I’ve got 2 weeks left. That’s it. Before Girlchild (the eldest of my spawn) begins a very full day of kindergarten, that is.
It’s so bittersweet. Sweet because I’m proud of her and she is SOOO very excited to begin this new chapter in her little life. It makes me giggle for her. Bitter because I’m panicked. In a recent conversation with a good friend I admitted that I 100% believed that at the end of kindergarten Girlchild will have fully transformed into a gum-smacking, sassy-mouthed middle schooler who hides things from me and would rather be with her friends than be embarrassed by me. Ok, yeah, after I admitted this I realized how ridiculous it sounded.
Toward the end of the preschool year I repeatedly found myself saying, “When summer comes….” followed by promises of less structure (though not quite anarchy), more playtime, days full of quality time with the kids and friends, etc. I had really built it up to be Candyland.
In actuality, this summer has been an odd mix. The heat made me feel like Nicole Kidman’s character in the movie “The Others”, telling my two kids to stay inside because the outdoors are dangerous, pulling all the shades closed (albeit to keep the A/C working less hard!). Our time for “normal”/outdoor summer things has been abbreviated for sure. And while we added a garden and landscaping to our yard this year, the drought demanded that we water the new plants for hours this summer and we have to wait until next spring to really see the flowering trees and shrubs in their full glory.
And then there is the reality of two children under age 6 in the house, sans preschool, for something like 13 weeks. I stepped in the kitchen one morning after finishing watering plants to find sticky French toast all over the floor and I knew exactly what had happened: I’d run out of maple syrup and used some other syrup on their leftover French toast and they didn’t like it, and I’m guessing one of them made the other one laugh by throwing the first plate… and then it escalated. Really, they are not brats…but it’s sometimes hard to remind myself of that in those moments! Other days I just wanted to make/update my to-do lists and I had 3 year-old Boychild literally hanging on my arm. Which makes it pretty challenging to write legibly. And he wasn’t quiet while hanging, either.
It’s easy to just give up on the season and begin the countdown to the school year, even for parents of preschool children with abbreviated school hours.
I can’t count how often I’ve overheard lately or listened to people say, “Ugh. I just can’t wait until school starts!” Or “Thank goodness for camp.” Often these remarks are made in the near presence of their children. Now some children may be too young to understand, but I’m gambling on the fact that by the time your children are kindergarten age, and maybe a year or so younger, they understand exactly what you’re really saying.
So I am here to offer some advice and potentially save you some money on your child’s future psychiatrist bill. J And if you think this list comes from a place of condescension, think again: half the reason I wrote this is to remind myself.
- Don’t throw in the towel yet. I don’t see the joy in spending the last weeks of summer—at this point equivalent to the entirety of Christmas break perhaps–complaining about everything and counting down the days. Think back to your summer fun to-do lists, adjust a bit if necessary, regroup, and plan some memorable events. No, they will not be perfect memorable events. But it’s worth the effort. Have you not been watching the Summer Olympics? Do the efforts of these athletes, and their perseverance amidst disappointments, not inspire you? Make like an Olympic athlete for a couple of weeks.
- It’s never too late to turn things around. And this is different from not giving up. I’m talking about having a day from hell and halfway or even ¾ of the way through turning it into a good day. Maybe with a little patience, maybe with a little structure. Or rest. Or agreeing to what the kids want every once in awhile. For me, last week I was having a really crummy day and I gave myself a caffeine injection via cup of tea, finally gave into my kids’ whines about asking me to play with them (aren’t I nice??), and found some creative activities to try with them. I thought it was a lost cause—all their bickering with each other and telling on each other and toys strewn ALL OTHER the house over and over and over again, and stained clothes…and somehow pretty soon we were working on making life-size paper dolls together. Yes, it morphed into other things the kids wanted to do but I enjoyed watching them be original and put their own individual spin on things. And NOT FIGHTING with each other. Aaaaah….
- Remember to use words of love and pride around your kids. Yeah, I know you’re looking forward to fall and the school year. I have to admit I am too, in some respects (like ALONE time since Boychild starts real preschool this fall…. what was ALONE time to the tune of 6+ hours per week like?? I hardly remember!). Vent if you must, but try to do it out of earshot, and try to do it infrequently. Find some amazing things that they’re doing, and be sure to compliment them, as well as share some of their accomplishments with pride when they ARE in earshot, even if it’s just to proud grandparents. I can still remember things said to me when I was little or in middle/high school that hurt my feelings, like my dad saying he couldn’t wait for us to grow up. As a child, you don’t have the perspective of what it’s like to be adult, so you take these things personally. Did comments like this result in therapy for me? Hell’s yes they did!
- Take breaks, but make them meaningful. If your child loves a certain sport/hobby/activity, it seems like a win-win to send them to a camp with that focus. But if their interests are not yet clear at all…I mean, I could probably get my daughter excited for princess camp for which we’d have to leave the house at 8:30 am. And she’ d probably tell me she likes it. But is it meaningful? Educational? Does it help her improve her princess skills? And if you have kids like mine who don’t enjoy getting up early, is it worth a loss of sleep for them? Is it worth the commute and the net 1.5 hr. break you might get for a 2 hr. camp that isn’t right next-door? Will she ever see the other camp participants again? Would she…. rather be home playing princess and dress-up with you? I’m just sayin’.
- Have an out of body experience. Take yourself out of your current circumstances for a sec and change your time/place perspective. Right now it’s 80 degrees at night and that’s annoying you and you’re smothering. But in January you might be paying top dollar for all the warmth and sun we’re taking for granted right now. Three-year-old being extremely stubborn and difficult? In a year, he won’t even talk the same anymore. “My NOT gonna do that! My NOT.” Yeah, these 30 daily power struggles are driving me crazy, but I know I’ll miss them sooner than I think. So maybe get out the video camera when the next tantrum happens, and just record it for posterity. Record the good and cute too, but try to appreciate even some of the bad and ugly. I hear that this becomes cute with the perspective of time past, and I can slowly see the truth in this. What do you miss that your kids did/said a year or two ago? How will next year feel?
- Have faith in your kids. About halfway through my 3rd try at potty training my son, I almost gave up. It was Taurus v. Taurus and he was wearing me down. My stubborn will prevailed, but also because I had confidence that he was CAPABLE of achieving this. I started to realize that maybe he hadn’t believed he could do this before because I was unsure of him too. Currently I remind him of where he was 2 months ago and how he told me he was “never gonna stop wearin’ diapers” and “never gonna go pee and poop in the potty” and he smiles with pride. If your kids are being difficult this summer, maybe try having more faith in them that they can turn things around and achieve things or make positive changes.
- For goodness’ sake, SLEEP and stay healthy while you can! In a few months we’ll all be virus-ridden zombies with hectic morning schedules, stricken with indecision, e.g., “I just can’t tell if he’s sick or not…should he miss Big Important Event for which I pre-paid?” and “Should I cancel the birthday party?”
- Goal=MOMENTS of sanity. I don’t aim for good days anymore. Those are rare and actually worry me that the Bodysnatchers have switched out my kids with aliens or something.
- See things from the perspective of your kids. Girlchild, when she was about 2 ½ or 3 years old, would wake up at the break o’dawn and interrupt the only alone time I had all day: between about 5:50am to 6:45 am. Boychild was an infant so I was sleep-deprived and full-on evil, but I remember some mornings glaring at her and the first words out of my mouth were “Why are you up so early?” And then one day I had an epiphany—who the heck would want one of their favorite people in the world to say that to them first thing in the morning? And the fact that she kept waking up early and coming in each morning told me that she loved me that much—that seeing my face was worth the mean words and glares. I instantly felt so sorry for her, and found a way to speak more gently, or gently pick her up and carry her back to bed and give her a kiss, if she needed more sleep or if it was just ridiculously early.
- The school year starting is not gonna fix all your problems. For realz. Ok, yeah, I will have a little more time to myself to blog, exercise, run errands at a much faster pace and in the absence of whining…. but I will have to dress, or oversee the dressing, of two small children. Remind them both to use the facilities in time and not fight over their toilet of choice. Ensure Boychild has his underwear properly put on. Round them up to brush their teeth. Try not to cause Girlchild tears as I take 5+ minutes combing out intricate tangles in her hair. And coats??? Oh dear…I. Do. Not. Miss. Coats. And the wrangling thereof. Let’s not forget, prior to all this, remind them that breakfast consumption should last no longer than 30 minutes since they aren’t people- watching outside a French café.
Fellow parents: we can do this. 😉 We will survive.