Your Summer Challenge: To Figure Out How to Inflict Mind-Numbing Boredom Without Getting Caught in the Cross-Fire
My latest project has been to try and figure out how to make my daughter’s summer miserable. You have to do this, you know, so it makes life easier in the fall when it’s time to go back to school. If you’ve planned the summer right, your child will be begging you to take her shopping for school supplies by the end of June. In July, she will spontaneously volunteer to write a report on every country in the world, alphabetically. And when the postcard announcing “Meet the Teacher Night” arrives in the mail in August, she will exclaim, “Finally! Thank God! If you don’t drive me there right now, I’m going to start walking.”
Or, so I’ve heard. So far, I have never been able to achieve this Summer Nirvana. As an adult. As a child, I hit these milestones annually. So, I’ve been racking my brain to figure out what my mother did right and I’m doing wrong.
I remember the one summer that she decided I was going to summarize every book I read on little index cards and put them in a file. I don’t remember the purpose she expressed for this assignment, but in my head I heard, “Since you like to read so much, I thought I would completely stifle your love of books by requiring you to write something every time you finish one.” Maybe she was trying to make sure I was eager for school to start again – or maybe she was tired of filling her trunk with books every time we went to the library. Most likely, she was tired of looking for the books that we had filled the trunk with 2 weeks before whenever it was time to return to the library.
By the end of the summer, I hadn’t completed any books – just started 103 and read until the 2nd to last chapter. In my spare time, I participated in a weekly scavenger hunt for lost books, and started my own school in the basement for stuffed animals. One of the subjects I taught my extremely well-behaved class was Handwriting, which obligated me to pretend to write in 15 various styles every day so I could “grade” their writing. The irony is not lost on me that I filled about 1500 pages with the writing of my stuffed animals while simultaneously avoiding to set a pen down to the index cards that remained blank for 2.5 months.
Now that I’m a mom, I’ve tried to carry on the tradition of mind-numbingly boring summers for my own daughter, but I seem to be failing in this area. I call our summers, “Mom Camp”, and the provided activities have consisted of: Closet Cleaning, Drawer Depuration, Find Something to Do Besides Playing on your iPod or Watching T.V., and For God’s Sake, Run Around in the Backyard with the Dog Because You’re Both Driving Me Crazy (I Don’t Care if It’s a Hundred Degrees and There are Giant Mosquitoes Out There).
But every August, my daughter becomes increasingly depressed as the first day of school approaches.
Obviously, I need to change the program of “Mom Camp”. The challenge is to do this without ruining my summer. I mean, I think we can all predict the response to me saying, “Here’s some index cards. Every time you play an app during the next 8 weeks, you need to summarize it in complete sentences. Oh, and teach your Build-a-Bear how to write, for crying out loud. That thank-you card he sent me for the blue tropical swim trunks looks like chicken scratch.”
Of course, making her increasingly question my sanity could be my new strategy…
“So, what do you two have planned for the week?” my husband asked my 9 year old and me at the dinner table.
“The pool.” “Clean out a couple of closets.”
I think you can figure out who gave which answer.
Dimples is such a neat freak.
O.K. Fine. I was the one with the closet response. Because I was trying to impress Cap’n Firepants with my planned productivity for the week, and trying to spare him from regretting too much that he is not a teacher or a nine year old that has 2.5 carefree months lying ahead. I am a caring, kind-hearted person who does not like to rub things in. Unlike some other people who shall remain nameless, but may or may not have the nickname of “Dimples.”
O.K. Fine. My idea of fun is organizing closets. You got me.
As you can probably tell, Dimples and I have very different ideas on how this summer is going to go down. Our divergent objectives started to become apparent about two months ago when I unsuccessfully tried to sign her up for various different classes. To each offer, she shrugged, and said, “I don’t really think I’d like that.” I quickly realized that she did not want “to be tied down”. If there had been a class which included unlimited access to the neighborhood pool every day from 8-4, she still would have declined – because that would have held her to a schedule.
Plan B was “Mom Camp”. We did this a couple of summers ago. It was a complicated arrangement involving popsicle sticks and two cans that helped to ensure that she did not spend her entire weekdays watching the Disney Channel. Although she rolled her eyes every time I responded, “Mom Camp” to those who inquired about her summer activities, I believed that, deep down, she secretly liked it.
Or, I could have been wrong.
“I don’t want to do Mom Camp!” she said, quite firmly.
“Well, what do you want to do?” I asked.
“Whatever I want.”
My turn for eyeball rolling. “I am not letting you watch T.V. and play video games all day.”
So, I came up with a compromise, which I think is more than fair. For the next week, she gets to do things her way. She can prove to me how great she is at monitoring her tube time and coming up with creative activities for the rest of the day.
If, after a week, I am dissatisfied with the way she is conducting her summer, then I get to take over – with the New, Improved Version of Mom Camp.
We shook hands. And I pretended not to notice how limp hers was.