Being a parent with kids on vacation is not the same as being a parent with kids in school. It’s like manning the telephones at the electricity company during a blackout or being the guy twenty feet up, playing around with live electric wire. Sure, you both work for the same company—and both jobs are tough—but one is life or death while the other is just handling people’s bad moods.
My kids are with me every day, all day. They are not motivated to go out and do stuff unless it involves buying things for their amusement. They don’t want to learn more, and they are old enough and smart enough to sniff out a learning experience no matter how beautifully I dress it up.
Plus, I have been a mom for nearly fifteen years and I am too jaded to spend hours trying to drum up fun things all day long. Also, as I recall, my parents didn’t bother trying to find fun things for me and my brother on our summer holidays. We had to entertain ourselves.
That said, I have always carried a life-long mantra with me that goes like this: “Enjoy them now, in every stage, because it goes by faster than you realize.” I have never had to cling so tightly to this particular thought until the teen years hit. But, by Jove, I’ve held on to it for fourteen years, six months, one day and 62 minutes, and I’m not letting go now.
So I’ve come to the realization that I cannot change anyone’s attitude except my own. I can’t force anyone to have fun, or give me a hug, or keep their eyes unrolled. I can’t make them appreciate art, or listen to classical music, or do a guided meditation with me (at least willingly). But I can smile, and I can turn on my music, and I can hug their stiff, eye-rolling bodies—mom’s privilege.
You know what else I’ll do this summer? Use all the spa certificates that I got as teacher’s gifts. Because if I’m the only one who has decided to go out, I might as well do something I like. Facials, massages, pedicures, all free. My very own trifecta of joy.
I don’t have to cook. It’s too hot and no one likes anything healthy right now unless it’s blended into a smoothie with a bucket full of sugar. I don’t need to put my interests on hold if no one wants to make a cool homemade lava lamp out of Alka Seltzer tablets with me. I can do big girl stuff. And little girl stuff. I ate a Magnum ice cream bar around the corner to my house so they wouldn’t see me and ask for their own. Real mature—real fun too!
Do ask them what they want to do, though. Yes, I might be waiting for a while, pencil hovering patiently above my to-do writing pad, quizzical, friendly look pasted on my features. But eventually, I know they’ll come up with something fun for at least one of them, even if it’s less fun for me.
Hey, all of you electricity workers out there, take care of yourselves. It will make you a patient parent, a fun parent, a better parent. Sure, you’ll get the occasional zap and fall off your ladder, but you’ll be able to get back on. And, eventually, you might just have a bit of fun.