I just realized that school starts in a mere two weeks–can I get an “Amen?” I love my children, you understand, but that love is ever so much less complicated when they are somebody else’s problem for eight hours a day. Yup. Less complicated and a whole lot less yell-y. During the school year my house is messy because we are so very busy, which is understandable. In summer my house is messy because my five offspring apparently believe my second job is to wait on them as a handmaiden does the Queen of England. Nightly I screech, “What happened to this house?!!!” only to have each child lazily survey the devastation and offer only the blandest look of indifference. One morning as I was heading out to actual, gainful employment, I asked Little Man to complete a job that would have taken five minutes, ten minutes, tops. In complete seriousness he threw down his toast and exclaimed, “Great! My whole day, ruined!”
This is what I am working with, people.
I could probably handle it all more gracefully, if I weren’t already handicapped by the season. This year’s admirably cooler temperatures notwithstanding, summer remains my least favorite time of year. In the first place, I am ill-suited for any of the frolicking summer-time activities others seem to enjoy so much. I have no interest in swimming, or tanning or gardening. Organized sports bore me to the point of violence. And biking? We all know how I feel about biking.
This year, during a trip up north, my sister took me and my kids inner-tubing for the first time. A genius move, I thought. Tubing would seem to side step any normal pitfalls of summertime activities: no coordinated effort required, no rules to follow, sanctioned alcoholic libations as evidenced by the offer of a special inner-tube for your beverage cooler…You would have thought I would be a natural. Unfortunately, I seem to lack even the barest coordination required for lying passively in an inflated circle of plastic. Thus “tubing down lazy river” sometimes looked an awful lot like “careening violently into half-submerged and spider infested tree branch” and later like, “nursing a sunburn on par with an industrial accident.” God bless my sister for her patience. She is a competent, vigorous sort and no doubt wonders how she ended up having a pale and tubercular Victorian shut-in as a sister. If we were literary characters, she would be Heidi, all apple-cheeked and glowing good health and I would be Clara, clutching my afghan as I recline, wanly, on the divan.
If it can even be deemed possible, my eldest daughter is even worst than I — which brings me to another reason summer needs to end. Miss Teen Wonder is home from college, and I swear to God, no parent should ever have to live with their child at this age. At least, not mine. She is currently sleeping in the basement and my whole and entire focus on days she does not work is to get her to come up to surface level. I’m not certain if I’m raising a daughter or a mole. When I do manage to drag her up into the the sunlight, she stumbles around like a hungover starlet at the Chateau Marmont, demanding someone fetch her sunglasses and a sparkling water.
I feel responsible, like maybe my own, oft repeated distain for summer has seeped into her brain and squashed any healthy impulse she might have to scamper off and enjoy the sun-soaked weather. At this point it’s probably too late for her. She’s spent too many years watching her mother spend entire summer afternoons downstairs, in the dark, stretched out directly under the air conditioning vent watching The X-Files re-runs. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a sketchy argument at best and my expression of bliss and total contentment on these stolen afternoons pretty much destroyed any bit of credibility I might have had on subjects related to fresh air and sunshine.
Clearly, if I am going to save the rest of the kids from a similar fate, I have to be an example of someone who, ugh, enjoys summer. I think I’m going to give tubing another try; it’s clearly my best chance for developing some sort of outdoor interest. Next time I’m going to accept the offer of a beverage tube, though. It’ll give me something to do while I wait to be freed from the tree branch.