There is absolutely something to be said about the idea of a plan-free summer. No camps or sports or obligations. No big checks to write or carpooling to arrange. At least one parent at home with the kids to do whatever they want, gain independence, take each day as they please.
Then reality kicks in.
You know how much fun it to watch the air deepen with darkness and echo with giggles as your kids chase fireflies across the lawn, filling oversized jelly jars with leaves, sticks, and living lightning? The concept makes you smile as you sit back and watch it all begin. Then the kids get over-tired and cranky and insist on sleeping with those jars in their sweaty fists so you can’t sneak in to free the bugs, and the next morning is welcomed with screams as bug corpses pepper the bottom of the stifling jars of death, forcing you to figure a way to make this life lesson less traumatic/likely to ruin the entire day? Well, that’s what deciding to stay home with the kids all summer is like. So much blind optimism and forgetting about the casualties of the decision. Like fireflies. And your sanity.
Here are 21 things those of us who have our kids home for the whole summer know for sure (and hopefully maintain a healthy sense of humor about):
1. Saying things like, “Today’s rules are no bleeding, breaking things, or making my house messy” is the normal way to start your day.
2. “Sleeping in” means you’re all up at 7:05 a.m. instead of 6:45 a.m. Golly. So refreshing.
3. A fully stocked craft bin is law.
4. The plan to do worksheets every day is the first plan to go right out the window.
5. The second is the plan to limit screen time.
6. How important it is to keep the freezer stocked with ice pops of shutuppery — you know, the crappy store-bought popsicles that they love, not the homemade Pinterest-gorgeous stuff you and the kids made then never touched.
7. You’ll look on the bright side and tell yourself that at least you have tons of flexibility to get ahead on things like the kids’ summer reading, a few projects around the house, and buying the back-to-school supplies. (Can you even hear what you’re saying?)
8. You will supply their wardrobe with a variety of summery items, yet they’ll wear the same three things for all 12 weeks of summer — and you don’t care.
9. A strict routine, real threats, and quality bribes are vital for survival.
10. That it takes 17 times longer to prepare for and clean up after a day at the beach than the actual day at the beach lasts.
11. The glory of a rainy afternoon with pizza delivery and movies on demand.
12. The horror of an entire rainy day with kids climbing the walls.
13. The ice cream truck never comes when you’re outside with a pocket of dollar bills and kids behaving well enough for a treat.
14. The ice cream truck always comes when the kids are fighting as you’re telling them to SIT DOWN FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS DECENT AND EAT YOUR DINNER.
15. By week four there is more mulch, dirt, and grass in your house than in your yard.
16. Exactly how much longer until school starts again — down to the minute.
17. Nothing fills you with rage more than finally collapsing into couches after 10 hours of playing and errands and wrangling kids into/out of swimsuits and chores and bike rides and parenting your a*s off, only to have your spouse arrive home from work announcing to the room, “Turn the TV off! You guys should be outside playing!”
18. If you also work at home you’ll spend most conference calls apologizing for what sounds like a chipmunk rave going on in the background.
19. All required summer reading will be done the week before school starts (with tears in their eyes and intermittent shouts of, “THIS IS SO UNFAIR”). The “Summer Projects” around the house will be buried under forts, getting recategorized as “Fall Projects.” Your last night of summer break will be spent at Target, scraping shelves for anything resembling items on the kids’ back-to-school supplies lists.
20. The cost of sunscreen alone for daily trips to the town pool could have covered the registration fees for at least three weeks of camp for all your kids. That would have been nice, wouldn’t it?
21. You’ll probably do it again next year.