Chacos column: July’s rules and regulations
Enjoy the Ride
“Read, now!” said no one ever to my children during the hot, hazy months of summer break.
Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I promote having literate teenagers in early June with routines around the house. For the better part of July, we still value their education but seemingly not as much as their curfew creeps to later hours and the chore-chart slides off the refrigerator door wedging between a cabinet and a potato chip, forever gone.
Sadly, however, August rolls around and we all but throw in the towel. We generally get by on sugar and adrenaline-laden activities. At this point, all we can do is take our chances and hope to land solid teachers for our children when fall semester starts.
My sincere apologies in advance to the educators who will receive our three summer teenage follies. It’s barely the middle of July, and we’ve already checked ourselves out.
I had solid plans to get my children somewhere near the right side of grade level after the pandemic dropped a bomb on American education last year. I secured a great math tutor. I created reading logs for Pulitzer prizewinning novels. Everyone was going to learn to type on a computer without looking at the keys, a most underrated skill, like I had to learn back in high school.
I even went as far as posting world maps in every bedroom so my children could go to bed staring at geography on the wall. Osmosis is a thing, isn’t it? I really want them to know where Wuhan, Minneapolis, and Tokyo are located so they understand current events.
Then our family took an academic hit in early July. We were slayed by the resurrected “summer family vacation.” It was a bloodbath with all order, routine and rules tossed out the window alongside freshly laundered clothing, circadian rhythms and decent nutrition.
In a matter of hours away from home on our first vacation in almost two years, my children learned that most questions they asked, if phrased the right way or asked mid-conversation while I was talking with another adult, were given a resounding seal of approval.
“Can I read a comic book instead of that big book you packed for me?” asked one.
“Is it OK for me to start watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy at midnight?” questioned another.
Then, the youngest child, the boldest and savviest of the bunch asked, “May I eat ice-cream sandwiches for breakfast instead of oatmeal?”
The only thing that sprang to mind that would match his incredulous question was, “Better grab one for me, too.” As the baby of the family, he gets away with most everything. Birth order sucks for the oldest, the oldest reminds me daily.
Their jaw-dropping disbelief at my summer-style parenting has been priceless. Trying to come up with the right, witty answer has been the trickiest though.
“Can we go skydiving?”
“Can I order a beer?”
“Can I get a permanent tattoo?”
Note that the children are ages 13, 15 and 16. So, yeah, I’m having a good time with my replies.
Summer air carries a different weight than the rest of the year, especially when you’re able to relax and simply enjoy the ride; and especially sweet after the pandemic reminded us all the importance of family.
I relish every moment with my children, even the ridiculous questioning, and although our relationship changes as the years go on, I’ll ditch the books and bedtime any day to carve out another minute with my kids before they’re gone and out of the house. I’m sure to regret some of my ways come September during parent-teacher conferences, but I’ll take my chances, anyway. I think that’s what some suit calls “risk management” at work.
For now, though, when one of my children comes to me after not having showered in days, I’ll tell them to grab a life jacket and float down the river. Then I’ll ask if their mom can join in on the summer ride.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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