So maybe you just had an argument with a naked toddler about Legos, and you’re starting to feel a little desperate about this summer.
I know. I remember those days.
Older generations – say, your parents – might not remember what it’s like for you. They may try to soothe you with platitudes that make you want to egg their house.
“You were just like that,” they’ll say forgetting that they got by on Vodka, Valium and Virginia Slims.
(They were just surviving too.)
But they’ve forgotten, and so when you call them up – a little breathless, and a lot overwhelmed, they probably don’t get it. They might tell you that “this too shall pass,” which is at the least, irritating, and at the most, the beginning of a justifiable homicide.
All you want is a few minutes to get ahead of things – laundry, dishes – and 10 uninterrupted minutes to make a “plan.”
You’ve heard you need a plan for summer, and Instagram has confirmed this. #summerbucketlist.
Two things: First, a bucket list is a reference to death, so let that pressure go – it’s creepy. Second, a plan helps, but you might as well tell a drowning man to plan how he’s going to get to shore …
It already feels too late. I know.
I wish I could impart some wisdom and some advice, but instead, I’m just going to tell you the truth: that in many ways, it gets easier.
But right now? Right now is about survival. You are In-The-Trenches Parenting.
That’s a stage of parenting that begins the minute you drive away from the hospital and lasts until your youngest is 5 or 6. Definitely at least six if they are a precocious boy. I know that sounds sexist, but 6-year-old boys are still sort of accidentally suicidal.
(They grow out of it eventually. It’s not that they mature so much as that their fingers get too big for the outlets.)
In-The-Trenches Parenting is in many ways the hardest stage. You are trying not to die from sleep deprivation. You are trying to keep your kids from being mistaken for bread by a sea lion. It’s just stressful.
You can’t turn your back. You can’t leave things at eye level including dangerous chemicals, paint, your keys, permanent markers, food, the cat, the cat’s food, your phone, pennies, wine, library books …
Mother’s Day when you are In The Trenches should involve recreations of Cleopatra-level worship – people literally carrying you around and (people who are not your children) putting food in your mouth for you.
I know – instead, you have to pick out a plant for your mother-in-law, and then spend the day eating watery egg casserole while both breastfeeding and reading Facebook on your phone so as not to have to listen to your inlaws talk about their weird health things that are almost certainly a direct result of 35 years of eating the way Richard Simmons told them to via the Johnny Carson show.
That same mother-in-law does not care that currently you leak from multiple places when you sneeze, she just cares that her son shows up on Mother’s Day and for One Day everyone celebrates her inspiring parenting which included smoking in cars with the windows rolled up and leaving her kids at home with an 9-year-old babysitter so that she could go line-dancing.
But back to summer.
In my mama heart, I want you to have a summer. I want you to find joy and happiness and sales on sunscreen.
But my mama heart also knows that summer is full of scary things like bugs and open bodies of water and $1 Movie Days filled with talking animals, sticky floors and screaming toddlers, perhaps even your own.
Does it help to know that that’s just kind of what is? That you aren’t doing it wrong?
The fact that it’s hard to develop a routine with a 3 year-old and a 5-year-old doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good mom, it just means that this stage is incredibly hard.
Yes, preschool teachers do it, but they do it because your kids aren’t theirs, they are all in a school and not your kitchen, your kids are on their best behavior because they aren’t with you and the teachers are GETTING PAID.
Have you ever watched nieces, nephews or friend’s kids? There’s something about having a time limit that makes the whole experience much more tolerable.
My nephew and I once played with a book light for 45 minutes. And I LIKED IT.
But if I knew there was no end in sight to playing Book Light Dinosaur I’d use said book light to burn out my own retinas just to escape the boredom.
So just know that in a few years, you’ll be able to make great lists on a chalkboard wall you painted yourself – it will say things like Beach Day! and Camping! and even though you won’t actually do half of those things, they will have at least seemed possible when you wrote them down.
(The guilt is always there – it’s just different. I’m sorry.)
But for now, give yourself some slack. Your kids probably don’t even know it’s summer, and they aren’t scrolling Pinterest seeing all the things other people are doing.
They are probably as happy eating popsicles in a dirty kiddie pool in the front yard as they would be vacationing in the south of France. #blessed
In closing, sisters, it will get easier. (And harder, in some ways, but that’s not a post for right now.) Vent to your friends when you need to – your friends understand, and the ones that don’t won’t know when you unfollow them on Facebook.
Stock the cabinet with bubbles and sidewalk chalk, and try not to worry about the loss of math skills over summer – summer is made for that and it gives you something to do in September when you can’t go to the pool anymore.
Stay strong. You’ve got this. And if you want to hear Cait and I talk about how we’re going to try to keep ourselves tan, happy and sane this summer, head right here.