Next week, school starts.
This week, the guilt started. BAD MOTHER! (shrieked my inner critic) SUMMER’S NEARLY GONE AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? I knew that we wouldn’t be going on a real vacation this summer, but I had hoped for a few mini-trips and maybe a handful of other adventures. Goal accomplished, if we’re counting the grocery store as a mini-trip and cutting the kids’ hair as an adventure (“Hold still so I don’t lop off your ear, please”).
What did we do this summer? Somehow “Journey to the bottom of Monkey’s closet” just doesn’t have the ring for which I’d hoped. (But for the record, it’s scary in there.)
I’ve been working and cleaning and organizing and the summer vanished in the blink of an eye. I’ve sat down to write about this several times this week and every time I looked over my words I felt completely disgusted with myself. My ruminations vacillated amongst the following:
1) God, SHUT UP SELF.
2) There’s still time, take them somewhere. NOW! GO!
3) Whine much?
4) At the very least, going on vacation would’ve given me an excuse for being so far behind on laundry.
5) Seriously, SHUT UP.
Look; it’s not that they’re deprived children or they’ve been trapped inside all summer. Their dad took them on vacation to Florida—including a trip to Disneyworld—and we did some stuff around here. The kids now actually believe that it is a federal law that you have to drop everything and go out for ice cream when the thermometer tops 100 degrees, for example. But I planned poorly this year. More accurately, I didn’t plan enough and I ended up working a lot and not spending as much quality time with them as I should’ve.
I told them we’d go camping this summer. That’s not going to happen. In my defense, I don’t feel comfortable being the only adult on a camping trip, and the other family we’d been hoping to team up with just never ended up being available when we were. But it’s a promise I made that I didn’t keep. I hate that.
So while I was busy buying school supplies and stuffing backpacks and making sure everyone had new shoes, I was also loathing myself for being so unfun. I am not good at balancing, when it comes to my children. [I think that few people are, actually—that’s part of the reason why it’s a great idea to have two parents, duh. Without a partner to share the day-to-day responsibilities, my tendency to attend only to the essentials isn’t tempered by someone who knows how to actually enjoy life without fretting over whether or not everyone is wearing clean underwear and sunscreen.]
This is—as you might imagine—a vicious cycle of beating myself up and still not doing anything about it (because, honestly, once you’ve established you’re the world’s suckiest parent, is a trip to the beach going to change anything?) and therefore beating myself up. I was pretty well stuck, despite my best efforts to dislodge myself using cookies or the “school starts soon, school starts soon” mantra.
And then an old friend called to say they’d be headed out way, and did we want to try to meet up? Of course we did, and a few phone calls later we were set to visit the planetarium together today.
My friend’s has a daughter Chickadee’s age and a son Monkey’s age, which is quite handy. The children hit it off and the girls spent an inordinate amount of time inside the shuttle simulator crashing it into the runway, while the boys ran in circles around the outside of the shuttle area itself. When it was time for a show we all went inside the domed theatre and enjoyed the sights and sounds.
Well. Okay. Actually, we saw two shows. The second one was pretty cool. The first one was geared towards 4- to 8-year-olds and none of our 6- or 8-year-olds seemed too impressed. Perhaps because it featured a really annoying cartoon macaw with a Jamaican accent, who variously encounters an elephant and cobra without accents, a crocodile with a southern accent, and polar bear with a Boston accent. I have often been struck by how many polar bears there are in Boston. (Why? Because it’s wicked cold there.) (Ha!)
During the Accented Animals show (I have already forgotten what it was called), the boys fidgeted with boredom, my friend’s daughter perfected her heckling, and Chickadee’s admiration for her newfound friend caused her heart to swell three sizes. The sheer bravado demonstrated in her commentary (the guide would ask “Do you want me to show you [fill in the blank with something]?” and this child would yell “NOOOOOO!”) elevated her to worship status long before the lights came back up.
We learned about various constellations, like that Pegasus doesn’t have any hind legs. Poor Pegasus. We built “moon rover” creations that could be hooked up to remote controls for various point of locomotion (I don’t know WHAT this table of stuff was… it was sort of like Rokenbok but I think was something else) and learned how tornadoes form and that Pluto is now a trans-Neptunian object, but that because not everyone voted, it might change again.
During the second show, I watched the simulation of the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy colliding (that’s 13 billion years off, or something, but still) and wondered if the kids would be scared or worried. I needn’t have been concerned; Monkey wanted to tell me that his tummy felt funny from all the “ceiling moving” but he kept his eyes open, and Chickadee wanted to know when we could go outside in the dark and look for constellations.
I learned that it is not just Chickadee and her school chums who have this odd obsession with picking each other up off the ground, but that perhaps Chickadee just looks pick-up-able, as my friend’s daughter commenced grabbing her and lifting her up at every possible opportunity. As my friend fruitlessly tried to staunch her daughter’s enthusiasm, Chickadee giggled and tried to pretend she wasn’t having the time of her life. It wouldn’t have been cool to admit how pleased she was.
I let the kids make stamped pennies in the machine where you turn the handle yourself, and smiled to myself as they compared them on the ride home, lovingly stroking the bumps and shining them with their sleeves. They recounted the day’s adventures to me and each other while clutching their new talismans and chewing the gum their new friends had proffered.
It was a good day, and helped put my orbit back on track, as it were. (That’s a bit of planetarium humor. Apparently I was assimilated. For my next trick, I will point to a cluster of stars and declare it to be the spitting image of a goat playing an electric guitar.)
So, I’ve downgraded my status from suckiest, unfunnest parent ever to possibly redeemable, slightly stuck-in-the-mud parent.
And I happen to know that the mud can be considerably loosened with a little bit of rocking out to our “Car Tunes” CD on the highway. I’m not sure who was singing the loudest, but I think it’s safe to say that it was a good thing we had the windows up.