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White Knuckle Parenting: School's Out—and Bickering Is In

It is amazing how quickly joy at the end of school turns into panic over how to make it through the summer.

One week ago, I was excited. Like, really excited. School ended at 12:15 and I may have caught myself humming Alice Cooper's "School's Out" as I walked to the bus stop. Last Tuesday was the end of another year of homework, early wake-up, and packing lunches. I was thrilled.

Seven days later and I'm already counting down the days until school starts again. (There are 70.) The reason? Three siblings who are hell-bent on driving each other—and me—crazy in as short a time as possible.

It's like they're an old bickering married couple, but there are three of them, and they are fighting to see who can be simultaneously the most immature, the most irrational, and the most cantankerous. In fact, of the two of my kids who share a room, one of them has taken to sleeping on the couch. It's that bad.

Okay, so it could be worse, but 24/7 togetherness is too much for this particular sibling set to handle for a long stretch. It turns out that quality time leads to screaming at each other over who gets possession of the Frisbee—which is generally a toy that is not fun unless you share it. I'm starting to understand why parents sign their kids up for so many summer camps.

My days have started to melt into each other. Weekends are irrelevant. My plan to cut down on my kids' screen time has failed miserably. I've forgotten to feed them lunch at least twice, plus we had ice cream for dinner one night. Imagine what is going to happen to us by July.

In my defense, among other things, I have forced my kids to go hiking (bugs are scary, evidently), taken them to see Madagascar 3 (they loved it, me not so much), opened up our backyard above-ground pool (on the coldest day of the year), and planned a few playdates (one wasn't even at my house, which was awesome).

Yet even with all of that, my kids have still managed to get in something akin to a full-time work week of video game playing in the past few days. And I still haven't managed to get any work done. I'm not sure how that is possible.

Last Sunday, for example, we went to baseball practice, to the playground, shopping at Target, swimming in our pool--and we did chores around the hous--and it was still only 2:30. During the school year, that would have been a week and a half's worth of activities.

I have a lot of plans for my kiddos over the summer—fun plans. We are going to have a great time hanging out with each other. It is just that the transition from school days to school's out is a hard one. After a full school year of having a solid six hours to myself each day, the adjustment back to approximately six minutes is rough.

I know that I'll get used to it though. Probably just in time for them to go back to school and leave me wishing for more time with my little bickering buddies.

Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland; an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and a column called Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey.

Angela Ferreira June 20, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Right there with you Jean! Some schools in the south are "year round" which means they get 3 weeks off every 3 months.....I'm thinking of moving as 3 weeks is the perfect amount of time off for me with 3 kids 24/7 and for them with 1 cranky Mom 24/7.
Esther French (Editor) June 20, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Do you know if these are public schools, Angela? I wonder if the idea will ever really catch on nationwide. Having school "year round" would probably make it more difficult to be a snowbird in Florida, I'd imagine.
Jean Winegardner June 21, 2012 at 12:08 PM
I also love the idea of year-round school. I bet it would make a lot of kids mad though. :)

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