We are moms, knee-deep into summer, and we hold this truth to be self evident: that nothing, absolutely positively nothing in the summer happens without our involvement. Our kids cannot go anywhere, eat anything, put clothes on, go to sleep, and sometimes, if we’re really winning, use the restroom without our supervision.
I was only two weeks into this ritualistic test of endurance known as summer break when it dawned on me that I—and I alone—was responsible for somehow ensuring that everyone in my family made it through this summer alive, and I’m going to be honest with you: in that moment, it felt like Mission Impossible. I mean, I was already ready to crawl into the fetal position under a big ol’ pile of laundry where I knew good and well that no one would ever find me (because God forbid anybody ever help out with the laundry around here).
Have you ever wondered what propels you through these incredibly long, sweaty, task-filled days (I mean, besides healthy quantities of coffee in the morning and wine in the evening and perhaps the next level of awesomeness with which you were clearly blessed)? What is this mystical force that enables us to make it from one minute to the next, to the next, and then the next, until we’ve somehow improbably made it through this season of torment? I’m here to suggest it’s MOMentum, and nowhere—and I do mean nowhere—is the full force of MOMentum on display like the fanned out feathers of a peacock than during the long and soul-sucking days of June, July, and August. (Christmas break is a close second, ladies, but we have the joy—and brevity—of the season to carry us through that one.)
During the school year, we (those of us with older kids anyway) get to pass the onus of survival onto others: teachers, coaches, instructors, and a whole host of other people clamor to take our money in exchange for helping us entertain our kids. In the summer, however, you get the feeling that everyone is keeping their heads down to avoid making eye contact with you, the psycho lady. “WHO WILL TAKE MY KIDS??” you might feel compelled to scream to anyone within earshot. “WHO WILL HELP ME?” And your desperation, my dear, will be met with the oddly disconcerting sound of chirping crickets.
Yes, this is summer—that glorious season in which we and we alone are the drivers of the crazy train, and guess what? The gears just don’t want to grind. No matter how enticing our activities du jour are, no matter how much positivity and “we’re gonna make it a great day”-ness we exude in the early caffeinated hours of the morning, the outcome will inevitably be the same. We will ultimately resort to figuratively (and sometimes literally) dragging our little charges through every single step required to set any activity into motion. And most times that activity will be of zero benefit to us. All you have to do is decode the word “momentum” to figure this out:
Mom: supremely appointed and uniquely gifted Master of Ceremonies
Ent: entertainment, Mom’s burden to bear during the summer
Um: as in, “Ummm…what was I thinking?” which is the question you will ask yourself at various intervals while preparing for, in the middle of, and upon completion of the chosen entertainment of the day. This question may be applied to either the choices you made for that particular day or to more significant choices such as the one to have children in the first place.
Let’s examine the anatomy of a familiar summer day: a pool day. It’s 7:05 A.M., and your groggy eyes have barely had time to focus on the clock beside your bed when the whining has already started. “I’m hungry. I’m bored. What are we going to do today?” This is the sweet, gentle morning song of motherhood. You think about the forecasted 100-degree high and how the black interior of your car makes your rear end sweat on days like this. You quickly ascertain you just don’t have it in you to make this an errand-running day. Errand-running days often morph into laundry days, and ain’t nobody got time for a laundry day in the middle of the summer. “We’re going to the pool today!!!” you announce to great applause. The cheers of approval bounce off the walls of your hallway as your children bound into the kitchen to await their breakfast. You have saved the day—or so you think.
When push comes to shove, getting ready for the pool isn’t exactly a pleasure cruise for anyone. The clock is ticking to beat the heat, so you try to move fast. You pack the lunch for the pool as you simultaneously prepare the kids’ breakfasts, feed the dogs, unload the dishwasher, and field 2,000 questions about why it is nighttime in China when it is daytime in San Antonio. For breakfast, you treat yourself to the discarded crusts of the sandwiches you prepared for the kids’ lunches and down your coffee the way you used to chug a chaser after a fiery shot of tequila.
Once breakfast is over, it’s time to get dressed for the pool. First thing’s first: it’s sunscreen time. You apply sunscreen each and every time you go to the pool, and yet every time you suggest it, your kids moan, writhe, and wail as if it’s a new torture technique you devised specifically to ruin this particular morning. You work up a hearty sweat during the chasing of the kids and applying the lotion/spray/foam/stick process and are grateful to get your cardio in so early in the day. Always look for the silver lining, friends.
You engage in “discussions” about why your daughter can’t wear a microscopic bikini and will instead wear a full-coverage rash guard. Your son refuses to wear the flip flops he’s worn for the past few weeks, claiming “they don’t fit anymore” and insists on wearing tennis shoes. With socks. White socks that go up to his knees. There are “discussions” about which toys to bring, which friends (or teachers) we should text to alert them of our upcoming poolside pilgrimage, and how many bags of Doritos are packed for each child. Once negotiations have been settled with only minor tears and bloodshed, you up load the kids into the easy-bake oven known as your car and head off into the horizon.
The sparkling cerulean waters of the pool greet you welcomingly, and you feel a sense of calm wash over you until you snap out of it and remember you’re not at a tropical island but instead at a urine-filled community pool. You set down your 500-pound pool bag (the straps of which have, unbeknownst to you, rubbed off the majority of the sunscreen you applied to your left shoulder, later resulting in a super sweet sunburn) and get the kids geared up to hop in the pool. Once the missiles have been deployed, you pretend you can’t hear them calling for you to get in the water and instead enjoy a few minutes of deep breathing exercises followed by a few minutes of blankly staring at your phone. I hate to break it to you, but this mindless scrolling will be the highlight of your day.
The fun at the pool continues with incessant trips to the treacherously slippery pool bathrooms, including one special incident wherein your three-year-old son refuses to use the women’s bathroom because “I’M NOT A GUYL, MOMMY” and proceeds to poop in the last stall at the far end of the men’s room. You have to do the walk of shame to wipe his poopy bottom because, naturally, he can’t do that by himself, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much fun it is to try to wipe poop off of a sopping wet bottom with soggy toilet paper. Consequently, wiping takes longer than you would like, and the restroom becomes the hip place to be as you’re developing a repetitive stress injury in your elbow from the vigorous wiping. The coup de gras occurs as you hurry out, so intent on trying to ignore the bewildered stares of the boys doing their business in the urinals that you end up slipping in a puddle of water (or pee—you’ll never know) on your way out the door. So much for a graceful exit.
Sidebar: as time goes on, I’m slowly coming to realize the inherent wisdom of my mom’s unconventional advice to just go ahead and pee in the pool. “The chlorine will take care of it,” she’d whisper to us in our younger days from behind the relative safety of an open People magazine. Point one for mom. I’ll take swimming in pee cleverly disguised as a pool over flailing in a puddle of pee on the floor of the men’s restroom any day.
The snack bar provides yet another land mine of frustration. The lunches you so diligently packed in lieu of making your own nutritional breakfast that morning are deemed unappealing, boring, and “gross.” What is not gross, apparently, are the $3 grab bag-size of Lay’s potato chips (identical to the ones in your pool bag, mind you) and the $4 mango popsicles that the pool concession bar is selling. More “discussions” ensue, and you reach a compromise that if the lunches you packed are consumed, $4 popsicles can be the reward. You consider treating your bad self to a $12 frozen margarita but then realize it’s only 11:00 A.M. and think better of that idea.
When it is time to go home, your reward for providing such a fun summer day for your kids will be the moaning and groaning and gnashing of teeth. The sobbing from your obviously mistreated daughter is so loud it can be heard over the gangsta rap the skinny little teenagers are blaring from the lifeguard cabana. You walk past them, sizing up their tiny tanned bodies and carefree spirits and smiles, but what you really want to do is give them the middle finger just to show them that you can be plenty gangsta too. Once in the car (and inspired by the musical finesse of the lifeguards), you crank up the Kidz Bop in an effort to drown out the whining coming from the backseat. Nothing soothes the mommy soul like singing at the top of her lungs to the mind-numbingly stupid replacement lyrics of a Kidz Bop tune. Before I leave, brush my teeth
with a bottle of Jack then I go and pack…
By the time the clock strikes 5:00 P.M., you’ve counted to a million by virtue of counting to three, you’ve answered questions more complex than those faced by a PhD candidate defending her thesis, you’ve sweated off more than half your body weight, and you’ve probably done at least a load of laundry to boot. You are Superwoman, but even Superwoman has her limits, and you are also stick-a-fork-in-it D-O-N-E. You keep your eye on the prize and hustle everyone through the final acts of the day: dinner, bath, and bedtime routine. The light at the end of the tunnel is near, and you can feel it shining on your exhausted and slightly sunburned face.
This is summer, ladies, and this too shall pass. In the meantime, I think we should all give ourselves a big ol’ pat on the back for the truly amazing work we are doing during this most unfortunate season of the year. We go and go and go, and we are all living to tell about it. I mean, I know a body in motion tends to stay in motion, but this ish is bananas. Do you remember in Ally McBeal (please tell me you’re old enough to remember Ally McBeal) when her therapist recommended she pick a theme song to play in her head to help her get through trying times? I can’t remember what song she selected, but I CAN tell you what my theme song is for the summer: “If You’re Going Through Hell” by Rodney Atkins. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend you check it out. Its chorus is literally playing in my head on repeat all day long:
If you’re going through hell,
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it,
You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there.
Keep on going, mamas. Someday, when your children have children of their own, they’re gonna thank you for this. They better.