I have been pretty good, I think, about sitting on my hands when it comes to how our new summer schedule is working out for everyone. I have been trying to take that old expression about not saying anything if I don’t have anything nice to say to heart, a bit more, you see. Also, I’ve been trying some of that positive thinking thing I always hear people talking about, where I don’t dwell on things that are unpleasant, but rather focus on the GOOD and therefore, in this case, the IMAGINARY.
This summer sucks donkey balls, quite frankly. Now you know.
The stress level ’round here is palpable, and try as I might to get a handle on my emotions, the two very small and stressed-out people scurrying around here are a constant reminder of how much this situation just blows for everyone involved.
Having the kids here for two weeks and gone for two weeks and back and forth all summer long is just enough time, each stint, to drive me into my closet for some primal scream therapy.
The first week they’re back, Otto and I spring into action as The Stable Household With Rules and Expectations and Appointments. They’re sleep-deprived and wild-eyed, and while I’m all for a bit of break from routine for the summer, I also believe children require SOME structure to feel comfortable. Or, at least, MY children require some structure. So when someone else allows my kids to stay up until 10:00 or later every night for weeks on end, they come back here bleary and argumentative. GO FIGURE. So we get back to a regular bedtime. We get back to regular mealtimes. We attend to the doctor and orthodontist and therapy appointments that have all been suspended while they were away, and the piano lessons and playdates they’ve missed for two weeks, and if I’m ESPECIALLY lucky I get to explain to my daughter, again, why she cannot be on the swim team this summer because going away all the time makes it impossible. BIG FUN!
The second week they’re back, they’ve just about recovered, except now it’s time to start stressing out about the next trip! Yayyyyyy! This renders Chickadee in particular an angry ball of emotion, which I think we’re pretty patient about for the first couple of days, but it’s wearing. On all of us.
There is also the constant tension I feel—totally self-imposed, I admit—between wanting to be able to do fun things with the kids and feeling like what they really need, in these brief times at home, is calm and routine and whole grains.
So the first week sucks and the second week sucks and then HEY! Time to go!
Yesterday, I just lost it. It was a combination of things and the details aren’t important, but we were out running some errands and when we got home I was just completely overwhelmed and unhappy and drained from the constant anger I’ve been feeling about how one of us gets to spend the summer being Happy Fun Jollytime No Rules Parent and one of us gets to pick up the pieces over and over again when that backfires. I told the kids I needed a few minutes alone and I went into my room to lie down.
I fell asleep.
When I woke up, Otto and the kids were gone. I did some work and when they came back, they’d been to the library and the grocery store, and all three of them were in rare form and returned bearing many hugs and kisses. Otto and Chickadee started making tacos for dinner, and I pointed out that our jalapenos runneth over. The kids and I went outside to cut a few. I gave them to Otto and went back into the office to finish up some work.
Otto announced that dinner was ready and the table held a complete taco bar with all the fixin’s… including little round discs of the jalapenos.
Now, I personally would’ve removed the seeds and DICED the peppers, but Otto had been so awesome to take the reins with the kids all afternoon and make dinner, I decided not to say anything.
We sat down to eat and Chickadee said grace. She was in a great mood. I tried not to let my mind wander to the place that suggests the good mood was due to my absence for the last few hours.
As we assembled our tacos, I said, “Hmmm, I wonder how hot the jalapenos are.” Otto and I put a few on our plates and dug in at the same time.
We chewed, then turned to look at each other. “What?” said Monkey, looking at us. Otto and I both opened our mouths to facilitate greater gulps of air. “WHAT?” said Monkey, concerned now.
We both grabbed for our water. Chickadee started laughing. “Are those peppers HOT, Mom? I could’ve TOLD you they would be hot!”
Still, we couldn’t speak. We were both panting for breath, although I was beginning to giggle in spite of myself.
“Oh,” said Otto, finally. “That’s… that’s…”
“HOT?” I finished.
Otto took another long drink from his glass. “Nice job, Farmer Mir,” he said.
The children were delighted. Apparently watching your parental units SET THEMSELVES ON FIRE at the table is highly entertaining.
We continued eating. Each time one of us encountered a jalapeno slice the kids stopped eating to watch us. I finally shoved all of mine to the side of my plate, unwilling to encounter one by accident. Otto got up and poured himself a glass of milk.
“So are those pepper GOOD?” Monkey asked.
“They’re delicious,” I gasped, fanning myself.
“My teeth hurt,” said Otto.
“I don’t understand why you keep eating them,” mused Chickadee. “You look funny.”
There’s probably an object lesson in there about the line between pleasure and pain, but other than noting that I do miss being mocked during dinner when they’re away, and vowing to de-seed and dice the peppers, next time, I got nuthin’.