As you probably already figured out, summer is one of the nice side bennies of being a teacher. It is NOT why I (or most of my colleagues) went into the profession, but it is a perk that makes up for a lot. When summer break rolled around this year, I was definitely ready. I needed to step out of the grind, clear my head, and most of all, reconnect with my kids. With all of us going in so many different directions during the school year, at times the girls seemed more like unusually short and inconsiderate roommates instead of my own flesh and blood. What's more, now that everyone's out of the naps-and-diapers phase, it's much easier to get through each day - as Rants from Mommyland says, it's the sweet spot. We've had time to have fun together, talk about whatever comes to mind, do things and do nothing as it suits us. And it's been mostly pretty good.
Until it wasn't.
If I were Vicki Gunvalson, I'd say something vaguely yucky about how my (maternal) love tank is all full up, thankyouverymuch, and maybe now it's time to siphon off some of that constant togetherness. Let me tell you, the girls and I, we suuuuuure have been together. For reasons that are too lengthy and boring to go into here, we have a consistently inconsistent schedule during our summers, so we wind up alternating between periods of frenetic socializing and periods of near-isolation. We are just coming out of the longest stretch of isolation we'll have this summer, and I will say without a moment's hesitation that I would have sold both girls on Craigslist - hell, I would've Freecycled them - if you'd found me at the right (or perhaps wrong) moments this past week. No first mate stuck aboardship in the doldrums watched the sails for the slightest puff of wind as intently as I watched the minutes pass by on the clock. Oh my holy hell, do you know how difficult it is to keep two young beings profitably occupied when you're in the middle weeks of the summer? To continue the analogy, it's very like being stuck in the doldrums - there's little to look forward to, and time passes with agonizing slowness. The novelty of pool and playdate alike have worn off. It's too hot/rainy/buggy/boring to partake in any occupation suggested by mom, and the pursuits the girls suggest are all way too expensive (take all my friends to the waterpark!) or unreasonable (watch TV and play on the iTouch ALL DAY!) to pursue. There we sit, dead in the water.
So this past week started off basically bearable, but quickly deteriorated. By Friday, I felt like I was under house arrest. Although it's true that the girls are much more independent and capable than they were throughout their preschool years, they still can't be left to their own devices completely. And, since we're not around consistently enough to go to rec camp or lessons or even regular playdates, that means I'm on duty 24/7. I can't just duck out for an hour to go work out. I can't have a phone conversation that isn't witnessed by two inquisitors. I can't leave the house for an appointment without having to choose between dragging along the incessant chatterboxes, paying through the nose for a babysitter, or spending a week trying to line up a set of reciprocal playdates, all for the privilege of going to the dentist by my own damn self. I can't even go upstairs to the "grownup" section of the library unless I bring the kids, because we're not allowed to leave them in the childrens' room for even five measly minutes to check out a book - and even if I just spent two hours reading every frigging version of The Berenstain Bears Wipe Their Bums out loud to the girls, the longest I get out of them in the upstairs library is five minutes before they start the Greek chorus of, "Mo-ooom, when are we gonna leave? This is sooooo boooring," while the other library patrons shoot me the stink-eye. Good times, good times.
By the time last Thursday rolled around, I had had it. I knew I needed to get out of the house, unaccompanied by anyone related to me through either blood or marriage, or mayhem would ensue. I told (not asked, told) Warren that he was on his own for Friday night. "Why don't we get a sitter and we can both go out!" he offered cheerily. "NO," I snarled, all fangs and spittle. "I need to talk to someone I don't see every single day." True, that was part of it. But I realized that was only part of it. Secretly, I was hoping that he would get to experience the girls at the fullest expression of their summer doldrum-y selves. I was hoping that they would spend the hours of my absence in their most typical pursuit, which is teasing one another, both physically and verbally, until it inevitably slips over the fine line that separates fun from annoying to hurtful. I hoped they would melt into a puddle of boneless protoplasm on the floor as soon as he mentioned the words "pajamas," "toothbrush," "prepare," or "bed," moaning nooooooooo, I don't waaaaant tooooooooo as they sank to the floor. I hoped he would be interrupted numerous times as he attempted to clean the kitchen, put away leftovers, finish the dishes, and otherwise get the house in order, all so he could a) refuse multiple requests to play Minion Rush on his iPad; b) referee a squabble over whose American Girl doll dress is whose; c) prevent someone from throwing a punch at someone else; or d) all of the above. I was hoping, in short, that he would get the smallest insight into the fact that being with the kids all day, every day, isn't always as fun or restful as he seems to think it should be.
Well, THAT didn't work.
I got home at 10:20 pm, expecting to find an orderly kitchen, a quiet house, and sleeping girls. Ha. What I found was one daughter leaping about like a deranged gazelle and the other one draped over the couch, sound asleep, while Warren watched old episodes of Star Trek with them (he felt it was important for the girls to see ST for their moral and intellectual development, or some such). Not a thing had been put away after dinner, and the usual blizzard of detritus covered every flat surface. So in response, I refused to help him out. He made a couple of halfhearted efforts at shooing India to bed, then went to our room and crashed while I put Celeste in her room. Gee, it's no wonder he thinks I'm nuts, complaining about summer ennui with the kids - if *I* were willing to let everything go to hell in a handbasket with the TV on in the background, MY summer would be cake and ice cream too! [P.S. Don't worry, Loyal Readers - he caught enough sideways snark the next day from yours truly to show him the error of his ways. It's a slow process, bringing up husbands.]
Fortunately, I think (hope) that was (touch wood) the nadir of the summer doldrums for us. Just as the mariner wakes one day to find the sails filling with fresh breezes, we woke to find the page of the calendar has turned to one more filled with plans and structure. Just the fact that I have a few hours to dispose of as I like this morning (oh, day camp, how I adore thee) tells you that the tide has turned. We haven't hit the edge of summer, but we can see it from here, and that has a way of concentrating one's focus admirably (Do you see what I did there?!? DO YA??? EXTENDED METAPHOR, BAYBEE! Bachelor's degree in English literature FOR THE WIN.). After we pass our few remaining weeks of camps and excursions and (ugh) getting ready for school, I'm sure I'll be able to tell people "we had a great summer!" and honestly mean it.