Life with a smile: Lazy summer days nonexistent for parents

Published 6:50 am Saturday, July 14, 2018


Contributing writer

I hear that summer is a time to kick back and relax. According to pop culture, Instagram and parenting magazines, one is invited to enjoy lazy days by the swimming pool or weekends at the lake. Perhaps you’ll schedule a family vacation to the beach, Disney World or Seattle. The kids will sleep in, you’ll linger over your coffee in the mornings and unplug from the rhythms of the busy school year.

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I have to stop there for a moment. I need to pause to take a few deep breaths, lest the gales of hysterical laughter render me unconscious and therefore unable to type.

If I had to summarize our summer in four words they would be: glorious but logistically complex.

We’re crazy busy in the summer. There is no kicking back and not a whole lot of relaxing to be had. When you’re a working parent whose profession does not follow the tides of academia, summer doesn’t look all that different from the rest of the year, except that your childcare options are more scattered.

During the school year, I drop all three children off at a single location in the morning and return for them after work. Sure, there are extra-curricular activities that require modifications to the schedule but they pale in comparison to the precision choreography required in the summer.

It’s Monday and my oldest child needs to be at camp at 8:30 a.m. The younger two have camps starting at 9 a.m. – not the same camp, mind you, just almost the same starting time. At noon, the youngest has to be ferried from one half-day camp to another. The little kids need to be retrieved from their camps by 3 p.m., while their sister can stay until 4:30 p.m., but my son has karate practice at 4:45 p.m. so we’ll be cutting it close and he’ll need to change into his uniform in the car.

Two kids need lunches packed; one needs concession money for the pool; everybody should have swimsuits; no one can find their water bottles; and apparently it is tie-dye day and I’m supposed to magically produce a white article of clothing. Thank heavens our bath towels are white — or, at least, were …

My children, meanwhile, are absolutely scandalized that I am expected to report to the office most days this summer and seem puzzled when I refuse to return to the house for forgotten items. What else could possibly be more important than frog-shaped swim goggles, accidentally left on the kitchen counter?

I freely admit that I have brought some of this insanity upon myself by signing my kids up for a variety of fun summer activities. I could park them at a single day camp for most of the summer and simplify my life a bit. Kickball, swimming, crafts, movies, repeat.

For my son, this is heaven on earth and he has no desire to do anything else. But my girls — particularly my oldest — love camps with themes. Outdoor adventure camp, fairy art camp, drama camp, nature art camp, gymnastics camp, dollhouse camp, church camp, yoga camp. (Yep, those are all actual camps they’re signed up for this summer, not just a hypothetical list!)

You’d think all this activity during the week would wear them out, leaving them content to take it easy on the weekends, but you’d be wrong. They’re up at 7 o’clock and ready to conquer the world. Or at least ready to head to the water park, the farmers market or a friend’s house. We’ve had many conversations about how it is not considered socially acceptable to show up on a neighbor’s doorstep before 9 a.m., even if you personally have been awake for hours.

It is — ahem — possible that they inherited their zest for life from their mother…

In the midst of the whirlwind, I give thanks for my co-parent. My ex-husband is significantly more chill than I am, and while that didn’t work particularly well for us while we were married, it brings some needed balance to the kids’ lives now. Their weekends with him tend to be more relaxed and less structured, giving them a chance to recharge and refresh. Then it’s back into the fray, with another fun week of art projects, basketball games, and ice cream cones.

It’s summertime, friends. Enjoy it!