I have found myself saying the dreaded, “when I was your age” to my older son in response to him saying he is bored. This is the middle of his second week of summer vacation (I started this post a week ago and he has since started summer school at his school). And, I did my best to schedule activities during these past two weeks that would be fun for him (slip n slide play dates, play dates at a friends house, day camp at the local country club with a friend, Lego day camps, and an amusement park today).
One thing I have struggled with as a parent who grew up in a vastly different time, was wanting to provide outlets for my kids while not making them dependent on activities to stimulate their minds. I do far less than most parents I know but far more than was ever done for me as a child. Attending summer camp is something I never did as a kid.
It was a different, pre-9/11, pre-rampant shooting sprees, pre-Megan’s law time. With the exception of a family vacation (which was never fun because my dad was wound so tightly that if we every got off track, if his itinerary wasn’t executed perfectly, we’d all pay), and the very occasional trip to the beach or Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm, we were responsible for creating our own fun. We lived in a real neighborhood where there were sidewalks and other kids that we either went to church or school with or that simply lived nearby (and ‘nearby’ could be up to a 10 block bike ride away). My parents both worked so we were with my grandparents during the days. We’d play with the hose or with water balloons or a slip n slide and eat Popsicles or snow cones or bomb pops. A highlight of any day or week, even, was when the ice cream truck came around.
Nothing was really planned for us. A play date happened when other kids happened to be out or around at the same time we were. We’d find each other and gravitate to one house or the next or play in the street. Hopscotch was a favorite, and so was jump rope, tag, and hide and seek. Or, a real treat would be if our parents decided to get together with other parents who had kids. Even though their getting together was the event, we benefited if the other couple had kids.
Our parents were not our friends. I do not ever recall my mother playing dolls with me, having a tea party, or any of the myriad things I do with my sons. I do remember playing board games when we were older (Life, Parcheesi, Monopoly, and I became a bit of a poker ace playing with my grandpa) but I had no expectation that my parents were my playmates. True, until I was 11, there were three of us kids, so we were better suited to play with each other. But there was a ‘children should be seen and not heard’ element to my childhood, at least at home. My grandparents and aunts and uncles were far better playmates.
Life is entirely different for my kids. With my older son, one of us was home with him, if only part-time, until he started kindergarten and ever since I’ve been picking him up from school. We are very involved parents (but, parents none-the-less and not looking to be best friends with our kids) and since our older son was an only child for almost 6 years we were his play mates and, to a degree, still are.
Kids here routinely spend summers in one day camp or another. Even though there are 4 families that live on our cud-de-sac, we NEVER hear the shrill of children playing during the day. None of the kids on this block are home during the day. And, now, at least in the mornings, neither is my older son. But, come afternoon, after lunch, and we’re outside playing badminton or slip n sliding or hoking the hose up to the slide on his fort to make a water slider, etc. We get frozen yogurt or play cards and, yes, my older son will sometimes watch TV or play on the iPad but we’ve regulated his screen time since he was a toddler and still do. So, if he uses his time during the day, he won’t get screen time before bed. I’m not even sure when parents stop regulating it, but we’re not there, yet.
At any rate, with t 5y9m age difference, this summer is more challenging than any one before it. G mostly takes two naps a day (one long morning nap and one shorter late afternoon catnap), so we really have only a few hours of unplanned time every afternoon. It is hard to attend to both kids on such different ends of the developmental spectrum. I have to keep an eye on G at all times which makes undivided attention for H hard to come by unless G is napping. And, because the other kids we know are in camp all day, it’s not like I can schedule play dates. I feel pressure and, to a lesser degree, guilt if I don’t have something planned.
And, then, I wonder if I have to plan every single afternoon. We have a house full of toys and games and self guided activities and an entire backyard and garage that’s set-up like a playroom. Still, my older son wants me to play with him. I feel guilty for not wanting to or not being able to but at the same time want him to cultivate skills that allow him to play on his own. Sometimes I’ll get him started with something and let him finish. It never seems like enough and with an active toddler, I just don’t have the creative energy to design afternoon play for them both.
This has taken me over a week to finish and post, so I’ll stop my rant there. I’m not going to succumb to the pressure and I want this to be a simpler summer. This is just to say that even though the 4th of July is next week, it feels like it’s going to be a long one, but I know it will go by in a flash. Do any other SAHMs struggle with this? It feels like a high class problem because I am so fortunate to be home with them but I am trying to find a job (more on that later) which is its own job. Never enough time…
Tomorrow G will be 18 months. EIGHTEEN MONTHS! OHEMGEE!
(Publishing without previewing or editing in the interest of getting it posted. Fingers crossed it makes sense.)