This summer my big kids will be going to day camp while my two younger children will be hanging out with me. This is a good arrangement as it allows 8 and 5 to spend time with their friends in a structured environment with more activities and excitement than I can provide. And the little ones (formerly known as ‘3’ and ‘the baby’, henceforth known as 4 and 2 - Happy birthday to them.) will have days that are more geared to their tastes and abilities.
However, there is a week in between the end of school and the beginning of camp. My kids have affectionately dubbed this ‘the Week of Sundays’ because I have told them that we will do something different and fun every day. I am pleased that they are excited to spend time with me and with each other, but frankly, the prospect of this week of Sundays has me a bit nervous.
We are doers, in this family. Meaning on a typical day off from school my kids wake up energized before 7 AM and ask excitedly ‘what are we going to do today?’ The challenge thus becomes how to happily occupy four children ages 2-8 by myself, for an entire week in a way that keeps us all looking forward to togetherness of this magnitude.
To intensify the challenge I have to take into account 4’s newfound fearlessness (read: stupidity). He likes to climb things and jump from things and dive into things without giving much thought as to how much I hate going to the Emergency Room.
And 2 needs to be carried a lot. Bless her curly little head, she doesn’t much care for the stroller, and everyone knows that walking is for ugly kids. Her preferred mode of transportation is in my arms. So I need to watch 4 like a hawk, and carry 2 like a kangaroo. It might also help to be an octopus so I can change diapers, apply sunscreen, distribute purell, and hand out snacks at the same time. My greatest wish is to be a hawk-aroo-opus.
To prepare for this week I made a list of summer fun activities. I showed it to 8 the other day to include him in the planning. He nixed a few of them as being babyish, approved a few, and said that a third category would be ok if he could bring along a friend. I like 8’s friends, so that’s fine. But sometimes when 8 has a friend he doesn’t pay much attention to 5, who begins to feel left out. The solution would be for 5 to bring a friend too, but then what would become of 4? And a 6 to 1 ratio of children to adults seems rather unmanageable if we are leaving the house, and by this point I think I have run out of space in my car…. So now my even greater wish is to be a hawk-aroo-opus with a stretch limo.
This week of Sundays is not for the faint of heart.
Sometimes I call my friends whose kids are friends with mine. Those conversations tend to go like this:
Hey – I’m taking the kids somewhere fun tomorrow, why don’t you come with us?
What a great idea!
Ok, we’ll probably be ready to go at around 9, does that work for you?
Well, my kids don’t usually wake up until 11, and then they like to play quietly with educational toys for 4 hours while I do advanced yoga and feng shui the garage. Could we leave closer to 3 pm?
I need to make new friends.
Often I find myself wishing that I just had more time to hang with my kids. More time to shoot hoops instead of making dinner, more time to be silly instead of doing laundry, more time to stay up late watching movies and reading Harry Potter instead of adhering to the routines that keep things running smoothly. And now that I finally have this kind of time I feel an intense pressure to make it perfect. (Other times I wish I had a bit less time to spend with my children, but this is not a politically correct emotion. That’s why I put it in parentheses. Parentheses are the written equivalent of ‘no offense’, they allow you to say what you want while enabling you to fall back on the ‘but I said no offense’ defense. Genius.)
Obviously it won’t be perfect. But my kids aren’t expecting perfect. They are expecting ice cream, and sprinklers, extra TV, and a day at the spray park. I can provide these things. And if we have a rough day, a day of whining (theirs) and moodiness (mine), I can go to sleep knowing that chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast (theirs) and afternoon cocktails (mine) make for a clean slate. My kids want to spend time with me. I am told this phenomenon won’t last much longer. Laundry and dinner and feng shui can wait. I am busy growing a pouch and 6 new arms to prepare for the week of Sundays.