This summer, I decided that I missed my kids and wanted to spend more time with them, so I bit the bullet and gave the nanny the summer off, dramatically cut my hours (flinching as I await blowback from my partners), and decided that I would be the one spending blissful summer afternoons eating strawberries and whipped cream in the backyard with them… or frolicking at the beach… or whathaveyou.
Yesterday was the first day of said bliss. First, although I lucked out and my patient visits were easy and finished quickly, as I leisurely browsed patient labs and wrote result letters with a poetic flourish, I completely and utterly lost track of time. So, when I realized it was 3pm and time to leave, I did one of those Looney Tunes take offs where a cloud of dust follows me and hairpins hang in the air where I used to be.
My secretary waved a hankie goodbye and sent her well wishes as I peeled out of the parking lot, and people in the hallways looked at each other quizzically as if to say, “What the hell was that?”
But I really need not have hurried because thirty five minutes and thirty miles later, all I ended up doing was sitting in a long line of cars as ruddy and sweaty, yet somehow very authoritarian, camp counselors with walkie talkies directed traffic and checked IDs.
“DO you have the yellow placard with the names on them?” one asked.
“My husband got one this morning, I just haven’t seen him yet,” I answered, and pointed to a giant sign with their last names I had judiciously placed on the windshield
“Where is your yellow placard?” the second one asked.
“My husband got one this morning, I just haven’t seen him yet,” I answered, and pointed at the windshield.
“Here is your yellow placard,” the third one said.
“My husband got one this morning, I just haven’t seen him yet,” I answered, forgetting to point.
“Would you like a ….”
“I HAVE TWO AT HOME,” I snapped.
What is it about authority that makes me want to snap?
Anyway, once they finally knew I was who I was and figured out who I was there for (what was the confusion? maybe because the piece of paper on the windshield was white?), the kids were safely buckled in the back seat smelling of sunblock and fun, but my ass was numb and I was developing a sacral decube from sitting in the car so long. Or maybe a DVT.
“You guys wanna have a blissful afternoon in the backyard eating strawberries and whipped cream?” I said.
“Y’all wanna go to the beach?” I tried again.
“Not the beaaach!” wailed my son. Then he said, “I wanna go to Fun City.”
Fun City is probably the least fun city for a grownup, or at least for me. There are some grownups who probably enjoy fluorescent lights, loud music, the smell of socks, urinating just a little bit every time you bounce on their many trampolines–so I’ve heard–but not me. And I said as much.
“How about mini golf?”
“Not Minigolf!” wailed my son again.
“You be the deciding vote,” I told my daughter.
“Such hard decisions,” she said very seriously. “There are pluses and minuses to beach, mini golf, and Fun City.” She’s not yet six.
I checked back five minutes later, and she said, “I’m still thinking.”
Then she announced, “I have made my decision.”
My son kicked the back of my seat. But a deal is a deal.
They insisted I play too, as opposed to being a “supervising adult” as the sign announced.
Now the fun-filled bonding afternoon is really about to begin, I thought.
Too bad I forgot about how the mini golf course is fortuitously located right where the sun shines brightest, and how the fake grass and fence effectively work together to trap the heat as much as possible to really capitalize on its ability cook the players to al dente perfection. Suffice it to say, we did the first two holes properly, and the rest was mainly my son throwing the ball right into the tricky channel that makes you have a hole in one, and my daughter whacking the club on the ground, and me placing napkins in my pits so as not to develop pit stains.
It was really super duper fun!
“Let’s not forget to take a selfie and post it on Facebook!” I said, and we smiled for the phone, whose screen was glistening with the sweat my butt cheek imparted on it when it languished in my back pocket during the mini golf match.
We then had to stop by Target where I was forced to purchase a Walkie Talkie (where did he get that idea, I wonder…) and a monkey finger puppet? I’m not sure why.
“Can we pay now?”
“No, I’m still looking for towels for you.”
“Can we go now?”
“No, I’m still looking for sunblock.”
“I really want to open these walkie talkies right now so… can we go pay now?”
And as my blood pressure started to rise, and I got that feeling every mother knows, this feeling right before you know you’re going to raise your voice, I asked myself, “Am I enjoying my kids enough?!” And then I answered myself, “No, I most certainly am not! I am not enjoying them enough at all, and it is a failure because all the good mothers are enjoying their kids all the time, every time. After all, remember, ONLY EIGHTEEN SWEET SUMMERS!”
“You have only eighteen sweet summers with them” is what a meme I saw on Facebook threatened. It featured a photograph of three gorgeous children on a swingset and a mom watching from a porch. And the bottom read, “Let that sink in for perspective.”
Thanks. Thanks for that perspective, helpful Facebook meme creator.
It’s part of this whole You. Must. Enjoy. Every. Moment. To. Death. thing we’ve got going on, which is being enforced by social media and judgy masses everywhere. “Put down your phone mom, and indefatigably watch your kids swing from the monkey bars!” “Having your child sneak into bed with you is annoying but soon, very soon, you’ll miss the cuddles, so enjoy them NOW!” and the perennial, “The days are long, but the years… the years, they are short.”
I think it’s a conspiracy. Yet another way to make moms feel guilty and inadequate. It’s the reason that I have this unending internal and external pressure to make sure we’re all having Quality Time, capital Q and capital T, and photograph and document it, so I can join leagues of other mothers posting their best moments on social media. And if, god forbid, I find myself annoyed or not enjoying myself or my kids, I feel the need to immediately go to confession for absolution.
Now look here. I love my kids to death. The idea that there are only eighteen summers (nine and twelve, now) scares me death. I don’t need any more freaking perspective that life is short and then our kids leave us and then we die. So, yes, I’ll be the one to cart them from camp while risking a DVT and coming up with various entertainment for the afternoon to keep them from drowning in electronics, including frying in the sun-baked mini golf course, at the beach in work attire, or even breathing in sock fumes at Fun City, yes. But the demand that I enjoy every moment to the fullest is ridiculous. I don’t need Facebook to constantly shove it in my… well… face.
So shut up.