Will I Survive Summer Vacation with My Kids At Home?
Every time this photo pops up, I shudder. (I used it in a separate post recently.)
This is his “look.” The look that spells trouble.
The look that says, “I am not happy, and I am going to bring ALL of you down with me.”
Oh, and he is SO capable of doing just exactly that. (If you have a difficult child, then you know what I am talking about.)
The clock is ticking down and summer break is almost here.
June is almost here, and I’m watching its approach with a growing sense of doom.
The Jaws theme song plays in my head. Duh-da, duh-da, duh-da…
I am so fucked.
I really want to look forward to summer.
I can – vaguely – remember a time when I did.
But now, summer means that my kids are going to be home. All day. Everyday. Day after day after day after day… for 10 weeks.
I am working (or doing my very best to work) from home now. And this year, for a variety of reasons, my children (ages 11 and 13) are not signed up for camps.
So, when I say that they will be home… I mean THEY WILL BE HOME.
My stomach muscles are clenching at the mere thought.
For my kids, both diagnosed with ADHD (not that I needed a diagnosis to tell me what I already knew), summer changes in routine, sometimes no routine, disrupted sleep and eating schedules… do not bode well.
There will be fights. Brawls, really.
And nerf gun wars that will start in laughter and end in tears, screaming curses, and slamming doors.
Someone will let the hose run long enough for a pond to form in our yard – “…because I’m hot, and I’m bored…” – and then, decide it would be a good idea to let the dogs lie in the cool mud… and then, let them back in the house.
And our home will be strewn with the wreckage of the 37 activities and projects they started since breakfast, and then walked away from when they got bored.
And though I’ll be ready to tear my hair out, I will also be glad that they are doing something that does not involve a screen for a whole 10 minutes – so I can temporarily feel like a little less worse of a parent – and so I tolerate the mess – to an extent…)
And yes, I will also spend way too much time chasing after them, ranting, and throwing out threats…
…You think you will be allowed to keep your Switch if…
…The Xbox account is going to be locked if this isn’t cleaned up in 9 minutes…
… no, we will not be going to get frozen yogurt, unless…
…THAT is the recycling, and THAT is the garbage – You don’t dump the oatmeal you didn’t eat in the recycling!!! Dear God, what is so complicated about that!!! …
This is the only “mess photo” I had to share (below). I texted it to my child a few weeks ago with the message: “THAT is cleaned up?” (I don’t otherwise, go around photographing our kitchen counter at its worst.)
And the scariest thing is, that, yes. He had cleaned up. THAT is cleaned up. This was what was left after he had cleaned up.
You can see what I’m dealing with here.
And though the picture (below) doesn’t show it, the trail of Rice Krispies extends to the floor. They are even inside the drawer, along with brown sugar and milk. The box is left open, of course – I mean, that practically goes without saying.
But honestly, this mess is nothing compared to what my kids are capable of. You don’t want my daughter anywhere near your kitchen when she has a mind to make pancakes.
I have stood in my war torn kitchen in the aftermath of her culinary adventures, looking around me in wonder, not sure how any human could generate so much destruction, spread their mess so far…
I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it all – the 10 WEEKS they will be home.
Dear God, please give me the strength. I will give you my first and second born children if you will help me survive these next months…
And by the way, 10 weeks?? I mean, that is just too long. Come on!
Even my KIDS agree that that is too long.
My son admits that after a couple of months, the days just kind of blur together, and you don’t appreciate them as much. He feels summer should be shorter, but they should have a lot more breaks during the year. I completely agree.
Relatives will visit. And for a few weeks our house will fill to overflowing. Routines that are already turned inside out will get turned on their ear again.
There will – inevitably – be many awkward situations, through which I will try to maintain an outward appearance of normalcy, while I die a slow death inside.
Like, when I buy 2 sandwiches for my 2 kids and my sister-in-law buys 2 sandwiches for her 4 kids, expecting all 6 kids to share the 4 sandwiches (because these sandwiches are HUGE and it is a lot of food). It’s not a totally unreasonable thought…
The thing is, I bought whole sandwiches for my kids, because I KNOW that at least one of them is not going to be ok with sharing – I don’t know why. It’s not like he’s going to go hungry, or has ever gone hungry. There is plenty of food. But I just know.
And of course, I am right, and he protests when she tries to hold back his other half, so everyone can share.
Dear God. Just give him the fucking sandwich.
Or, when we are at the pool, my kids always go to the vending machine to get a popsicle or ice cream. This is a routine that my sister-in-law actually started. But, she is inconsistent in her delivery. Her kids might get ice cream. Or… they might not. There might be enough coins, or there might not be enough coins, so they might all have to share… gasp… or get none! Or, sometimes, the last kid out of the pool just misses out. Oh well.
Uh, yeah… that’s not going to work for my little buttercup. I know my kid, and that is most definitely not going to fly.
If he is expecting an ice cream, HE IS EXPECTING AN ICE CREAM. And no, he is not ok with sharing. Which is why I very specifically make CERTAIN that I always have a bag of coins in my pool bag (and another backup hidden in my car) so that we will always have enough.
The uncertainty lies in the unfortunate reality that once in a while the ice cream machine runs out of ice cream. That is beyond my control. But that is about as much uncertainty as I can handle.
And for any parent out there who is thinking, “Why that is just ridiculous! Of course they can share!” I don’t know what to say, except, when you have a difficult child, you pick your battles.
If I don’t need to suffer consequences for the next 6-7 hours over half a sandwich, well, then I’m not going to. The avoidance of that hell is worth far more than the extra 1/2 sandwich cost (both in U.S. currency and in years off my life).
Don’t think I’m not aware of the fucked up dynamic here.
I realize that on I am likely exacerbating the problem, and that this inflexible child is being deprived of the opportunity to learn how to cope with change or disappointment – because I do such a good job (most of the time) clearing the obstacles out of his path.
But, I prepare and plan the way I do because I have been burned. I have been burned A LOT.
I wonder how many parents with difficult children are suffering from some degree of PTSD.
I am guessing, probably, quite a few. I have had to deal with fallout, tantrums, mortifying situations, and melt downs – sometimes in very uncomfortable places. And I have learned to be prepared.
Besides which, even if I am as prepared as any human could be, life is still going to throw enough derailing curve balls our way to give us lots of opportunity to practice flexibility. There’s plenty of trauma here for all.
I can hear the well-intentioned advice hovering in the wings, “You’ve got to take time for yourself. Take breaks…”
Riiiight. Love the thought. Really. But, you don’t have a difficult child, do you?
I COULD take breaks. I’ve done that. And whatever restoration I achieved from allowing myself a little time to breathe and decompress, I paid for eleven times over when I returned and had to clean up from whatever mini armageddon had occurred during my absence. Those were some expensive breaks. I regretted every last minute of them. So, I don’t stick my hand in that fire if it can be helped.
I am pretty good at stopping crises and battles from devolving into Lord of the Flies type chaos, but I’ve got to be there on the front lines of an emerging situation to do that.
Which means, I have to be physically present and hyper vigilant.
…that my ability to focus and be productive just got chopped down to about a sixteenth of its normal size.
So, yeah, as the parent of a difficult child, I’m not really breathing a sigh of relief that summer is almost here. And, I’m guessing that I’m probably not alone.