One reason I’m an at-home dad is so I can give my children the summers that my parents gave me. Until I was a teenager, that meant a whole lot of nothing. Not a lot of camps and classes and scheduled activity. The more I think back, however, the more I recall being really bored as a kid and whining about it a lot.
This year, we go to the beach for 10 days. Then Eddie has two half-day camps: a week of design-your-own-video-game camp at the local community college plus a week of football skills camp that started today. (My average-sized, bespectacled 9-year-old’s puppy-like enthusiasm for football is worth of an entirely separate blog post.) I’ve signed both kids up for swim team for the first time – cross your fingers on that. As for Carla, all she gets is Camp Backyard Sandbox and assorted playdates. She’s 6, and she can knock out an hour by herself with a box of sidewalk chalk. She doesn’t need lots of plans.
Then school starts Aug. 26. Poof! Only eleven short weeks of summer, right?
I guess I’ve gotten spoiled with having both children in school all day, finally. And I’m realizing that I’m not going to have four whole seconds alone for the next three months.
I feel like I’m walking into a trap.
Part of me can’t wait for summer. The kids and I are going to turn our pergola into a playhouse. We’re going to explore museums – they still talk about a D.C. museum day we did in September. And there are county parks we’ve never visited.
We’re going to hang with the local at-home-dads group so I can gab with my brothers-in-arms while kids run amok on a playground. We’re going to reorganize Carla’s tiny room from dollbaby dumping ground into photo-shoot-ready sanctuary of organization. (Really, all I want is to be able to say, “Put away your crayons or hair clips or doll clothes” and she actually knows where the spot is.)
Doing all this, however, takes planning and organization on my part. It’s much less work just to neglect the children and ignore their bored cries. (Dear Children’s and Family Services Department, just kidding!)
In contradiction to all this busyness, however, I set as my goal that my children will achieve boredom. That they won’t be so loaded up with schlepping and activities that summer doesn’t actually feel like a break. That they have the time to make their own play and to make it independently, like when Eddie works on his “box structure,” which grows in his room with the aid of duct tape and glue and looks like a high-rise shanty for the Keebler elves. Or when Carla spends an hour arranging her legion of stuffed animals and headbands for what I’m sure is not a séance but is more like story time at the library.
Or for the two kids to have time to build a living-room sized fort out of king-sized sheets from my dead grandmother and exercise mats I found on the street.
Of course all Eddie wants is more screen time, while for him I want less. My Lovely Bride and I set a one-hour-a-day limit for Wii, computer and screens of all types. With more than that, and Eddie curls into a ball and gets really grouchy. Okay, that only really happens with more than three hours of Wii, but this is a power struggle that I intend to win.
And what I want is to have cheerful children who willingly clean up after themselves and don’t undo my work – laundry, picking up, cooking, straightening the electronics/batteries drawer – within minutes of its completion. Or just not to descend into the Land of Idawanna.
As in: “Eddie, if you finish moving your box structure to that new table I got you, you’ll have more space in your room.”
Eddie: “But Da-aaaad, Idawanna. And are you done with the computer yet?”
I can dream, can’t I?