch + berry picking + pool? After two days of that I would need a week off to recover.
So here’s what we’re trying this year. The first part of our summer is pretty open. We have one mini trip scheduled, and Doodlebug will be spending some long weekends with her grandparents (thank you, grandparents!). But when she’s home I will plan morning activities, either playtime with friends or excursions with me and/or iDad.
I want us to be home in the afternoons, though, and we’re going to try an after-lunch family reading time. Stealth school skills for Doodlebug, downtime for me. iDad is our pool parent, so hopefully they can fit in some water time in the late afternoons. More downtime for me. And if all else fails I will have my precious evening time.
Then comes the camp phase – Doodlebug and Princess Slim are signed up for four weeks of camp together, which I hope will solve the “But I don’t have any friennnnnds there!” issue from summers past. And I’m also hoping that grouping the camps in a block will let me get in several good weeks of writing. Taking that month-long break beforehand will give me a chance to organize my thoughts about my novel. Or so I’m telling myself.
After the camps we’ll have a family vacation and then one totally free week before school starts. I want to keep this as open as possible, both to give Doodlebug a chance to transition back to the school year schedule and to give us time to eat plenty of ice cream. I will let you know how it goes…