Labor Day has come and gone. And all across the land parents are putting away the summer whites, dropping a week’s pay at Staples for school supplies and then secretly doing the happy dance. My kids are still too young for elementary school. But parents, I feel you.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a lovely summer– long afternoons at the playground, cooling off at the beach and the spray park, weekly pilgrimages to the local farmer’s market, and trips to see family and friends. So why am I okay with watching those days slip away? Essentially it boils down to this: I am old and infirm and summer requires a LOT of extra energy.
Take, for example, our week-long vacation with Dan’s family at a rental house on Long Island. It was wonderful to see them. Really wonderful. But I strongly suspect that our vacation (with a one-year-old and four-year-old) was a whole different level of MOVEITMOVEITMOVEIT than the vacation experienced by Dan’s siblings (who have children between the ages of nine and twelve). This may be completely inaccurate, but here’s my take on things.
We bolt out of bed at 5:30am, when Emma starts to squeak and spend the next hour making shushing noises and pleading with her not to wake everybody else up. Emma finds this game delightful and squeals. LOUDLY. By 6:30am we give up all hope of keeping her quiet and try to dress her in something cute so that she’ll be forgiven. (How could you stay mad at dat cutie patootie wittle face?) Then we pretend she belongs to someone else.
Siblings rise around 7:00am and, with a relaxed curiosity, scan the living room and kitchen to see if their children are up yet. Either way, they pour themselves a cup of coffee. Next stop is a leisurely shower, or, if the weather is nice, maybe a bike ride.
We hastily make cereal for Jacob and then begin cutting grapes into 16ths for Emma. While cutting with one hand, we scarf down a bowl of cereal and glass of juice with the other. Try not to confuse hands. As soon as Emma runs out of her supply of grapes, she starts to lobby (LOUDLY) for our cereal. We give in. Because she could, in theory, still be hungry. And she is LOUD. And, believe it or not, someone in the house is probably still asleep. (Which is odd. Because, isn’t it afternoon by now?)
Siblings sit down at the table and enjoy leisurely breakfast while again wondering aloud where their children are. Then they yawn. Said children wander into the kitchen eventually and are pointed toward cereal boxes so that they can eat as well.
We get our children ready for the first activity of the day by: changing Emma’s diaper, getting Emma dressed while she squirms around and crawls away in between each item of clothing, chasing Jacob around the house with a series of increasingly exasperated pleas to use the potty, changing Emma’s diaper again, feeding both children a snack, changing both children into new outfits as their old ones are now painted with their snack, and restocking the diaper bag. Once all of this is finally done, we realize that neither of us have showered and anyway it is time for Emma’s morning nap. One of us stays in the house with her while the other takes Jacob out for the morning activity.
Siblings get their children mobilized for the first activity of the day by saying the following: “Kids, go get dressed.”
It is time for Emma and Jacob to have an afternoon nap. Holy @$!)I*#. How do we get them to do this while they are sharing a bedroom?? We try putting Emma into her portable crib first and hope she falls asleep quickly so that we can sneak Jacob into the room. Shockingly, Emma is not on board with this plan. Unless her ‘winding down ritual’ is standing up and shrieking at the top of her lungs, she rarely makes any progress toward sleep until I stand over her crib for half an hour patting her back and apologizing for all of the ways I will embarrass her when she’s fourteen. (Look, how do I know what she is screaming about? She seems really mad. Maybe she is psychic.) By the way, standing over a portable crib for half an hour: SUPER comfortable.
Anyway, you get the point. Lovely vacation. But, restful? Not so much. That’s okay though, because as soon as we returned home, we slid right back into our normal routine– work for me and Dan, preschool for Jacob, daycare for Emma. A little normalcy. For a whole week. And then . . .
Jacob’s preschool was closed for the last week in August. All week. (It’s like they were trying to break us.) Sure, they claimed it was for “staff development”. (In-service on glue stick protocols?) And to prepare the classroom for the new academic year. (After a week, I expected to see a life-size Space Shuttle replica made out of Legos.) I’m sure the real reason was to exponentially increase our appreciation of WHATEVER they do in preschool this year. After a week at home with a preschooler, no parent is lodging any complaints about the preschool “curriculum”. You want to show my child reruns of the Backyardigans and Wonder Pets for eight hours? Fine, fine. It will help him to develop an appreciation for the way imaginary animals solve problems (while singing catchy tunes that he will repeat until his tween years). Thank you. Here is my child. G-d bless you.
When Jacob came home from school on the last day before this break, we counted the number of “home days” he would have. When we got up to the number “ten”, he was overjoyed. I started checking myself for signs of a stroke. Ten?? (Yup, because you have to factor in Labor Day.) So there it was. I love the boy. Don’t get me wrong. And I love spending time with him. But keeping him entertained and happy for ten straight days . . .? Do you have any idea how many questions this child can ask in a 10 minute car trip? Now multiply that by the 8 billion short car trips that will occur during ten days at home. I have done the math. It equals: DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO THE EDGE OF MY SANITY. Maybe I’m too old for this kind of parenting. (Wait, have I just made the argument for teen pregnancy?) Nah. Forty is the new . . . thirty-eight. Right?
Well, in any event, we survived. And Jacob did what Jacob does. Which is find the joy in every new experience. (And advocate aggressively for new experiences.) On his second to last home day, he said to me, “Mommy! Tomorrow I want to go to the rock gym and then on the home day after that I want to go back to the spray park and then on the home day after that I want to go to the new playground and then . . . ” When he paused to catch his breath I explained to him that there was only one home day left. And after that he was headed back to preschool. No worries. He couldn’t have been more thrilled for a new year. A new classroom. And new adventures. And so are we.