Sit back, relax and fire up that grill…..Summer is in full swing people, and it’s time to make some unforgettable memories. Let’s stay in our pj’s till noon, then throw an impromptu pool party where we spend the remainder of the day floating on pink flamingo inflatables until our fingers get all wrinkly and we’ve run out of Rose’. As the sun goes down and the temperature dips down to a balmy 80 degrees, our wine glasses magically refill and we cheers our friends by moonlight while noshing on perfectly toasted smores.
I’m an adult.
With responsibilities, kids to raise (aka: endless asses to wipe and human beings to mold) and a house to keep.
So basically, my depiction of the perfect summer day is a total and complete figment of my imagination—a mere pipe dream that will never, ever, become a reality. And I’m going to be completely honest with you.
Our “summer vacation” has kind of sucked.
Even the term “summer vacation” is a complete and total misnomer (at least in this point in my life) and I’m convinced that this false promise of a vacation, along with water park commercials and Instagram, were created for the sole purpose of making me feel like a total loser. And what horrible person came up with the moniker “summer break?” Which, by the way is just a fancy term for doing all the normal, monotonous and mind-numbing things you always do, but in 100 degree heat.
Despite my best intentions for creating an epic “Sandlot-worthy” summer break for my family, my long, mundane and sometimes gut-wrenching days at home with three onry children are starting to feel more like a trip to the dentist. Where you are forced to get your teeth drilled. While listening to Kenny G. On repeat. And that’s my shameless Wayne’s World reference.
I’m f*cking exhausted. And slightly heartbroken. Because my expectation of an Insta/FB/Pinterest/Twitter-worthy summer has not come to fruition. And let’s be honest; I’m not even on the same planet as those “Mega Fun Families of Five” that bounce from pool, to beach, to water park, to nature craft, to freshly squeezed lemonade and then back to the pool.
I’ve spent countless nights pondering the error of my ways and why I can’t get my sh*t together and create this magical f*cking summer that I read about in reputable news sources like Parenting Magazine or Martha Stewart Living.
Why has summer been so brutal? How did I go from belting out “Walking On Sunshine” in the beginning of June to whimpering along to “I Will Survive” come July?
Because kids. Responsibilities. Expectations. Social Media.
But since I’m not one to cry over spilt hemp milk (well maybe just a little), I decided to put my big girl “summer fun” panties on and will myself to have a more enjoyable and less stressful summer break with my kids; one that won’t make people swoon on Instagram, but where we can all look back and say “not bad!”
1. Create a challenge list
To reduce your stress level and have a more enjoyable summer break, it is important to identify the inherent challenges you will face as a parent during the summer months. Potential roadblocks to summer bliss include, but are not limited to, kids, kids with extreme personalities and/or special needs, kids, lack of external support, unique family dynamics, as well as financial or physical limitations of family members. And kids.
I highly recommend writing down these challenges, even in the notes section of your phone. Identifying these challenges will allow you to create summer goals that are specifically aligned with the individual needs of your family and this will reduce stress and make more time for productive activities or those that turn out to be super fun, rather than awful and draining. In addition, by identifying those summer challenges that you face on the daily, you can truly appreciate how hard you work and give yourself a damn break when that inevitable parental guilt creeps in.
Here is my challenge list, (which by the way took literally ten minutes and made me understand and appreciate all of the reasons why my summer has sucked so far. Oh, and I did feel like kind of a bad a** at the end of it).
(1) No school
Which means that I basically went from a party of one to a nightmare on three street. It’s 50 times the work.
Also, in the absence of school, the fighting between my two future MMA scrappers (ages 6 & 3) has reached epic proportions as they are in the ring together 24-7; one tapping out only after being deprived of oxygen for 10 minutes.
(2) Unrealistic expectations
I must have been hitting the crack pipe pretty hard to think all three of my kids would magically stop whining, fighting and complaining the minute summer break commenced. Or that at the ripe old age of 6, 3 and 1, that they would appreciate (or even acknowledge) all the “memory making” that needed to take place before school started again.
And Instagram. Every damn time I scroll through any of my social media channels, I’m inundated with photos of yet another Tori Spelling-worthy “casual” day at the infinity edge pool, with all 250 kids having the time of their freaking lives– completely unmedicated, NOT pooping in the pool, trying to drown their siblings and/or going completely mental over getting sunscreen in their eyes. Oh, and the tagline reads, “JUST ENJOYING THE LAZY DAYS OF SUMMER..” With Tori’s middle finger hidden discreetly behind her back.
I cringe at these.
Because I’m super jealous. I don’t have the patience, the motivation or the pain tolerance to do any of these activities with my kids right now. Out of sheer Mom guilt I took my kids to the county fair and while the first hour was pretty awesome, the temperature shot up to a cool 102 and my youngest daughter had a colossal meltdown because she spilled shaved ice on her new dress. And then there were the second degree burns we incurred from the hot as hell metal seats on the damn space ship ride. And our glorious day at the fair hit a shit crescendo when I dragged my two dehydrated and sugar crashed Neanderthals for two miles just so I could get a funnel cake.
And miserably failed.
(3) No set schedule
The no set schedule thing is pretty much killing my kids and I softly. They go to bed late, but still wake up early and are pretty much kicking rocks, bored AF and complaining by 8:00 a.m. They are tired, in desperate need of structure and some time away from their Mom and siblings.
(4) I have a baby
I have a 14 month old. Who’s #lifegoals include trying to kill himself on the daily by engaging in death defying activities like chewing on vacuum cords and taking flying leaps off of changing tables. And accomplishing anything is damn near impossible with a baby. They just need stuff. Constantly. And I’m not even referring to the love and attention part, but the maintenance. For instance, our trips to the pool consist of packing, loading, unloading, changing, swimming for 20 minutes, eating, applying ice to yet another golf ball sized welt on his forehead, changing again and then reloading the car.
2. Let go of expectations (along with social media summer envy)
In addition to giving you a bad case of tech neck and annoying the crap out of your friends, family and/or anyone who wishes to converse with you, surfing social media sites all summer long is the best way to set yourself up for three months of crushing disappointment.
I started off the summer obsessively scrolling through my Instagram feed multiple times a day. After viewing image after image of 780 of my closest friends eating, drinking, beaching, recreating and basically having the time of their lives, it is no wonder that I felt pretty defeated at the end of the day—especially when mine consisted of toting around bored AF mini Stalin’s to the grocery store and cleaning up copious amounts of pee*
*And I’m dead serious about the pee. #2 has developed a dangerous obsession with going #1 on the floor. To steal the attention away from her siblings, she will literally pop a squat in the middle of the living room. Between this special new activity and changing my son’s diaper six times a day, I am knee deep in piss this summer.
Despite my greatest efforts to avoid it, I had come down with a terrible case of social media envy. And here is my prescription for this annoying, highly contagious and hard to treat affliction; take a well-deserved summer sabbatical from social media.
Yep, “Social Media Sally” herself just suggested that.
If you’re like me and the mere thought of going offline for more than a solid four hours is giving you heart palpitations, then I highly recommend changing your relationship to social media. It’s important to scroll through your feed armed with the understanding that social media creates what I like to call a “fallacy of summer funness.” Our feeds are a gross misrepresentation of the amount of actual fun that is taking place during one’s summer break. This is due to the fact that most of the universe shares only their most beautiful and picturesque moments on social media sites.
What’s missing from these photos?
The monotony of everyday life.
Like those arduous trips to the grocery store where channeling your inner Danica Patrick, you race up and down the aisles, weaving around “grocery cock blocks” who rudely stand in the middle of the cracker aisle for days pondering their life’s purpose, while you furiously grab items off the shelves just so you can get the hell out of there before your kid is arrested for swiping yet another box of animal crackers. You don’t see the fighting, the tears or the horrendous vacations where you actually drive home early. And of course, the vomit. Because with kids, there is always vomit.
Another way to combat social media envy, is to simply limit the time you spend on it. The less we are exposed and inundated with images of the seemingly perfect and blissful lives of others, the more content and happier we will be.
Because we will spend less time in the comparison zone and have more free time to focus on our own lives. And let’s face it—there is always going to be someone smarter, sexier, skinnier and more excited about life and parenting, (who will pretty much kick your a$$ in a head to head “who’s the better parent”) competition.
Don’t be like me and buy the unrealistic image they are selling. Instead, let’s focus on our own summer goals and making the most out of what we got.
Suck it Instagram.
3. Stay home (think global, act local)
You don’t have to fost-adopt a monkey, become the mayor of “Theme Park Nation” or climb Mt. Everest to have a memorable summer with your family.
First think global; the health and happiness of you and your entire family should be of utmost importance. If a fair amount of stress, anxiety and inevitable tantrums will ensue from a momentous trip outside of your home, then it’s time to act local. As in, stay home. I had a breakthrough this summer when I realized that my kids were just as happy wandering around our backyard collecting rolly-polly’s, as they were going on these epic fieldtrips to the zoo.
Yes, sometimes it is absolutely necessary for your sanity to leave the confines of your home. But, it is also okay to say “f$ck the expectations” and let your kids discover the often untapped entertainment sources that exist right in their own backyard or household!
For those summer days when staying put is the best way to keep you from going to the ER with a fake illness just so you can get a break from your kids, the DIY Laser Maze is the most fun and easy indoor activity that ever existed! I found it on Pinterest http://www.brassyapple.com and it has saved my life on several occasions.
Note: I’m completely against those Pinterest DIY activities that seem fabulous on paper but take five hours to clean up while only providing ten minutes of entertainment. And leave streaks of glitter or red dye on my carpet. I assure you, this is NOT that.
What you’ll need:
1. Roll of crepe paper (streamers will work)
Tape the crepe paper to various objects throughout your living room, playroom or kid’s bedroom to make an obstacle course. I even tape some of the paper to the carpet in different shapes and with lines to provide my kids with even more activities.
While this activity is super easy to set up and take down and provides hours of entertainment, my favorite part of this experience is watching my kids work! It’s so satisfying to watch them run around frantically sweating, as I sit on the couch with a stop watch in hand, grinning from ear to ear, while channeling my best Ricky Bobby…“Kids if you’re not first, you’re last.”
4. Ask for help
It takes a village.
Never in the history of mind-numbing, condescending and annoying as sh*t cliché sayings related to child rearing, has one single phrase been more true.
But with the advent of a big little thing called “industry” and the ability to move from one location to the next by faster and more efficient means, our “village” or cooperative child rearing communities, have become virtually non-existent. With extended family members now spread all over the country, raising children and all the crap duties it entails (cooking, cleaning, raising semi-decent human beings), now falls solely on the shoulders of the nuclear family.
And it’s a damn shame.
Am I the only one who watches Sister Wives on TLC and thinks this whole one dude and four wives thing is the most brilliant idea since delivery meal systems? Three people to help you raise your kids, meal plan, clean the house and you basically only have to sleep with your husband once a month because the other three weeks are covered.
Okay, since most of us are not down with the whole “your husband taking more than one wife” thing, then it’s important that we create our own village comprised of family, friends or sitters.
For those of you who don’t have family nearby and can’t rely on them to give you a much needed break, then I recommend seeking out and building your own tribe or community. And this is easier said than done. I’ve been there and the struggle is real. But keeping working mama! Parks, library, music classes, church groups, volunteering in the classroom—pretty much pick a place or activity where children converge and you are sure to meet some moms in a similar situation.
In addition, playdate swapping (you take my kids one day; I take yours the next) is an excellent way to keep your kid occupied and out of trouble. Also, it’s a great way for you to build a relationship with another parent that you can trust, which is absolutely, positively integral to your long-term health and happiness as a parent and human. And finally, on days where you kids are out of the house, you have the opportunity to do some serious adulting which can include drinking heavily, recreating the Tom Cruise Risky Business in your undies or simply pee in peace. Oh, and you can thank me later.
Also, if it’s emotionally and financially possible for you, find a sitter, nanny or mother’s helper to give you a well deserved break during those long summer days. It doesn’t have to be expensive, there are many high school or college kids home for summer that are looking for ways to make some extra money. These types of sitters are not typically paid as much as more consistent sitters or nannies. Plus the young ones have a seemingly never ending reservoir of energy and can do all those obligatory summer activities with your kids that you are too exhausted to even contemplate. Best part is, your kids learn to develop trust with another human being outside of their nuclear family which has been shown to build resiliency and independence. Not exactly comfortable? Have them watch the kiddos while you get some work done around the house. That way you can keep an eye and ear on what is going on and still knock some things off your to-do list OR finally catch up on the new season of Odd Mom Out. Which by the way is giving me life right now.
The best thing I ever did for myself after the birth of my son was to continually ask and receive help from friends, family members, sitters and just about every person I meet on the street that doesn’t have a record. My former self was always too wrapped up in external perceptions to even dream of asking for hand-outs. Asking for help would mean that I am not the perfect mother. That I can’t raise my kids all by myself, even though I don’t work outside the home. That, ultimately, I’m failing big time in the Mom department.
But this all changed once I had a third child and realized that I personally could not do this job (or do it without checking myself into a mental facility), without my village. And of course, the more breaks I got, the more patient, present and kick ass parent I became. And these positive effects then trickled down to the rest of my family. We were all a happier, healthier and more complete versions of ourselves these days.
5. Just Say No! (Or if you’re really feeling it..Yo!)
This is the single most difficult task as a parent.
Most of us feel compelled by guilt, social and cultural norms or stupid Instagram photos to “summer hard.”
But play hard, crash hard.
I think somewhere along the way we’ve eliminated the term “no” from our parental vocabulary, thinking that if we decline that invitation to go camping in the 120 degree heat, that our children will turn into inept, empty and depressed human beings and spend the rest of their adult life in therapy. At least that is what I used to think.
But don’t call it a comeback. This summer I’m bringing the powerful, magical and downright purple unicorn of a word back into rotation. If we are actually invited somewhere (with three kids invites aren’t exactly flooding our inbox), before responding, I first assess whether this is an activity that falls within the “Mega Fun With Reasonable Effort” category or will end with 3/5 family members rocking back and forth in the fetal position. I often take my kid’s temperature at the beginning of the day–assessing their overall energy and patience level, as well as my own. If all systems are down or we are headed in that direction (or the thought of packing them up makes me want to Ralph), I politely decline. So for the days we’ve been invited to a neighborhood BBQ and my middle has just greeted me with a fistful of her sister’s hair….not happening.
If the word “no” seems a bit too harsh for you, what about using the phrase “not today?” As in, “we are not accompanying you to the park today but what about next Tuesday when hopefully my kids have turned back into humans?” I use this little trick all the time. That way my kids don’t miss out on the activity, we just do it when it works better for us.
Similarity, if we are really feeling ourselves on a certain day and all systems are up and running, then we go on that adventure! The trick is not tell your kids ahead of time so they are not disappointed.
Well, there you have it. My top five ways to not only survive summer break, but to actually enjoy it!
Disclaimer: If you read this article and are still in a “Marilyn Manson, goth-like, everything sucks state of mind,” then let me dangle one last carrot of hope before your tired, weary eyes…
Depending upon when you read this, you have less than 5 weeks, 25 days and 400 waking hours left.
You got this.
ARE YOU SUMMERING HARD OR HARDLY SUMMERING? I WANT TO HEAR ALL ABOUT IT….
So what are my favorite health and wellness tips, recipes, DIY projects and kid stuff?
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