This was the first true summer vacation for my family, with my daughter finishing kindergarten back in June. Before that, summer was just the same old day care routine as the rest of the year, but not this time. This time it was Summer Vacation with capital letters and a theme song performed by Bowling for Soup. And Dear God and the Moss-Covered, Three-Handled Family Gradunza, it cannot possibly end fast enough.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the tiny tyrant who lives in my house with all my heart and other organs, but the loss of the school routine turns her from mildly imperial presence into full-blown Caligula. That’s not an analogy, by the way. Caligula appointed a horse to be a senator; my daughter tried to overrule something I said by telling me Twilight Sparkle had more authority than I did. And she doesn’t. She’s a political figurehead and religious pontiff instead of an actual elected official in addition to being a FREAKIN’ CARTOON PONY, YOU CRAZED LITTLE SUNCHILD.
So while I haven’t gotten quite to the point of making a back-to-school advent calendar like my friend Rachel Pavlik, I am counting the days. Here are five reasons why.
5. Camps Do Not Give You Back Your Day
I work from home as a freelance writer and Internet yeller, and one of the reasons my family justifies my not having a job involving pants is that it frees us from the literal thousands of dollars we used to spend on daycare a year. It was honestly our second-largest expense after rent. During the school year her education keeps her out of my hair for about six hours a day for free.
In the summer we tried to replace that with a variety of skill and church camps, but it’s not the same. For one, getting her to and from them usually involved an hour of drive time total, as opposed to the short walk to and from her elementary that we have the rest of the year. For another, most “day camps” we looked up for her were no more than three hours tops, so by the time you get home, you’re basically left with enough time to start a project before heading back out. Even the pretty excellent series we eventually enrolled her in through Club Rewind shortens me to a four-hour work day. Keeping a kid temporarily occupied for three months involves a bizarre, hyper-organized schedule of different outlets if you want to be able to accomplish anything for yourself.
4. The Television Becomes Their God
By TV I mean Kindle because my daughter is growing up in a time when entertainment is portable and on-demand. When we as a family sat down at a certain time to watch the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, she literally couldn’t comprehend the concept. Shows either exist when you want them or they don’t. There is no event, just Netflix.
My daughter’s attachment to the Kindle has become frightening as I’ve let her use it more just to get her off tugging my sleeve long enough for me to write some bill payers. It was actually the subject of her first full-blown, well-thought-out lie as she tried to convince me that she’d put it on the charge cable before bedtime while secretly hiding it under her pillow so she could keep watching it after we tucked her in. On one hand, I’m kind of proud my sneaky Slytherin blood is doing its job, even though her execution of cunning was ultimately wack. On the other, holy hell, how many times can you rewatch every episode of Wild Kratts before it technically becomes a cult of worship? Go play outside. Speaking of that…
3. Outside and the People You Meet
Yeah, my kid is just turning six and I’m not sending her outside to play in the apartment complex unsupervised. No, it’s not because I’m terrified there’s a pedophile lurking around every corner. It’s just that she’s short and I’m afraid she’ll get hit by a car running around without looking in what is basically a giant parking lot.
That means I have to go outside with her and Houston is, for want of a kinder description, a sweltering swamp such that if you entered it in a video game, you would expect just being there to slowly chip away at your health meter. Any sort of trip into the outdoors necessitates at least one change of shirt just to wring out the sweat. Short, three-inning games of baseball make spots dance in front of my eyes. The surface of shaded playground equipment is hot enough to burn human skin in direct defiance of physical laws and God’s will. Even trips to the complex pool aren’t free of the wrath of the Houston sun since leaving the pool even for a minute to use the bathroom will evaporate the cool water from your body, leaving you dry and barefoot on concrete as hot as a griddle. Outside needs swift elbow to the jaw right now, as far as I’m concerned.
2. You Have to Become a Teacher
Our stupid, archaic school schedule costs our kids about one month of schooling per year because students forget things they learn over the summer. That’s what happens when you pretend all your kids are still needed to farm crops three months out of the year and that air conditioning doesn’t exist, but then again, our state pretends slavery wasn’t the driving cause of the Civil War in our textbooks, so my surprise is a little naive and I hope slightly adorable.
Eager to avoid this loss of valuable learning, my wife and I opted to keep our daughter occupied with Scholastic Summer Express workbooks that are supposed to help bridge the gap between grades. Mostly it’s simple activities like identifying tenses, doing basic arithmetic, and story comprehension. It rarely takes up more than a half hour each day, but it does require a fair amount of guided learning that frankly I’m not all that well trained to do. Guiding her over learning humps takes patience and trust, and it leaves me eternally more respectful for her teachers who do this every day with nearly 30 kids.
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1. It Makes You Sad
Having a child is like being a time traveler who is really, really bad at time travel. Days last for weeks and months last for minutes. You spend hours trying to find a quiet space to work around the jabbering bundle of cartwheels that is your offspring, only to realize the whole day is gone and you missed both being productive and being a summer playmate.
All year long, my daughter has asked me if we can do a lemonade stand and I told her of course. What’s it going to take? Forty dollars worth of supplies, a few tables and signs, and you’re done. Yet I’ve put it off time and time again. It’s too hot today, honey. Money’s tight this week, sweetheart. Daddy has a story on deadline right now. We’ll do it soon. It’s always going to be soon.
Soon her first summer vacation will be over, the first of only 11 or so she’ll ever really have. I mean everything I said above about summer, but I can’t help feeling sometimes the only thing I accomplish during it is to scam myself out of her childhood somehow.