Life’s a Beach
Back in April, having parceled out my kids’ summer break (8 weeks) into equal parts week-long day camps and vegging about the house weeks, I envisioned camp weeks being the time during which I got loads of work done and house weeks being the time we hiked, swam, went to the museum, worked on math concepts, and read books. Three days into a home week, I am not quite willing to admit defeat but this certainly isn’t panning out the way I planned. The children feel the pull of the couch and the television and would gladly turn into house plants if given the opportunity. I need to go for a run most days (training for a ten-miler in August) and it’s been a bit too hot to contemplate hiking the trails with whiney children in tow.
Which leads me to reflect on the relative merits of “education, physical and otherwise” with a parent vs. “totally unstructured free time” for the kids’ break. I was reading a writers’ blog this morning and she commented on the need for creative children to have down time, time to be bored and even unhappy, so that they become aware of their feelings and reactions. Time spent in front of the tv, according to this theory (mentioned by her, developed by me), is time when kids are engrossed in other people’s feelings and reactions instead of their own. Of course, having my children engrossed in their own feelings and reactions does not always make for a peaceable kingdom around these parts. They FEEL a lot, you see, and they need to express these FEELINGS at high decibels. And generally, they FEEL like they need to watch tv. Oy.
And what kind of role model am I? I sit at my computer. I need to work on my monograph introduction, so that I can send it out to publishers before long, and then I try to do some free writing every day. So, to the uninitiated child, it might appear that I, too, want to spend my day looking at screens and that, unfairly, I get to do so while the poor child must amuse itself with non-digital technologies. Oh the humanity! And to top it all off, I resist when they ask me if they can paint, or dig something out of the basement, or do something else that sounds, to me, like: mess, annoyance, and work for me. Bad mommy.
This train of thought always leads to me feeling inadequate, which is entirely selfish of me, since it shouldn’t be about me but about my kids. Or something. Maybe inadequate isn’t the word I’m looking for, either. Disappointed, perhaps. Not in them, mind you, they are kids being kids and are gloriously kid-like in their FEELINGS, but in me. I fantasize about this life wherein I get up early in the morning and write or run before the kids are out of bed. With my own mental and creative house in order, I then devote my day to my kids, who are eager to explore and learn with each other and me. Sadly, reality bears little resemblance to this scenario! I am not a morning person, regardless of how diligently I fantasize becoming one, and my kids wake up less willing to learn and explore the world around them than eager to hang on my body, whine, and forgo breakfast in favor of sulking around on the couch and calling one another names. Obviously something went wrong here–was it my planning, perhaps?
I still want to hike and swim and do math and all those things with my kids, but I don’t relish the fight it’s going to involve. And it shouldn’t have to be a fight, should it? We live on a lake, I hear, and tomorrow is supposed to be gorgeous and the weekend is supposed to be hot (not Kansas hot, mind you, just Ontario hot, which is hot enough). So we shall explore the beaches of Lake Ontario, keeping an eye out for Blinky the Fish while we’re at it.