Dear Kids: Just Because It's Summer Doesn't Mean You Can Do Whatever You Want

by Rachel Toalson
Originally Published: 

It’s the 14th time he’s come to our room tonight, and we still have to get up at 5 in the morning to get anything done, so his daddy leads him out and says, “It’s time for you to go to bed, for the last time.”

“But I don’t have school,” he says, as if we didn’t just have this conversation 15 minutes ago. “It’s my summer break.”

Oh, well, in that case, why don’t you stay up all night, and, while you’re at it, go ahead and disregard all the rules, because IT’S SUMMER VACATION!

When I tilt my head and squint my eyes just so, I can almost understand why my boys would equate summer vacation with “do whatever I want” time, because summer means they are no longer trapped at school for seven whole hours a day, listening to someone else giving instructions. They don’t have to write their names on 50 math or reading or science worksheets, and they don’t have a half-hour time limit on lunch, and they don’t have to finish all their work before they get to do the fun stuff like reading and drawing and playing.

But what’s getting old in my house is that every day there’s another fight, and not because we’re coming up against new territory. No. We’re coming up against the same…old…territory that the boys have forgotten, because apparently summertime is synonymous with short-term memory loss.

Dang sumnesia.

Sometimes I wish summertime meant exactly what they think it means—relaxation of the rules. I really do.

But last time I relaxed the rules and let them have a little more freedom, they pulled out the economy-sized glitter I didn’t even know we had for some horrifying glitter projects we’re still cleaning up. Also, the oldest somehow climbed to the top of the bathroom door, where he positioned a cup of water so it would fall on someone’s head when they opened the door. And someone else put thumbtacks in the twins’ booster seats.

So, no. Rules still intact.

I wrote a note to my boys, reminding them of the most frequently forgotten rules. Feel free to use this letter as many times as you need. I’ve already read it to them 26 times, because sumnesia is pretty relentless.

Dear kids,

It’s summertime. Not “I’m a grown-up now” time.

Unfortunately, that means there are still rules in our house. Here are some you seem to have forgotten.

1. No, you may not snack all day.

We just had breakfast, and you ate 12 pancakes and 5 eggs. How in the world are you still hungry 15 minutes later? That’s called boredom, son. Boredom is not a good excuse to eat. Get thee outside. Dig in some dirt. Or do art (without glitter). Or read one of your books. Or chew on your fingers. Whatever keeps you out of the refrigerator. Because, good Lord, the grocery store only has so much food.

2. Close the door behind you.

This rule has been in place since you were old enough to walk, but you’ve conveniently picked now, when it’s so hot it’s painful to wear clothes, to forget? That’s called irony, kids.

Here, I’ll help you out. Closing is the opposite of opening. So, if you pull the door to open it and go outside, you push the door away from you to close it when you come back inside. Push it away from you. Away from you. Away from you. There. Hear that sound? That’s the sound of a door closing. Amazing, isn’t it?

Now that we’ve had this nice little refresher, next time you leave the door open, I’ll take a portion of the electricity bill out of your college fund. You won’t be laughing when you’re 18 and you don’t have enough money to pay for your first semester of books (because, by the time college rolls around, that’s about what the money we’ve saved will be worth. If you keep forgetting to close the door, it’ll pay for your first dinner out).

3. No, you may not stay up all night.

Believe it or not, even though you’re not going to school for the time being, we are still concerned that you get enough sleep—because we love you, and we know sleep is important for you to grow and function well. Also (mostly) because you turn into a horrid monster when you haven’t had enough sleep. So turn out the light. Put away the book.

And for God’s sake, stop coming to our room when we’re almost asleep, asking if we remember where you left your special pencil with the blue eraser. Some people want to get some sleep around here.

4. Things that were not allowed before are also not allowed now.

This includes things like walking across the table with dirty, dirty feet; getting five games out that, altogether, have a total of 40,000 pieces; sneaking onto the computer to play your Coolmath games when a parent is not present and before you’ve earned your technology time.

Nope. Still not allowed in the summer.

What? Every other kid gets to do what you can’t? Well, it’s too bad those aren’t your parents. Huh. You got stuck with us. It’s a hard-knock life.

5. Any mess you make, you still clean it up.

You don’t like this game and want to play a different one? Clean it up.

What’s that? You dumped out all of the glitter by accident? Well, it’s a good thing you know how to wipe off a table and sweep a floor, so get to it.

Wait, you want to play outside with your friend, but you were playing “Throw Them in the Air and See Where They Fall” with the markers? Welp. You know the rules. Clean it up first.

6. You may not wear your swimsuit for more than 20 days in a row.

It’s time for a dress code, kids. I know your swimsuits are comfortable, and you’re hoping that, by wearing them every hour of every day, we’ll say, oh, look, it’s time to go to the pool, but no. A swimsuit is not an appropriate choice for 20 consecutive days. I’ll give you five. Maybe even six.

It’s been longer than that, so let me have them. Let me have them. Let me have them. I just need to wash them, and then you can have them for another six days. Now. Go get your underwear on. Remember the other unspoken rule: no skivvies, no service.

7. Pool time is not bath time.

I know, I know. Chlorine, soap, what’s the difference? It’s so fun to play in the pool and pretend it’s a bath, and it’s no fun to come home and get wet again in a tiny little bathtub. But the thing is, chlorine. And kids peeing. And all those other bodies.

A dip in the pool does not qualify as a bath. Get on out. Come home. And wash under your arms, too, kids.

8. If you know the rules and break them, there will (still) be consequences.

I know it’s hard to believe that your parents are still enforcing these stupid rules even though it’s summertime and you should really only be experiencing great freedom and wonderful fun, but you see, kids? Consistency is important, too. Without consistency, you would feel like you were just trying to navigate life without an anchor tethering you to reality. Living life without an anchor isn’t as much fun as you think. Just ask any kid without a parent.

I know these rules seem ridiculous and arbitrary, but we enforce them because we want you to have the best possible family life experience you can. We have them because, more than anything, we love you.

Now. Go play outside so I can have a little quiet time and try to remember why these rules are so important.

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