I know that it's summer. I know that a lot of parents are busy trying to keep their wildly free children -- the ones who are usually corralled and occupied in climate-controlled rooms for ten months out of the year -- from driving them crazy. Neither the parents nor the children are used to being around each other for hours upon hours of unstructured time every day. It creates volatile and sometimes desperate situations.
There's a lot of energy out there, energy that is usually safely contained and controlled by the public school system.
I know all of this. But still, I'm tired.
No, it isn't my children that are making me tired. We are fairly used to each other's company. Homeschooling gives us very little vacation time from one another; we've adapted over time. And we long ago reached a mutual understanding in regards to the level of pestering that I can handle before I begin to approach a mild level of insanity.
I'm not tired of my children. I'm tired of parents.
I'm tired of their desperate struggle to provide their children with "the best summer ever." I'm tired of the Pinterest perfect summer they've posted all over social media. I'm tired of the intricately orchestrated craft projects and theme park visits and trips to the lake.
I'm tired of the trips to the pool and the beach and even the farmer's market, anything to keep them occupied. I'm tired of the sidewalk chalk art and the glowing bubbles and the bedazzled mason jars you created to house captured fireflies. I'm tired of the homemade finger paints and the pressed flowers and the decoupage.
You're wearing me out, parents. How are you not exhausted? I am, just from watching your summer play itself out on the internet (since you've been certain to capture every memory-making opportunity in digital form to share with the entire world).
In comparison, my children must seem incredibly deprived. Their every moment hasn't been planned in minute detail by me. I know I'm squandering their childhoods by not throwing my every effort into making it magical and memorable.
By leaving them to their own devices, I'm giving them the freedom to open up their own world of endless possibilities, to get dirty and make their own fun.
It's okay. I want them to be bored. (I hear your gasps of horror.)
One of my parenting mantras is, "It is not my job to entertain you." (Some of my other mantras include "Don't stand on your brother," and "Stop making that god-awful sound." But those are other stories for another time.)
It's really not my job to keep them entertained, even during the long, hot summer months. While you might think I'm being lazy and apathetic, you're only partially correct. Laziness and apathy are only part of the motivation behind my hands-off summer plan. By leaving them to their own devices, I'm giving them the freedom to open up their own world of endless possibilities, to get dirty and make their own fun.
By not forcing them to fill up their free time with projects I've carefully selected for them, they are instead forced to be self-directed. They are forced to create their own diversions, to seek their own interests, to ponder their own thoughts, to create their own stories.
This freedom forces children to reach down and find their inner initiative, to set their own goals and to figure out -- on their own -- how to reach them. It gives them time to explore their own worlds, both the outer and the more complex and mysterious inner one. They are being forced into creative problem-solving -- an important life skill to develop, and one that isn't always formed with hovering adult supervision.
Just because I'm not actively striving to provide my kids with a fun and memory-filled summer doesn't mean they aren't creating one for themselves. It's already been a summer full of lemonade stands and captured fire-flies (kept in old mayonnaise jars, by the way, not the supper crafty Pinterest bedazzled ones) and board games and bike rides.
They've finally had the courage to pick up that seventh Harry Potter book (607 pages seemed so daunting before, but what else are they going to do?). They've organized their own "play dates" and sleepovers, strengthening their social skills and powers of negotiation.
They've created their own snacks from ingredients foraged from the back recesses of the kitchen cabinets. They've sketched and told stories and discovered toys they forgot they had.
And, yes, they've complained about being bored. To which I always respond, "It's not my job to entertain you."
Because that's what I do. I'm mean like that. But maybe someday they'll realize just how good they had it with all that time and freedom to do whatever.