Today marks the first day of summer break for my kids and it looks to be a glorious day here in the Northwest. I love it. But I wasn’t always such a big fan of summer break.
Growing up on a farm, summer break meant more chores. And lots more of the back-breaking work of a farm. Bucking hay bales may have given me greatly defined arms, but it was not picnic, let me tell you. For all of my young years, summer meant I had to leave school, which was my sanctuary, and be at home. So while my classmates skipped and sang their way out of the building every June, I left a bit more hesitantly. I much preferred the hard “mental” work of school to the hard “physical” work of the farm.
Over the years, summers became many things–time to work and save money for college, time to waterski, time to read books instead of students’ essays. But once I became a parent, summer became a whole different animal.
We’ve all seen the staged photos of kids at the start of summer, jumping for joy while the mom looks crestfallen and the reverse. Life as a family definitely changes when kids are home together. And this mom is totally in the “I love having my kids home for the summer” camp.
I wasn’t always though.
There were years when having all my kids together, every day and all day, was cause for earplugs, wine, and crying jags (I’m talking about me, people). Because three kids do several things consistently when put in close proximity for extended times: they fight. And there is one thing that makes me anxious and irritable quicker than you can say “melt-down” and that is fighting/bickering/sniping/crabby-pantsing.
But last year we turned a corner on that phenomenon.
It was probably the second day of summer break and I heard the typical whining from the basement. I listened for a hot second and my suspicions were confirmed: Biggest and Littlest were bickering all ready and my coffee hadn’t even cooled enough to drink.
So I went down the stairs and I told them that this summer there was to be no fighting, no bickering. And if I heard fighting or bickering, I was going to make the culprits “hug it out.” And thank you very much for providing me this perfect opportunity to demonstrate what I was talking about.
Let me tell you, having to hug it out made that fight end in a quick-hurry. And most of the rest.
Is “hugging it out” the magic pill all the parents have been hoping for? Maybe. Or maybe not. You know, that whole YMMV thing. But it does do one important thing: it gave them a reason to not escalate their frustrations with each other. At least in my presence.
And another thing I must point out here: my kids may be aging out of the non-stop bickering. Biggest is six years older than Littlest and both are in better places this summer as far as tolerating one another and not being perturbed by the other. Or, I should say, Littlest is becoming less of a hero-worshiper of Biggest and finding other things to do than follow in Biggest’s shadow. (Mainly getting busy making his own shadows.)
So to all those parents who are already tearing out their hair and counting down the days until summer break is over, remember this:
The days are long but the years are short.
You too will all too soon be wondering why the house is so quiet and it won’t be because the kiddo is smearing their feces on the walls. It will be because the kiddo(s) will be happily ensconced in an activity s/he doesn’t need or want your presence or supervision. And at that moment, you’ll know your perspective on summertime has been permanently changed.
Now, let’s all put on a little Ella Fitzgerald singing Summertime and get our happy mojo in place. It’s summertime folks.