Summer parenting changes as the years pass. We move from summer activities to summer camp to…I don’t even know what. I guess it goes along with the changes in our kids from year to year. Or maybe we’re the ones who change. The parents who provide the summer care and activities? Anyway, these are my observations of summer parenting. *This post contains some affiliate links!
Toddler – Pre-K: Every day is a new adventure. You discover new bugs and animals, watch fireworks with awe, feel sand between your toes and fingers, play in baby pools, and visit playgrounds. Your tiny tot is slathered in organic, all-natural, chemical-free sunscreen that costs $114 a bottle even though he’s wearing a hat, rash guard and swim trunks that reach his knees. You take no chances. You watch with joy as your little one learns to run barefoot in grass, and you take beautiful photos that you have framed and hang on the walls. You eat fresh, organic, locally-grown fruit and vegetables, and you raise a couple of chickens in the yard, so that you have fresh eggs. You savor the flavors and laugh with joy as your little one becomes a sticky mess as he delights in the new foods. You drink lots of purified water that you run through a charcoal filter (just to be sure) and make homemade, organic, usweetened fruit juices in your Breville Juicer. You make summer with a little one look so amazing that your friends have their IUDs remove and hope for twins. Hands down, summer is your favoritest season ever.
After Kindergarten: You spend time together doing structured activities, making crafts, visiting museums, taking boat rides, going to beaches, enjoying t-ball and soccer and swimming. You plant a garden, and together you reap the harvest even though they little one is becoming a picky eater. Filtered water is the name of the game, and you buy expensive, refillable Camelbak filtered water bottles because the environment. Happy pictures of your adventures fill your social media feed, and all of your friends “like” your posts and envy your Pinterest-inspired cool daily crafts. You shrug off their “How do you it all?” comments and never admit you’re exhausted searching for ideas. You’re still mostly feeding him organic, nutritious food from the garden and Whole Foods (except for when there’s a tempting sale on non-organic) and dressing him in cute Gymboree coordinates and Keen sport shoes. He’s learning to swim by himself, and while you’re still in the pool with him, he’s becoming independent, which fills you with pride. The rash guard is short-sleeved now, and with the matching swim trunks, he looks amazing. Like a photo for a Land’s End or Gap ad, really. Plus, it saves on the organic sunscreen, which is becoming expensive and a fight to get on him. You read the entire Magic Tree House series together and practice math flash cards every day. You make homemade ice cream with your Cuisinart and lemonade with no artificial sweeteners. The fireworks rock. Summer is bliss.
After First Grade: You do all of the above, mixing in cool day camps to try to generate some interest in science, music or art that you pay for with the money you made selling that now dust-covered $500 juicer on a Facebook Yard Sale site. You give away the chickens because cleaning the coop is just one more thing to do, and he’s no longer eating eggs, so you’re just giving them away to friends. You visit the beach, but you’ve given up on the expensive organic sunscreen, and instead, you’re using Neutrogena Baby 70 SPF cream (because those sprays don’t work according to your Mommy Blogger “friends”). You sit at the edge of the pool watching your little guy learn to paddle and swim underwater. He looks so adorable tanned in his rash guard and swim trunks. You snap photos in the morning before things get messy, and if you remember, you post them on social media so your friends remember that you’re still alive. Weekly trips to the library are fun, and together you read lots of books so he isn’t behind the curve when school starts again. You work on math in the grocery store and with seashells in the sun. Summer is long, but you only get this time with them once, and you’re going to enjoy every minute of it.
After Second Grade: Day camp all summer but for a couple of weeks you go on vacation to the beach. Structure is good. Structure is important. So is before and after care. You hose the child down with Coppertone SPF 50 “All Day” Sunscreen that was in a 4-pack on Amazon. You give up on organic food and aim for has more ingredients you don’t need a degree in chemistry to recognize than not. Capri Sun is cheap at Costco, and you buy it by the case so that you can throw it out the window at the child and the child’s friends in your yard as they race around spraying each other with the hose until they create a mudslide through which they push their snow sleds. You buy store-brand bottled water because those Camelbak bottles got destroyed when the child filled them with soda at some kid you don’t know’s house. You take him to the pool but dread the fights over $42 pretzels and $63 hot dogs he won’t eat, and you pretend that you are reading a book and don’t notice the lifeguard is screaming at him to stop running every time you hear the whistle. He knocks the photos of his younger self running through the grass off the walls playing kickball in the house, but you don’t have the fit you really want to. Boys do these things, right? You find your summer drink of choice is no longer lemonade but gin and tonic. Child wears whatever shorts and t-shirts are clean. You have a reading list and a math packet sent home by the school for the child to work on over the summer, but by mid-July you’ve given up the fight and hope he remembers how to write his name by the end of the first week of school. By July 4, you know exactly how many days until school starts and have bought a new backpack and filled it with school supplies. Summer feels like a slog through muck, but you’re making it look good.
After Third Grade: Having fought to get your child up and out to school for at least 80% of the days it was open, you forgo camp because YOU need a vacation from the battle. Child runs the streets in lederhosen and a Batman cape carrying Nerf Zombie Blasters when he’s not sitting in his room with the flat screen television and Xbox (which you swore would never be in his room) screaming and cursing at his “classmates” (whom you suspect might really be 40 yo child predators) while they kick each other out of private parties. Child refuses to bathe and only emerges for food of no nutritional value but lots of calories, powdered juice-like drinks and to demand game upgrades and faster wifi. You no longer care what kind of water he drinks. Child insists the Xbox be taken on vacation to the beach where child spends only enough time in the sun on the sand to procure insanely expensive ice cream from ice cream man before returning the bedroom he’s turned into a cave. You’re using Target brand spray sunscreen that you buy in 6-packs, and you don’t even know if it has an SPF, and child announces rash guards are for sissies. At the pool, you hide behind an umbrella with your Kindle and big sunglasses and pretend your child is not the one who just did the cannonball that completely soaked the mum sitting nearby with her expensive phone. Again. Child watches all seven seasons of The Walking Dead on Netflix and pronounces, in church, that Jesus was indeed a zombie and cites episodes from the series as evidence. You send child to a “free” Vacation Bible School where he gets into a fist fight with other kids over presidential politics, loses one pricey Nike flip flop and learns a song he swears involves the benefits of “Having Booze in Your Pockets,” so of course, you join that church. You start sporting a cap that says, “it’s five o’clock somewhere” and buying boxed wine and adult margarita juice boxes. It’s not drinking alone if the cats are hiding in the closet with you. You know exactly how many hours until school starts on the day after it closes. You dread knocks at the door because it means the swarm of smelly children is about to decimate your food supply, again. You don’t even look at the summer skills packet that comes home in his backpack at the end of the school year, and you throw it away in August when you finally get around to cleaning out the bag. You google summer sleep away camp and set up a vacation club account at the bank to save for it. Every damn day the sun sets and no one is dead is one day closer to the one when school opens.
Summer After Fourth Grade: Starting in May, you beg child’s school district to enroll him in summer school, reading camp, whatever. You plead, you cry, and then you notice all of his friends’ parents doing the same thing and get resentful because you thought you alone had come up with this brilliant idea. Child becomes feral before the end of June. You have to spray him with Febreeze to even have the argument about the name of the child who seems to have taken up residence on your living room floor for days at a time, only to learn that your child doesn’t actually know his name either. Bathing ceases completely, and you are relieved when he actually gets in a pool. You buy him a phone and GPS child tracking watch that receives texts to try to keep track of where he is, but he loses both within a week and shows zero remorse. Camp becomes a necessity, and you agree to pay outrageous late registration fees just so that you know where said child is at least 50% of his waking hours because the feral is real. The ennui he shows is infuriating, but you don’t care and have to assume that he is learning something given what it’s costing. You are confused when child argues about toxic nature of sunscreen to the environment because the same urchin barely passed science with his epic end of the year project on “How Long Can You Not Change Your Cat’s Litter Box Before It Gets Mold?” You have a three-day standoff about sunscreen brands and SPF number that you eventually lose, and you secretly hope the little jerk gets a sunburn just so you can say, “I told you so.” He spends most of the time at the pool sitting on the time-out bench for diving right in front of the “NO DIVING” sign. You pretend you don’t know him when he calls to you that he’s ready to go home or he’s hungry. Child’s vocabulary now consists of words you cannot believe are coming out of your once sweet baby’s mouth, and you are flabbergasted when he uses these words in more creative ways than your friends about your friends. Consumption of food is now completely random and more about volume than anything remotely related to nutrition. He drinks straight from faucets – sinks, hoses, leaking pipes, whatever. He is growing at an alarming rate yet insists upon wearing his favorite swim shorts from two years ago that you think might be cutting off circulation to parts he might care about at some later point in his life. In the ensuing argument about that, child quotes names of people you’ve never heard of before that you later learn are YouTube-famous gamers. Child packs the bizarrely-fitting swim trunks to go on vacation and wears them the entire time, everywhere, without ever washing them or himself. The child discovers DUO and Facetime and actual calls and spends tons of time texting and talking to friends. You call your mobile carrier twice a week to make sure you are on the unlimited data plan. In desperation, you watch a YouTube video and manage to disconnect your doorbell with a toothbrush and serving spoon late one night while child is asleep, so his friends can’t ring it at 6AM anymore. You hit the angry icon on every blissful photo that your friends post of themselves with their perfect children on vacation on Facebook, even though you know, deep down, their kids have either been threatened or bribed into momentary submission. You google “year-round school” and contemplate expatriation to countries that do not do summer vacation to parents. You take up day-drinking, proudly, and discover that golden-tequila-heavy margaritas look like lemonade and vodka can pass for water if they are in your Tervis “Back to School” tumbler. Given the last year of school, you don’t even bother looking up when the next grade starts because you’re not sure if he’s even going to go. Endless summer takes on a whole new meaning for you, and wonder whether Summer Vacation PTSD has a DSM code.
Looking for fun things to do with your kids this summer? Check out Pinterest, or take a look at these:
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