As I sit here watching my kids get on the bus for the last time until September, I feel a panic rising in my chest. Gone are my leisurely breakfasts, my early afternoon work/writing sessions, my lunches with friends. For the next three months, an unruly circus will barge into my peaceful world, monkeys will steal my favorite biscottis and leave the wrappers lying all over the floor, acrobats will twirl and leap and dive onto any spot where I happen to be sitting peacefully, and three chatty ringmasters will turn up their mics to full volume.
I know it’s not going to be easy. But, after 12 summers of being a mother, I’ve developed a pretty handy toolkit for getting through. I got this. And so do you.
Here are my seven rules for surviving summer:
1. Find a good hiding place. Several, actually. The ideal location is somewhere where you can hear “HELP, I’m stuck in the toilet!” but not “Moooom! Jonny won’t give me a turn!” When times get tough, hunker down and hope they don’t notice you’re gone.
If they do, just keep shouting “Geez! I’m in the bathroom!” self-righteously until they come looking for you. When they realize that you’re not, in fact, in the bathroom, tell them that you were just about to go in. Congratulations! You just earned yourself five extra minutes of leave-me-alone time.
2. Take them places that you want to go. Sure, there will be the obligatory Chuck E Cheese afternoons and indoor race car evenings. But, make sure to fit in trips to art museums, botanical gardens, theaters, bookstores, or any of the places that you enjoy on your own (unless smoky pool halls are your thing… you might have to save that for September).
Not only will you get to feel like a real person again, but you’ll be giving your kids a window into the larger world beyond the public pool and play dates.
3. Make playdates… for yourself! Have friends come over to chat while the kids play. It’s nice if they have kids who get along with yours, but if not, just put on a movie for a few hours and enjoy the quiet. It can also be fun to go on day trips with other families. Your kids pick their favorite location; you pick your favorite friends.
4. Send them to camp! Summer-long camp is the salvation for many families. But, because I grew up with free-wheeling summers, and I also happen to be a bit of a masochist, I’ve never gone this route. I do, however, allow each kid one week of the (affordable) camp of their choosing. It works best if they can all coincide, allowing me one blissful week to remember what my own voice sounds like again. An extra bonus if your significant other is able to take some of those days off as well!
5. Give them copious amounts of screen time in the mornings. This is one of my favorite coping strategies. I spend more than nine months of the year being woken up faaaaar too early by kids who are faaaaaar too eager to wake me up. In the summer, that all goes out the window.
If I want to sleep till 8 and then spend an hour lying in my bed reading or playing on my phone, that’s exactly what I do. No one would dare bother me because they know that the second I come downstairs, screen time is over… often for the rest of the day. This is a win/win situation.
6. Do frequent dollar store trips. Chalk, bubbles, jump ropes, cards, squirt guns, and crappy candy will be your best friend for the next few months. And, you know, if your husband did manage to spend some of those wild and crazy kid-free days with you, pregnancy tests are in the pharmacy aisle.
7. Enjoy your kids! I know, I know… this seems like a radical one. But, really, if you can get past all the bickering and booming songs-that-never-end, you might find that your kids are growing into fairly interesting human beings. The school year is so hectic that often I find I’ve missed out on some of their changes and developments. Summer is an excellent time to reconnect and strengthen our bonds. Not only do I love to feel the closeness between us grow stronger, but also to watch as they reconnect with each other.
That’s it. My seven rules for surviving summer. Just typing them out is making me feel a little better. And now, I’m going to use my last two hours of freedom to stock my hide-out with chocolate and tequila. Hope you’re making the best of yours too!