It is comforting to know my children will never eat me.
This was the first in a series of revelations I experienced in the chasm of every calendar year known as the “First 10 Days of Summer Vacation.” The steady routine of school and extracurricular activities came to a screeching halt. We had a few days of pajama-clad, schedule-free living, then the whiplash set in.
We were four days into summer vacation, and the rain had been pouring down in sheets for three of them. I had exhausted all entertainment options that took my crew out of the house, and we were forced to get creative in our natural habitat. As I sat reading on the couch, I noted an eerie silence in the room and looked up to observe my boys staring at me with a trace of Hannibal Lecter in their eyes. Or maybe that’s a side effect from 10 straight hours of SpongeBob SquarePants—we can’t know for sure until science catches up and links blue screen exposure to retinal atrophy.
Since we had run out of the good snacks (read: cookies, chips and candy) and were down to bare knuckles items like fruit and cheese sticks, I feared they were eyeing my thigh meat to satiate their bored-so-I-want-a-snack tics. The likelihood was not impossible. All components of a cannibalistic uprising were in place: isolation, boredom, hunger and cartoon-induced psychosis.
As I was brainstorming a safety plan that would keep me alive, keep my children unharmed and not involve a call to the Department of Children’s Services, a rush of knowing came over me. Teamwork! Successful cannibalism requires teamwork. My boys would never be able to work together long enough to devour my flesh; there would be a minimum of 12 arguments before they could properly bludgeon me. I was going to live!
Thankfully, “Eaten by Offspring” was not going to be the headline of my obituary, but it would be hasty to rule out “Slow Death by Whining.” Due to the aforementioned rainstorms, no school and lack of acceptable snack food, a litany of whining points did ensue. So much in fact, that the only way to stop my ears from inevitably bleeding out (read: slow death by whining) was to entertain myself with new ways to respond when the whining persisted.
The success rate of my typical responses, “Please use your normal voice,” and “I can’t understand what you’re saying,” has plummeted to an all-time low. Those pleas fall silently, like virgin tears on a worn-out copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary. I tried handing them my phone and saying, “Dial 1-900-Whines-a-Lot and kick them whiny thoughts!” but the reference was lost on them, and they whined about giving my phone back because they thought the gesture was an invitation to play Candy Crush.
I briefly considered going the Pavlovian route. Perhaps … spritzing their faces with water every time they whined? This idea was over before it began. My guys would love nothing more than for me to randomly spray water in their faces. They would want to be spritzed. Ergo, more whining.
Aside from having no effective comeback to end the war on whining, I discovered my threats are not threatening, but instead, super awesome. It is probably because I do not do all that much threatening. Trying my hand at creative threats must have been a side effect of the space-time continuum ripping open and sucking us into the First 10 Days of Summer Vacation.
When my 7-year-old was too lazy to look for his bathing suit, I said, “If I find it before you, you will clean all the toilets.”
Apparently, cleaning toilets looks fun and interesting, and he begged me to get the swimsuit so he could clean the toilets. He viewed this as a win.
After hearing my 6-year-old sing the same two lines of “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift—wrong lyrics to boot—right in the neighborhood of 600 times, I said, “If you sing that song again, I am going to shove a marshmallow in your mouth.”
It is clear I totally suck at good threats, as marshmallows are a delicious treat welcome in many mouths—especially those of a 6-year-old known to consider chowing down on his mother’s bicep.
Currently, it’s impossible to tell the long-term damage of being exposed to the First 10 Days of Summer Vacation. Only years of enduring will produce enough qualitative evidence to yield solid results. But it is by this enduring that we come out victorious on the other side. Around day 11 or 12, the clouds will part, and the blue skies will bestow upon us pool days and camps and trips to see grandparents. The shadows fade into s’more-making, and we craft the most effective response to whining since “Would you like some cheese with that?” And we live to see another summer.