One More Week

There is officially one week left of my summer. I can’t believe it. It feels like it started only yesterday.

I haven’t traveled like this during the summer in a LONG time. I think the length and nature of my trips made the summer fly by, but maybe any kind of traveling would seem to shorten the summer.

Parenting has thoroughly kicked my ass this summer. I feel like I spent the entire seven weeks yelling at my kids. It’s not what I want our summers to be like, but I’m not sure how to avoid it. Transitions are hard for them (especially my daughter – they are impossible for my daughter), so traveling and having to be places around a certain time is difficult, but they don’t play well together so staying at home just ends (or starts!) in them bickering and fighting. I don’t know what the answer is. Part of me is relieved the school year is about to begin. Maybe all of this will get better as they get older? My seven year old seemed to backslide intensely this summer, which suggests that might not be the case. I’m trying to be accepting of who they are and what they are capable of, but it’s hard.

San Diego did not make it easier. Of course the family we were with had calm, easy going kids who never so much as tried to negotiate with their parents, let alone openly defy them. And yes, I realize it’s harder when you’re away from home, but my kids were up in all of their shit, playing with their toys and using their art supplies and neither one ever had anything to say about it (at least not while we were around, which was pretty much always during the weekend). I also understand that their younger kid is five, but their older son is exactly our daughter’s age and he was happy to entertain himself writing and illustrating all the words he knows related to “electricity.” He even spelled “circuit” right. He never complained to his parents, let along hissed or scratched or yelled at them (all things my daughter did multiple times over the weekend).

At my best moments I found myself marveling over how rested and not stressed the parents seemed – it’s what I imagined parenthood would be like for me — at my darkest moments I found myself berating myself and my parenting, sure the fault lied with me and my own moments of anger and frustration (which are many).

By the end of the trip I was back at my baseline, which oscillates between acceptance and resignation. These are my kids, and this is my life. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at making choices that take into account who they are and what they can handle, but this summer reminded me that I still overestimate their capabilities much of the time. I need to think long and hard about what they, and I, can handle next year.

I won’t even go into the challenges my husband and I faced as we negotiated simultaneous parenting this past weekend, but I will mention that it was rough, especially at first.

Yesterday was nice. They both were sweeter, with each other and with me, than they had been in a long time. I needed that and was grateful.

12 Comments

  1. Those kids with academic interests, who read & write for fun, always make me feel bad. My son’s main interest lately is the NBA. And hip-hop. He is glued to his tablet and i can never get him to read.

    But honestly, I’m not sure your friends in San Diego are doing anything so differently than you are – they just have different kids. It does sound much less stressful, though!

    1. I do think they just have different kids, but it’s hard not to think that they are doing something right and I’m doing something wrong when I see the stark difference between their kids and mind.

      Their son has always been crazy smart and advanced. I remember he could read picture books aloud when we visited two years ago, the summer before K. I was kind of dreading seeing him again, which I know is lame of me – it’s not like my own kids aren’t smart, they just aren’t that smart. šŸ˜‰ And honestly, I noticed this year that it wasn’t how smart he was that bothered me, but how well behaved. He just seemed so much less exhausting to parent. That is what I want, less exhausting kids.

  2. Throwing kids off schedules and patterns changes their behaviors immensely. Kids are all so different, examply my 5 and 3 year olds are like night and day, same parenting, same schedules and structure. One defies me, one follows rules strictly, one is an excellent eater and sleeper, the other never sleeps or eats. Seriously night and day. I try to not have expectations or compare when we travel bc all kids are different and all circumstances are different. You cannot compare and apple to a tomato, same color completely different fruits!

    1. I know throwing kids off patterns changes their behaviors a lot, but honestly my kids exhibit the same kinds of behaviors – defiance, fighting, physical aggression – during the school year as well. I think I expect them to be better during the summer because supposedly it’s more “fun” and “less stressful” for them, but that doesn’t seem to make them easier at all.

      My kids are not night and day – they both wake up a lot at night and neither will eat anything, and both struggle to manage their big feelings without physical aggression – but I do think my son would be more easy going and less aggressive if he didn’t have his sister’s behavior as a model and guide. He is a much more easy going kid, but he copies his sister’s reactions all the time. When all you see is extreme behavior at home, it has to effect how you behave yourself.

  3. Our school district’s summer was only 8 weeks and it flew by.

    Sorry your trip was hard. I’m really trying to work on the yelling myself. Being around such a “perfect”seeming family sounds hard. I’m always a little relieved to see friends’ kids act out etc., like it’s not just us.

    1. I am also relieved when I see other kids acting out because it makes me feel more normal. I rarely see my daughter’s friends act out in public – at seven most of them can control themselves when they are around others – which disheartens me because my daughter still can’t manage that, but when we’re on a play date with just one girl sometimes I see them lose it and it makes me feel so much better, like maybe we aren’t so different after all.

      I am continually trying not to yell, but it’s so hard to stay calm when I’m constantly being yelled, growled and hissed at, and especially when I’m being pushed and hit, still regular occurrences.

  4. We would probably look like a relaxed family at home, but when we’re traveling it’s a whole other deal.

    I remember sometimes feeling bad when my son was small and he was so shy and nervous then. And he was impossible to travel with, and people in my social circle seemed to admire bold kids who are relaxed and good to travel with (and their parents) – I sometimes felt like a failure. Like you, I’ve later gained perspective, especially after my second kid was born. Kids are SO different from birth, and you cannot change their temperament, just help them to make the most of it.

    1. We do not look like a relaxed family at home, my kids are pretty much the same at home or vacation. I honestly don’t know if they are worse on vacation or my expectations are just higher (obviously I am an idiot and expect my kids would be easier to deal with when they are doing fun things than when they are doing the boring normal, like school – I understand it’s not that simple for them and their behavior).

      1. I know what you mean about expectations. Even after almost 9 years I’m still surprised that my kids do not reward me with gratitude and “being nice” when I have dragged them to somewhere fun. Especially if I have endured a lot to get them there!

        I did stop going to children’s festivals and the like a couple years ago, and that was a great decision (sounds lame, but really, it has been the right decision.).

        FWIW, many (most) of the parents I’ve met during summer have complained about how impossible their kids are and how they cannot deal with them anymore (in my country, people tend to be pretty open about negative stuff). I think most parents feel this way occasionally and especially during vacation. I know I have šŸ˜€

  5. Routines with school starting again will help. Being where we are seen by others and feel judged/exposed is HARD. Children are different. Just like adults.
    Hope you and your husband can get some time alone together soon.
    Hope start of you going back to work goes smoothly.
    I shall be thinking of you while spending next two weeks with no electronics. Hoping the world is not blown apart and completely poisoned. The stress is giant today, must be huge multiplier on top of marriage and children who struggle.

  6. I’ve been feeling similarly lately. The other day I went to a kids’ concert and puppet show with two other kids my son’s age. One sat quietly and the other was fairly quiet and engaged and smiling. My son talked loudly the whole time. I didn’t mind it when he was expressing glee but halfway through it was constant “I want to leave,” “I want a snack,” “I don’t like this anymore,” “I want to sit on your lap,” and then back to exclamations of enjoyment. Why couldn’t he just chill and watch like the other kids? I’m also noticing he fights with other kids and I’m pretty sure he instigates it – he freaks out when they don’t do what he says and shrieks in distraction. It’s disheartening and I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong. And I’m wondering if other parents are judging us. This is a new feeling for me. He always seemed normal and easy and now I’m not so sure!

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