Once upon a time, Spring Break meant freedom. Released from school, work, and general obligations, it was an annual rite of winter passage where the only thing mandatory was R&R on a beach somewhere and a tequila shot or two (or six) with a warm beer chaser.
Cut to today, where the word break takes on new meaning; as in your spirit.
It’s bad enough being a working stiff and watching friends and colleagues flee while the grindstone still has you by the nose. But add a kid or two or more, throw in the fact that this year spring school vacation weeks are wildly out of sync — having started the week before Passover and ending up to a week after Easter — and by the end of it all, you’ll need not just a vacation, but potentially institutionalization.
While I have several friends who love it when school is out, as schedules are much looser and the early morning shuffle slows to a crawl, I am so not that mom. From the time my children were infants, I craved routine and dependable destinations for sweet predictability. Even when I was fully freelance and theoretically had total flexibility, the thought of an unstructured week struck fear and a fair amount of loathing in my heart.
It’s not because I don’t love hanging with my kids; it’s just that our definition of “hanging” is completely different. While mine involves all of us doing things at our own pace (HA!), theirs lasts about 12 seconds before they hit full-tilt boredom. Once that happens, it’s an ugly dead end that includes whining, crying, and tantrums. (Mine, not theirs.)
You might think that things get better as the kinder get older, and in some ways it does. But just like the old adage, “little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems,” so goes the way of vacation — the bigger the kid, the bolder the plans. Simple “play dates” where the highlight is a juice box and maybe a new set of Legos is now replaced by day-long itineraries that involve elaborate plans of picking up and dropping off: at malls, amusements parks, movie theaters, beaches, parties, and more.
Since both my kids are in the netherworld of neither small child nor young adult, the plan making is, dare I say, half-assed. After urging my kids to make their own plans, I inevitably end up on the phone for hours each night, scheming with another parent or two (or six) to figure out who drives where, when. As a working mom, I’m especially conscious of the other old adage, “you take, you owe,” so I tend to take the early shuttle shift or the late one, which means that any “free” time I had before is now effectively shot.
And so, spring break tends to slog on with nary even a potty break in sight.
For me, this “vacation” has now spanned on for two weeks, echoing the joy of having two kids in two different schools and school districts. And I’m conscious that this is a mere harbinger of things to come in just five or six more short weeks when it all lets out for another eight or nine weeks.
The thought of summer vacation on the heels of spring break to me inspires a state of full-blown panic. I have been procrastinating figuring out the intricate pattern of activities to fill their summer days (and drain my wallet) for months now.
Once again, this was a much easier deal when they were younger. Babies travel lightly, with a little 70 sunblock and some swim diapers; six-to twelve-year-olds have a bevvy of camp options to choose from. But from 13 until 16 or so, it gets much more complicated if your kids aren’t already hooked into a particular sleepaway camp.
This part is especially hard for me, as I spent two months every summer at the same glorious camp from the time I was 10 until I was a counselor. But that was on a different coast, at a different time, plus back then (well, or even now) nobody would have ever chosen me for a summer travel team in any sport. But for my kids, that’s a big part of their life.
And so, beholden to not-yet-revealed plans that will include mandatory practices at random times, not to mention weekend-long tournaments at far-flung locales, I begin the process of sifting through the meager options for kids too old for most camps, but also too young to get a job.
While others are fine with their kids hanging low around the house all summer, I know my people too well to let the days and weeks pass unstructured. And by “people,” I’m probably just talking about myself. The youngsters would like nothing better than to go on TV/YouTube/video game binge, but then I’d for sure lose the battle for Mother of the Year, and then what?
So if you see me frantically Googling, “camp teens day cheap summer 2014,” please pass me a tequila shot with a warm beer chaser. Spring break hasn’t broken me yet, but summer’s just around the corner, waiting to pounce. And to that balmy killer I say, Come and get my, beyotch — I’ve got a lead on a junior assistant CIT program that costs the same as regular day camp but includes a “free” t-shirt, and nothing’s gonna stop me now!