I’m Already Stressing About What I’m Going To Do With My Kids Over Summer Break

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
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Ten. The number of days my four kids are off school for spring break.

One night when my husband and I were having a catch-up session after we’d finally tucked all the kids into bed, he asked me what I planned to do with the kids the Monday after Easter. I frowned and asked him, “What do you mean?”

He said he was checking the school lunch menu schedule earlier and noticed there was an extra day off school.

That’s when my panic set in.

I mean, it’s one thing to have a few days off around a holiday. An extended weekend to wear pjs, watch movies, meet up with friends, and visit the local park. But ten days? Did anyone in charge of scheduling calculate that ten days is 240 hours and 14,400 minutes?

But who’s counting?

I love my kids. I really do. I enjoy our occasional lazy days together. But ten consecutive days of rising with the sun and cranky kids snacking from baggies of jelly beans and gnawing on chocolate rabbits is just too damn much for any parent.

By nine each morning, the sibling bickering has escalated into an all-out war. I’m the lucky recipient of passionate reports of who breathed on whom, who pooped and didn’t flush, and who stole the other’s favorite Legos.

It’s mayhem. Oh, and can they have a snack? They’re staaaaarving. The fact that I made them a healthy, full breakfast of eggs, fruit, and toast is irrelevant.

By eleven, I’m researching summer camps (the ones we can’t afford) while my kids race around the driveway on their bikes, still in their pajamas. Within less seven minutes of being outside, the kids are demanding lunch, because, you guessed it, they are about to die of hunger. And it’s too hot outside. (It’s 62 degrees.) And they’re bored. (Um, what about the bikes, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and balls?)

By one, it’s time for the baby to nap, but she’s so hyped up from hours of chaos, that she cannot settle. I cave on my “no electronics” rule and tell the kids they can watch a movie. The problem? They cannot agree on the movie.

The toddler is chanting the theme from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, the kindergartner is screaming “Paw Patrol!” on repeat while hopping up and down on the couch, my eight-year-old daughter insists we watch something superhero-themed, and my tween, who is too cool for everything right now, is rejecting every idea.

They finally agree to watch Wonder. But they’re going to need some popcorn. And yes, we had lunch forty-six minutes ago. Again, that fact is irrelevant.

As I’m popping a massive batch on the stove, feeling increasingly desperate, I contemplate if anyone will hire me for a full-time job effective immediately. I might even pay them to hire me.

Folks, we all know the truth. There aren’t enough venti lattes in the whole wide world for spring break.

After my husband shared with me the extended spring break news and my anxiety kicked in, I realized that spring break is just a taste of what summer break will be like. If I thought ten days of mother-children “bonding” was challenging, try three months.

Sure, we could be organized and structured. I have a background in education. Planning and executing a well-created plan is nothing new to me.

I could get each kid educational workbooks. We could visit historic sites and museums. I could create a colorful chore chart. Oh, and of course we could do Pinterest-inspired crafts that require a few hundred dollars in materials that I have to special order from New Zealand. I could Mary Poppins the hell out our summer break.

The key word here being “could.”

Yes, there are other options. We could sign our kids up for specially-themed summer camps, but they’re astronomically expensive, especially with four kids. And as for my for my working-outside-the-home mama friends, summer childcare has them contemplating how immoral it is, really, to rob a bank.

We could travel to visit grandparents for a few days here and there, but that would mean I’d spend a week doing laundry, packing, and snack-prepping. And then when we get home, I would spend another week ushering cranky kids through the simplest tasks like teeth-brushing while attempting to unpack, wash the dirty laundry, and replenish the refrigerator.

There’s the option of playdates, but that means I have to wash the massive stacks of dishes (from all the snack sessions) by the sink and scrub the guest bathroom. All that work for two or three hours of free play in which I spend half the time serving and cleaning up snacks and reminding the older kids to include the younger ones.

All options sound rather miserable because they are, in fact, miserable.

I know we will end up, as we always do, having a roller-coaster summer. We will enjoy the highlights, like attending my cousin’s wedding festivities, swimming until the sun goes down, and firing up the grill for weekend dinners. We will all be frustrated with the relentless arguments, unwanted sunburns, and endless chores.

Our big family life is just that. Chaotic, messy, and magical on repeat.

I know I’m supposed to enjoy every moment and make each day count, but it’s seemingly impossible. Because at the moment, I have to go break up another argument over who is the owner of the coveted Lego brick and then make sure the toilet isn’t clogged (again).

Welcome to spring break, folks. And hello to our summer preview.

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