Gone is the routine of the rest of the year. Gone are the few hours of privacy. Gone is stability and order. Gone is any semblance of neatness or quiet. It's a nonstop barrage of requests –- for food, for entertainment, for drives to friends' houses. It's a free for all –- with half-finished projects, and popsicle wrappers and wet bathing suits and towels thrown everywhere. This onslaught is broken periodically by my brief explosions "I'm not a short order cook!" "I'm not a camp counselor!" "I'm not a maid!"
The older children want jobs -– but not babysitting. The middle children want camp –- but not the one they went to last year. The little ones -– well, they don't know what they want. And me, I'd like a little primal scream therapy!
Sometimes I read articles about perfect mothers, who are always smiling. That's not me!
Sometimes I read articles about perfect mothers. You know the ones I mean –- they're nursing their child on one breast, their neighbor's on another, while simultaneously reading a story, baking a cake and organizing a trip to the museum. And worst of all, they're smiling.
But that's just not me. I love my children dearly but I'm not an octopus. I only have so much time and energy and financial resources, and no we can't just spend every day at Disneyland. What's a frazzled mom to do?
And who invented summer vacation anyway? I agree that everyone, children and teachers, could use a break –- but eleven weeks?! I don't really need my children to help with the harvest (although if they cleaned up the backyard that would be nice) and I think that all that time off is unhealthy for their growing minds, bodies and souls. Too much time with no thinking, lots of eating and opportunities to get into trouble.
JEWS NEVER STOP LEARNING
Rabbi Noah Weinberg once told us a story from his childhood. His father met him at the train station. "What are you doing here?" his father asked. "It's a break between semesters," he replied. "Jews don't take breaks from learning," responded his father. And he put him back on the train.
We may not be ready to put our kid back on the train, although on certain chaotic midsummer days I may be firmly advocating it, but I think that the break should be significantly shorter. Even though they don't appreciate it, it would be better for our children as well. They need structure to fully utilize their time, skills and energy.
I am a compulsive and conscientious mother and all my children have appropriate summer plans.
I haven't won the battle yet. In fact I tried to take on City Hall but lost. So summer stays the way it is. And despite my vitriol, despite my ranting and raving, I am a compulsive and conscientious mother and I will make an effort to ensure that all my children have appropriate summer plans. I think I need a personal secretary just to keep track of them all.
It's true that it's nice to have break from the pressures of homework and the early morning rush (camp doesn't start until 9:00 a.m.), but I find the lack of structure and the constant parade of plaintive requests -- "could you just take me... could you just make me ... could you just buy me... " -- far outweighs any perceived benefits.
On the other hand (there always is another hand, isn't there?), I remember fondly the summers of my childhood (I wonder if my parents also remember them fondly) and early adulthood. I love the water and all water sports. I have pleasant memories of hanging out with other families and other kids. The air of summer evokes a summer time and a special age.
So I guess I'll stop grumbling and try to rise to the occasion. If they're going to have all this time off let's make the most of it. I'll do all the work, physical and emotional, required to prepare my campers because I want it to be an experience of fun and growth, a memory to hold on to. I'll take my children swimming, we'll go to the beach, we'll do projects, we'll relax (all right, that's overly ambitious) and we'll take a family trip.
And hopefully we'll create a summer to remember with a smile, as well as anticipation for the school year to begin. And then we'll have to buy uniforms, and school supplies, and meet with the teachers and get each child settled, and start working on assignments...
Summer vacation, here I come!