A Long Summer for ‘Weary Tiger’ Mothers
Seventies parenting resembled crate training—now, we’re actually expected to watch our kids
By SAMANTHA BEE
The Bee-Jones summer vacation-slam-stravaganza is officially under way. Two blissful weeks of country solitude, trees, farmers’ markets and forging countless “precious memories” with our three beautiful children. Random quality check: We are 1,713 minutes in, and so far, I have never worked harder in my life. When is this vacation going to be over?!
Let’s be clear about something: I love my children more than life itself, and I would happily lay down my life or yours for them, as required. And I am a “tiger mother” of sorts; except that in my case, I’m the tiger who lays there helplessly in the sun as her tiger babies climb all over her, tugging on her fur and generally having their way with her. It’s summer vacation with the kids again, and I am in full “weary tiger” mode.
I am a child of the 1970s. What that means, in short, is that my childhood summer vacations were spent languishing in front of the TV watching Phil Donahue and eating Boo Berry until my skin turned purple. Nobody cared if I read. Nobody cared if I wore sunscreen, or pants. I was like a house cat; my parents barely even knew if I was still living with them or whether I had moved in with the old lady down the street who would put out a bowl of food for me. In the ’70s, parenting was like a combination of intense crate-training and rumspringa, so I would typically spend June through September burnt to a crisp and wandering listlessly around the city, verging on scurvy.
Thus, this emphasis on summer enrichment activities and exercise and fresh air and learning today feels unfamiliar to me. What ever happened to letting kids’ IQs backslide for three months, all the way back to March? I can’t be the only one who wants to sit on a lawn chair parked in a kiddie pool all day while my children gently splash me with cool water, can I? I mean, isn’t it good for the brain to “cocoon” or something, to spin itself into some kind of intellectual chrysalis—to “hibernate” for a few months so that it can get hungry again and mate in the fall? That is a proven fact from a scientific study that I just conducted in my brain. (I know, it’s practically unbelievable that I have had no formal training in science.)
Good or bad, it really doesn’t matter. My brain is fried. It is hot. My feet have weird tan lines from my gladiator sandals and I don’t even care. I have replaced exercise with extra coffee. I’m starting to feel like it might be acceptable for me to go out to lunch with other human people in my old maternity yoga pants, which is never a good sign.
I just don’t have any more energy to dig in and renovate my children into super-intelligent reading cyborgs for the first day of school. I can’t do any more rainy day activities with dry oatmeal in a cardboard box. I simply will not sing the “Fruit Salad Salsa” even one more time; if the children can’t get behind Neil Young that’s their problem until school starts up again. And my stern warnings have become completely senseless; “I’m warning you—if you don’t eat all your Gummy Worms you’re not getting any Sour Patch Kids! I am tired of wasting all this good candy!”
Frankly, from now until September the only learning we will be engaging in will be movie-based. I plan to let them watch “Star Wars,” and will continue to play it in a constant loop until they can imaginatively explain to me what it might feel like to “make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” It’s all I can do to stave off the pandemonium that could be.
I’m not wishing the time away, of course, but I simply can’t help but look forward to the fall, to my turtleneck collection, cold-weather meals issued forth from my slow cooker—and, of course, to the thought of relinquishing my children to their marvelous, infinitely qualified teachers, if only for a few precious hours each weekday. There’s simply no point in denying the inverse relationship between children who anxiously await summer’s end and the subtle frisson their parents feel knowing that soon their children will be back at school. Actually, maybe it’s not that subtle.
Now if you will excuse me, the DVD is skipping and the children need more mini M&M’s on their cookie pizzas. Duty calls.
Being that this summer was the first real summer where my wife and I went down the shore with two kids, one of which was old enough to be bored after 15 seconds of not doing something, I can say that I think Samantha did a great job summing up summer vacations.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hitting the shore with our kids – but everytime I do now, I just can’t get the image of John Candy from the movie Summer Rental out of my head. Oh well, I always did love John Candy.