My son pulled our kiddie pool out of the garage recently and noticed that it had black mold on it. I don’t know if it was the dangerous kind of black mold, or just your average non-toxic black mold, but we decided to throw it out — an act I savored and celebrated. It took a full year to get that big yellow dead spot of grass to grow back where the pool sat last summer.
He then pulled out the Slip-N-Slide, and noticed the same mold, and then I thought about the long slender strip of dead grass that I’d just gotten to grow back that was from the Slip and Slide, and I felt pretty satisfied throwing that away, too.
But then, right there, as I stood next to the garbage can, feeling my afterglow, all three kids joined in a harmonious refrain of, “Can we get a another pool and Slip-N-Slide, Dad? PLEEEEASE!”
It all reminded me of that episode of the Simpsons when Bart and Lisa eventually got Homer to break down and buy a backyard pool only for Bart to end up breaking his leg jumping into it from the tree house. And just like Homer, I said “No.”
I said NO over and over until my felt it in my soul. I dug in my heels, and I felt good about it. I was protecting our yard, our investment.
Except then my wife went out and bought a kiddie pool and Slip-N-Slide while I was at work, and they all called me a Summer Scrooge when I complained.
I get called a Summer Scrooge a lot during summer time, actually. Not that I’m a bad dad, or an un-fun dad, or an unloving dad. But I also know that there are a few summer items and activities, much like the pool and Slip-N-Slide, that I just can’t get behind, and although I usually end up doing them, I always do them grudgingly. And when I do get my way, I feel this enormous sense of satisfaction.
For example, camping. Listen, I love camping with my friends. I love camping with my wife. I used to go backpacking for days and days, and enjoy disconnecting from the world and getting right with nature. But camping with my children, well … I can do without that.
I wasn’t opposed to camping with my kids until I actually did it. I have spent enough long nights in a tent cleaning puke or pee out of a sleeping bag at 2 a.m., or had all the kids climb in bed with me because they “heard something,” or treated a screaming toddler for poison oak, or had to drive back to town because one of the kids needed stitches, enough times to know that camping with children is flat-out hell. Every single time we go camping, I spend the majority of the time hot and sleepless and counting the hours until we can go home.
Do we have a few rewarding moments each time we go camping? Yes, we do. But they do not outweigh the pain. Do we always end up going camping each summer much to my chagrin? Oh yes, we do. Sigh…
And staying up late in the summer? I’m not a fan of that either. Except unlike camping, this, my friends, is a battle I almost always win. My wife and I have only a short window of time where we can be together without children. Where we can, for the most part, have the house to ourselves. Regardless of summer break, I’m an adult and I get up really early in the morning. Shamefully early. Earlier than I’d ever expected when I thought about my adult life as a child, and so I go to bed early, too. Mel and I have between about 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. to discuss bills and schedules and concerns without a child screaming that they are being pushed, or it’s their turn to pick the show, or that they need their butt checked.
It’s also the only time we have to snuggle on the sofa and watch a show, or take a shower, or be intimate, or just talk like adults about stuff our children really shouldn’t be hearing. I’m not interested in giving that up, not even for the summer. I’m also not interested in children playing video games late into the night, and turning the volume up to 800 so they can hear My Little Pony in every single room, or some late night argument over their brother breaking the rules and eating Cheerios in the living room.
Am I being selfish? Yes, I am and I’m comfortable with admitting that. I give my everything to these kids, and so I don’t feel bad about claiming the evenings.
I also hate barbecues because the food is always bad. I hate cutting my lawn, working in the garden, and star gazing.
So am I a Summer Scrooge? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t want to call myself that just yet. Because we do take a lot of very fun trips to the community pool, and we go on a lot of family hikes, and family road trips, and I’m a pretty mean aim with a Super Soaker. And just to sweeten my reputation, I’m also the only dad in the neighborhood who actually flags down the ice cream truck himself. I love me a push pop.
Right now, as I’m writing this, my three children are in the yard, enjoying their new kiddie pool and Slip-N-Slide. I have towels on the carpet between the bathroom and the back door, and I’m losing my voice from screaming “In or out?! Pick one!”
So if you are like me, and there are a number of summer activities you can’t stand, it’s cool. You aren’t a Summer Scrooge. You are just a parent. I get it. No shame. And if you do it grudgingly, you probably really love your kids, because honestly, doing something you don’t want to do for your children is, unfortunately, a pretty pure show of love.
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