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Life’s a Beach

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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.

Written by Jennifer

July 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Kids, life, writing

3 Responses

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  1. I can totally relate. I was pondering this last week when I wondered why we were having such a good time with grandparents in Michigan. Answer: two other adults who found even the most minor thought of my 6 year old charming and insightful. This left plenty of time for reading and Angry Birds for their parents. I also find that dealing with two kids is harder (at the ages mine are at) than just one. Anyway, I think that beaches and other bodies of water are a good idea, and whatever you do, its always good to have a good snack idea for the end. I have come to realize I am not one of those awesome creative moms. Every so often I get a good idea and we do something fun with paint, glue, or fabric. But mostly, I like to read. That’s it. I like to get some exercise, sit in cafes, go to museums and window shop (and people watch). None of those things are things kids like to do. So I make sure we all have a little time to do what we want. And I do let them watch SOME TV! and then we bake something (or maybe make some ice cream?). And do a little laundry. And then we do something they like. But I also believe strongly in summer camp (if you can afford it!) Good luck!

    jen weintraub

    July 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm

  2. Jen–next week is ballet camp and I can hardly wait!


    July 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm

  3. I guess I believe that children with too much time and too much money are the kids who get in trouble in their teen years, so perhaps learning to occupy yourself before those years hit is a good skill that will last a lifetime. Your children are in “training” as well!

    This is not to say that my kids are angels; they bicker about bickering if left to their own devices. Normally, as a work-from-home-mom I have places and activities planned, but the economy has seen fit to end employment, schedules and money for extras this year. It’s my first to be Just Mommy to my two. They are 13 and 17, so it couldn’t have come at a better time. Enjoy your family, warts and all.


    July 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm

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