Thursday, August 5, 2010

The dog days

When we lived in Texas, I had a visiting teaching companion who spent her summers fretting over the fact that, come August, she'd have to send her girls back to school. She loved being with her daughters, and it stressed her out to put them in the hands of the public schools for seven hours a day. I had a lot in common with this friend-- we were both married to cardiology fellows and had four kids and had lived in the same town before moving to Houston, but I always felt a little bit guilty that I didn't share her ardor for summers with my kids.

Bryce and Annie go back to school on August 23rd-- that's 18 days from today, and I cannot wait. While I always think that I'll enjoy the laid-back days of summer, the popsicles, and the long afternoons reading-- the truth is that popsicles inevitably melt into red puddles on the table, the floor or the back porch, the kids beg for their reading "time-outs" (Bryce calls it the "hour of pain") to be over, and I just don't do laid-back.

I'm a much better mom when there's structure-- when I can say, "You must be in bed at 8:30 tonight because you have school tomorrow" and when I can use piano and swimming lessons as the reason why they can't have play dates after school. I'm more patient when I can escape to my bedroom for 30 minutes after lunch to read and I know that no one will be up there jumping on the squeaky bed, watching iCarly or playing a DS. They're awake before I finish my morning run, often still awake by the time I fall, exhausted, into my bed, and frequently crawl into my bed at night. I want a few hours with no responsibilities, no tattling, no requests for grape juice in a sippy, no Moose A Moose, no elaborate schemes for lemonade stands, no pseudo-swearing from my ten-year-old, no popcorn on the couch, none of the extra laundry running through the sprinkler provides, no taking everyone to the grocery store, no "I'm bored"s.

When I had three toddlers, I often felt crazy. Not just overwhelmed or tired, but insane. They were omnipresent, like a burr I couldn't shake off my sock. Now they're bigger, and during the school year, I approach a feeling of competence and sanity with Isaac and Maren around. When Maren started her hour and a half of preschool twice a week this winter, I even got three whole hours of time to myself each week. It wasn't much, but it was enough. But the summers still depress me. Isaac starts kindergarten on August 30th, and instead of feeling nostalgic about him growing up, I'll push him out the door to join his brother and sister in the big wide world.

Mostly, I want an hour or two of silence and NO ONE TOUCHING ME. No ambient sounds of video games or older brothers torturing younger sisters, no Phineas and Ferb providing the soundtrack of my life. The sad thing is, I'd probably fall stone cold asleep. Or else I'd miss them.



TJ said...

sometimes i feel like i'm the only one that feels like this. glad to know i'm not the only one who will be partying it up the day their kids are back to school!

Blue said...

Sometimes I think this summer would have been calmer if I'd just taken my kids on trips instead of staying here the whole time. The six straight weeks with east coast cousins in town has been a lot to deal with. I am looking fwd to having my brood back to myslf and having routines and schedules to meet again.

We saw Date Night last night and this post reminds me of the mom (played by Tina Fey) and her wishes. It's at the dollar theater right now so you could prolly netflix or redbox it if you want to see it.

Off to the library! TTY soon!

Queen of the Castle said...

I would love to keep my older two home (well, one of them is staying home this year) and put the younger two in day care or something. It isn't so bad when they can pretty much take care of themselves and don't need you all of the time.
The older they get, the more I like them.

Shelah said...

I'm just the opposite, Queen. I must be a horrible parent, because I do not enjoy the older kids as much as the younger ones. I think the older kids should be more self-sufficient-- that they shouldn't need me to referee their fights and remind them to make their beds 50 times a day, that they shouldn't be hanging out in my face all the time. I cut the little ones a lot more slack. Also, my little ones are far less intense than the big ones. I must have screwed up big time somewhere along the line.

Queen of the Castle said...

Shelah, I think you are a good mom. Everybody is different.
I have a really hard time with babies. The constant demands and neediness drive me insane. For years I thought I was a really bad mom because I would shutter every time my baby cried and found myself crying almost daily because of the demands of caring for babies and toddlers.
I also think that personality has a lot to do with it. My older two and I get along really well and they are pretty helpful. The jury is still out on the younger ones. I think that it might be harder with them. Especially the youngest, he is pretty demanding.
I didn't mean to make you feel bad that wasn't my point. I need to have kid free days as well. But, if I could pick which two I would keep home, I'd pick the older two in a heartbeat.
You are not a bad mom! Really, I didn't mean to cause you to think that.

Sara said...

All I can say is AMEN. I'm counting the days...

Shelah said...

Oh Queen, you didn't make me feel bad. Don't worry about it. :)

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