First Posted: 7/6/2014
Most of us look forward to summertime with anticipation. Daydreams of frolicking in the sand, splashing in the water and riding bikes fill even our adult heads. The past few weeks have been a wake up call; however, as reality sank in. Being a parent in the summertime is a very different experience from being a kid.
Sunscreen: Years ago, my teenaged self was into Sun-In and Bain de Soleil. If funds were low due to a lack of babysitting jobs, peroxide and baby oil from mom’s medicine cabinet would do. Now it’s my responsibility to ensure the application of minimum SPF 30 to five people and the occasional friend. The cost of sunscreen is another factor, as tweens prefer the quicker, spray-on variety, half of which ends up floating away on the breeze. It’s amazing how fast an $8 bottle of spray can go.
Insect repellent: Remember those blanket and lawn chair nights? The fireworks, an outdoor concert or a backyard barbeque were carefree times. Back then, my mother would magically appear and spray me down. Now, if I make the mistake of forgetting the spray, what ensues will be an evening of whining and days of scratching and Calamine.
Sand: Whether it’s at the shore or from the sandbox, it has a way of making its way into the house and into the beds. Children love to dig and lay in the stuff. Parents fight to keep it outside. At home, my toddler always seems to remember how much she loves playing in sand just after I’ve vacuumed. At the beach, the line of sandy vacationers waiting for their turn in the outdoor shower is a testament to how crucial its removal is.
Unforeseen expenses: The sleep-away camp, the pool membership and the beach house are planned, pre-paid budget items, but other costs creep up without warning. In an attempt to make the summer memorable and give my girls plenty of “must-have” experiences, I tend to agree to more than my budget can handle: an excursion to a Broadway play and a night in the city with a friend’s family, a skill-building camp run by a former Olympian for our budding track star, an oil-painting course with a world-renowned, local artist. By the time I calculate the costs and second-guess myself, I’m unable to dash their hopes. The cash just keeps flowing.
Groceries: With children home 24/7, often with friends in tow, it’s difficult to carve out time to get to the store. When I finally find the time to squeeze in grocery shopping between days at the pool and running to camps and classes, the cost to restock shelves is shocking. Keeping these kids in chips, chicken nuggets and peanut butter and jelly is running the weekly budget well into the red.
Exercise: Just when wearing a bathing suit becomes necessary, the time to take care of myself is gone. With everyone (including myself) sleeping late, the day often gets away without my stepping foot on the elliptical machine. As painful as the 6 a.m. wake ups for school were, at least they got us up and moving and provided the structure necessary to get everything done.
No down time: Summer for parents means no time for to-do lists and no break from children, at all. There is the constant cycle of meal preparation and meal clean-up. Just because they’re home doesn’t mean the chore list goes away. No matter how badly parents want to loll the days away alongside their children in the sun, the laundry still has to get done, the floor needs to be vacuumed and the bills need to be paid. We still have to go to work and fit in errands. Nothing is more irk-some than being approached by a groggy, pajama-wearing tween asking, “What are we doing today?” As if it’s my job to entertain. At least they’ve learned not to say, “I’m bored.” They each said that exactly once before realizing it’s a direct route to chore assignments.
Thankfully, two of my children are now old enough to pitch in. A momentary stroke of genius early in the season led to one tactic that is working wonders. On my work days, when they are under the management of my husband, I leave them with to-do lists. An added feature this year is the sliding scale. They earn their “allowance” by cleaning the house and cars and mowing the lawn. They are paid between a pre-determined low and high rate, depending on their execution and only after an inspection of their work. They have never done chores so well.
Having them pitch in when I’m not around frees up more of our time when I am, so that we can all enjoy the glorious benefits that summer offers, together. When the house is clean, the lawn is cut, the bills are paid, the clothes are folded and the cupboards are full, even a mom can soak up some rays and watch with care-free abandon as her children splash and run in the sun.