Summer, you kicked my ass again. I thought this was going to be the year I finally beat my great nemesis. But after one broken arm, one murdered cat, excessive amounts of screen-time, and a blog untouched in six weeks, I accept defeat. And, while some of you are flaunting back to school pics, I’ve still got weeks to go!
For a father blogger who is home days, summer break is my monster in the closet: I know it’s there. I know it will get me. But I inevitably pull the covers over my head and hope I survive to see tomorrow.
This year was going to be different. Or so I thought.
*Give me this short exposition and I’ll get to the failures I promised.
My annual season of hell seemed like it might finally change when my kid’s teacher offered the two greatest words I had heard since “empty nesters”; “summer school”. Yes, like you, I immediately thought this was punishment for not keeping up during the school year. However, his 2nd grade teacher explained that once the district fills its classes with students who are behind, they then offer the open spaces to those who’d benefit from extra practice. It’s only half-days for four weeks, they feed them, bus them and it’s all free. Who wouldn’t want that? Well, every kid who is old enough to realize the evil stigma of summer school, that’s who. But since ours is still unaware, we didn’t present the school-free option. Bam, one kid taken care of!
You can imagine my glee, when my youngest and most needy child’s kindergarten teacher offered us the same thing. Did I win the lottery? Who knew they even had summer school for kindergarten? It seems cruel and unusual. Yet it sure would make his older brother feel more normal about his having to go. So, bam, bam, that’s two kids taken care of!
My oldest will be visiting cousins while I bask in the sun and blog about kids who are not in my care. The remainder of summer shall be spent on the swim team and tennis classes I signed them up for, then some chillaxing at our neighborhood pool. This Dad has finally planned the best summer ever!
It all went to shit in the very first week out of school. My youngest fell out of the treehouse (not on my watch) and broke his arm. Cancel all swimming and sports. There goes half of our summer plans. Dang, strike one.
The beloved family cat witnessed the tree fall and didn’t come home that night. A week of posters and wishful thoughts ended when someone found his tag near some cat bones. Tragic strike two. It didn’t really affect our summer activities but it was an ominous cloud that hung over our season of doom.
But summer school was starting soon, right? “Honey, where’s the info packet for the youngest?” After desperate attempts to reach school staff on summer break, I finally learned the kindergarten teacher failed to mention that he was not approved. Maybe I shouldn’t have blown her off all those after-school discussions about his behavior. There goes the other half of summer plans. Crap, strike three. Plan B?
I DON’T HAVE A PLAN B!
The following is a list of last-minute, half-assed, summer activities I completely failed with. For an actual helpful list of ideas there’s some links at the bottom. But for the unprepared, cheap, lazy father, here’s what I came up with when our summer became broken. Consider it a do-not attempt list for the desperate parent. Enjoy.
- Camp Costco: Perfect, they can eat lunch then fill hours stocking up while tasting a smorgasbord of free samples. Fail: Now my kitchen and garage is full of never-to-be-used family size snacks that I have to coax neighbor kids into eating while I pick-up a sea of CapriSun wrappers.
- Lemonade stand: He can spend hours learning about commerce while selling those Costco snacks I can’t get rid of. Fail: The 6-year-old needs constant supervision and help as strangers in cars are going to be your customers. We made almost enough to cover my Costco losses until big brother came home from summer school and showed us how the mafia operates. Big bro demanded half the money though he did nothing to contribute. He explained he could just take it or split it for “being nice”. The Godbrother and small businessman argued viciously until the stand was closed down.
- Library: Yes, great idea! They have events there to lure my kids to the magic of books. How delighted they were when they learned there was no limit to books they could take. What a genius I am to get them to read all summer. Fail: Other than glancing through the pictures on the ride home, no books were read and many are still missing while my overdue bill is mounting. The next time we went to one of the sponsored activities for kids, they were showing a Disney movie with snacks for kids. And this week the library is hosting “Arcade Day”. Isn’t that the antithesis of the library?
- $1 Movies: It doesn’t count as “screen-time” if it’s the big screen, right? The theaters offer recent years kid blockbusters at 10am for only $1. Fail: So instead of your kid watching the same movie you own at home while you get some writing done, go to the theater with 100 other screaming kids and miserable parents blowing more than $1 on sugar-filled concessions by 10am.
- Playdates: I used to spend my summer breaks at my friends’ house not bothering anyone’s parents. Fail: 6-year-old playdates have to bother some parent. You down with O.P.C.? (Other People’s Children) No, no, not me! Even if you are willing to chaperone, good luck finding another playmate not already booked. The responsible, cool kids are booked this late into summer. Playdates available are only the dregs of kindergarten who are usually at home with grandma, never say please, and still need help using the potty.
- Chores?: “Clean your room”- The first and worst idea all parents blurt out when their child demands, “What can I do?” Fail: Of course it never works so you sweeten the deal with the money. Of course you still have to spend the time showing them how to clean their room, or the yard, or the laundry. You’ve now done all the chores in demonstrating but they demand their payment. Junior mafiosos in training.
- Goodwill! Keep poppin’ tags! : Kill two birds with one hand-me-down stone. We’ll clean out all our old clothes, books, and toys and reward ourselves with some new old thrift toys. Fail: Nobody including myself can be convinced to part with that thing we never use but are sure we might someday. We donate three things and come home with five older things that we’re interested in for the entire ride home. And then never again.
- Animal Shelter for possible replacement pet: Spend hours looking at all the cute animals and get over our fallen coyote food family member. Fail: Who am I kidding? No one goes to a shelter and leaves empty- handed. “Kids, are we going to get another pet that I end up caring for?After you promise and swear you’ll do it? Like the snails? And the last cat? And the treehouse? All of which eventually died. Forget it. Fool me once…”
- Video Games- Fine, if we can’t do anything else, even the doctor recommended video games for the broken and bored. Heck, primitive video games is how I filled summers as a kid and, these days, it’s more active than mind-numbing TV. Fail: No matter what two or multi-player game they’d convince me to buy, they all only play solo while the others scream for their turn, criticizes their choices, and fight non-stop while yelling for me to mediate.
- 80’s movies: Alas, TV, you win. If you can’t beat ‘em then let’s do it my way. Let the kids watch all the great movies I grew up on. They’re finally old enough. We’ll review and make a guide of 80’s movies for all parents to use on my blog. Fail? I can’t say yet. So far they’ve learned a lot of new curse words and inappropriate sexist behavior and I’ve got no written reviews. However, for the few hours of solace those pre- PG-13 gems provide, we are a happy family. And it’s not like my formative years of 80’s movies up turned me into a cynical adult who’s incapable of simple tasks like planning properly for summer. Oh.
Right now, in order to achieve one lousy post, I’m letting my youngest watch hours of Pokemon episodes. That video was the only thing I could convince him to check out of the library. Then we’ll go to the store for the fourth time this week.
For a list of real helpful activities, here’s a few links.
Dedicated to our beloved cat that never got a proper funeral