It will be thirty-four degrees tonight – and even if the temperature doesn’t agree -- summer is only weeks away. So as the season of sun and surf (and mosquitoes and bees) looms, I realize this is the first time since my daughter was four she isn’t going to day camp for eight weeks or doing the day camp/overnight camp combo this season. The disclaimer? She is going to overnight camp for four weeks and just like she is fortunate to go, I’m fortunate to be able to offer her that experience. But according to my calculation -- and my math skills are rudimentary at best -- that leaves us about seven weeks when she’ll have nothing to do.
When you’re heading into high school, doing nothing is great -- for a week. I’m on board for a week of sleeping late, watching TV, seeing friends, reading books and texting the same friends she’s instant messaging and talking to on her phone. I’m all for the trendy "staycation" and going to movies, snagging Hot Tix, browsing malls and scouring museums. But I not "all for it" for seven weeks.
Feel free to chime in, but be forewarned, I’ve already been already been on the receiving end of lots of advice.
Have her help around the house. Absolutely. But eight hours a day? Every day of the week?
Tell her to read a book. See above.
Get a babysitting job. Everyone is cutting back and no one I know is hiring a sitter during the week during the day. And let’s be honest, day time is when we need our kids occupied. At night there’s dinner and reality TV. Done.
Spend time with her friends. The friends? They have no schedule, nothing planned at all. Every summer we shook our head in tandem wondering how they passed the time. While I believe a little boredom never hurt anyone, I think being bored for seven weeks won’t be good for anyone.
The nothing to do phenomenon happened once when my son was fourteen -- the same age as my daughter. Every day he said, “What are we doing today, Mom?” He spent the summer walking around with his friends and watching a lot of TV and helping me perfect my hidden eye-rolling (and I wonder where they get it).
I swore – NEVER AGAIN.
But I’m at a loss for a way to circumvent it. My kid is a trooper – but I don’t want her sitting around for seven weeks. There is no neighborhood gaggle of kids, no pick-up games, no bike riding expeditions. And while she’s great about rounding up kids and making plans -- seven weeks is more than forty days of making plans.
The other issue is: I need to work. And if she’s doing nothing but shuffling around and sighing, I’m going to feel bad. As a work-at-home mom I’m more flexible, but I can’t fold up the laptop for seven weeks to make sure she’s not vegging out hours upon hours per day becoming a sofa spud statistic. I can drive her some place, and if she wants friends at our house I’ll be present. There’s a perception that when you work from home you only sort of work – and it’s a perception that needs to change. I might be writing or editing at 7 am, and I may indeed be meeting a friend for coffee at 9, but I’m also working on Saturday and Sunday -- and usually type right through lunch -- and deep into the night.
I thought about moving my office space to the basement, until I remembered that when the A/C is on the basement turns into a freezer. I thought about moving the office to my bedroom but working where I sleep won’t work well for bedtime karma.
I think we’re just going to have to wing it – figure it out as we go – and find a way to make it work for both of us.
We’ll both have to find balance in a new cadence of our days, in a new lack of routine. Some days she’ll be bored and some days I’ll close the laptop. And we’ll find a happy medium – a way to make it work – and just when we do – she’ll leave for camp.
And I’ll wish she was home asking me what we’re doing today.
Amy Sue Nathanís debut novel, The Glass Wives, will be published by St. Martinís Press in Spring 2013. In addition to The Imperfect Parent, Amyís stories and essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times online, The Washington Post online, The Huffington Post, Chicago Parent, Grey Sparrow Journal, Rose and Thorn Journal, Scribblers On The Roof, The Verb, Hospital Drive Journal and The Stone Hobo. She is also a freelance fiction editor, a reader for literary agents, and Secretary of the RWA-WF Chapter. In 2011 Amy launched Womenís Fiction Writers, a blog focusing on the authors, business and craft of traditionally published womenís fiction.
Amy lives near Chicago and is the mom of a son in college, a daughter in high school, and two rambunctious rescued dogs. You can follow her on Twitter @AmySueNathan where she tweets about writing, books, parenting, and chocolate.
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