The week before school started I came across a meme that said, “You only get eighteen summers with your kids – make them count!”
I looked up from my phone, bleary-eyed from three straight hours of scrolling Instagram. I saw my kids, absorbing Netflix – eyes glazed over and mouths agape, strands of spittle running down their chins. My eyes wandered over to the sticky countertops, flies buzzing around stacks of cups in the sink, the floor littered with popsicle sticks that didn’t quite make the trash can. Soon the ants will come.
My first thought after reading the meme was, “Eighteen? The house will never make it.”
It’s not that I’ve given up on parenting, or basic hygiene, or life, per se… it’s more like this summer gave me the opportunity to develop some strategies on logistical efficiency. For instance, why make the kids bathe when you know they’ll be at the pool later? Why pick up the popsicle sticks from around the trash bin when you know there will only be a fresh new pile tomorrow? Why referee one fight when a new one is already breaking out? It’s like shoveling snow in a blizzard. My kids are always here, they’re always eating, and they’re always making messes. So I’ve stopped fighting it. Basic Six Sigma, is how I explained it to my therapist.
At the beginning of the summer I had such enthusiasm, such gusto. Schedules, an activity bucket list, healthy snacks, reading lists, consequences for actions… but a few weeks of that proved exhausting and now my kids are as feral as wild slugs.
As I type this they’re sitting at the table eating Goldfish crackers. For lunch. Like, as in a meal from which you are supposed to garner nutrition to not die. But what can I say? All I’ve had so far today is four Slim Fast shakes and a Lexapro.
School starts next week – I thought – but I feared that this time we may be too far gone to acclimate back into normal society. Alarm clocks? Only three meals a day? Brushing teeth? How are my kids going to fight with each other if they’re all in different classrooms?
Will they be able to detect one another’s “most annoying breathing in the world” through school walls? Do I warn their teachers that they’ve regressed or just let them figure it out for themselves when they notice the flock of sparrows that have taken up residence in their hair? We need to get it together – and quick – or the teachers may send them back home with “Danger: Radioactive” stickers on their foreheads.
As for me, I’m looking forward to some “me” time. You know – enjoying some time alone and focusing on refilling my bucket by getting to all those things you just can’t do with kids. Things like reading a book, meditating or going for a quiet walk through the woods.
Of course, all of that will have to come after I get the house off the condemned list by setting traps for woodland creatures who’ve nested in the kids’ rooms, mucking out no less than twenty trash bags full of Happy Meal toys that have spent the summer multiplying under beds, chiseling the countertops, macheting the yard, getting our finances back in order before the electricity is shut off, washing the dirty laundry that has begun trickling down the stairs, answering three months’ worth of emails, coordinating fall sports schedules, re-stocking the fridge with food that doesn’t leave my fingers orange, sending my parents proof of life, determining the source of the rotting carcass smell in the minivan, burning the minivan in an abandoned field, and finally, shaving my mustache.
I’ll be a new woman, come fall.
Solidarity parents. Whether it’s your first or last summer with your kids, one of eighteen is in the books. We made it through. But don’t get too comfortable… *in my best English accent* . . . winter break is coming.
Watch as the 24-foot tree is lighted for the first time. Plus, your family will enjoy live signing of holiday favorites, a holiday market, hot chocolate, s'mores and more.
Preschool age kids can learn, play, explore and grow at the Saint Louis Art Museum's program for its youngest visitors. Join in on the adventure as little ones discover new ways of interacting with art and each other.