Next week is my kids’ first taste of summer vacation.
Like moms everywhere, I dream of lazy, fun-filled summers with my kids. Packed with adventures they will treasure for the rest of their lives. Sprinkled with the smell of fresh cut grass and ocean breezes, featuring lots of sunshine without any sunburn.
Back when I worked fulltime in an office year-round, I felt gut-stabbing guilt for depriving my kids of the laidback, lazy days of summer. Shivering in my overly air-conditioned office, I vowed I’d make the changes necessary to give my three children a perfect summer.
And now that I’ve made those changes, I’ve learned that…
Reality is different.
One of my best friends, whose two young sons are also out next week, called to tell me she already regrets not signing the boys up for camp. The weather forecast is for rain every day, which just makes the fantasies crash harder.
“A week off with the boys sounded so great a month ago,” she moaned into my voicemail. “But the truth is I want a week off for myself.”
I hear ya, sister.
For me, summer fantasies, in addition to centering around fresh water, sunshine, and blissful camera-ready family moments, often feature the two following unachievable ideals: the nutritious, delectable breakfasts my children will relish now that we don’t have to rush out the door for school, and the educational field trips we will go on together, exploring our hometown of Washington DC, the mecca of U.S. history, politics and culture for American kids.
I am a lousy cook, except when it comes to pancakes, French toast, waffles and bacon. By late spring every year, I seem to have forgotten that my kids don’t like any of these things. I know – how can a child NOT like pancakes? But my kids’ breakfast tastebuds harken back to my husband’s European relatives, people who eat cold cuts and cheese for breakfast. All my kids want is a slab of mozzarella or prosciutto and a few strawberries. Two weeks into summer, I am reminded yet again that I’m a bizarre failure as a mom because I can’t get my kids to eat what most American kids crave for breakfast.
And then we have the educational field trips.
I’ve tried to take them to Gettysburg’s famous battlefield. To historic Mount Vernon on the banks of the Potomac river. To the four-story interactive Newseum ten minutes from our house. To DC’s famous (and free) Smithsonian museums. Our country’s most visited museum, The Air & Space, gets twelve million visitors a year. Minus the five members of my family. Because the kids will not go.
This is what they did and said in summers past, after I quit my fulltime job and began dragging them to these cultural masterpieces.
“This is BORING.”
“Can we go to the gift shop instead of the museum?”
“Noooooo Mom! I hate George Washington.”
All that whining makes me want to go to the museums by myself, and leave them in front of the tv at home watching Ridiculousness. And so now, that’s what I do. With a big pile of Austrian breakfast meats in front of them.
My revised vow for summer: don’t do anything that ruins summer for my kids (and myself). Summer at its best, I need to remind myself every year, is about being lazy and taking life slowly. At least for a few days, or weeks, until the kids get bored of doing nothing. Then that’s the time to take the kids somewhere educational and hopefully a bit fun.
In my family, we call that place camp.