With only a week to go, I confessed to a couple people recently that I’m so ready for school to start back. I almost whispered the statement, because I felt the mom guilt trailing closely behind my disclosure.
I’m not exactly sure how I thought this summer would go, but I am notorious for setting high expectations (unverbalized) and then being disappointed when things don’t work out the way I imagine. Last summer was a struggle simply because I was so pregnant and had lots of nerve pain, so being super active with my kids all day every day wasn’t an option. But this summer, with the baby approaching age 1, I thought we could get out and about a lot to do all the fun summer things. What I didn’t bank on was a baby who still needed a morning nap and a Mama who still had to squeeze in freelance work. So, while we have been fairly active this summer, we’ve also been stuck to the house a couple times a day.
Besides being on the go with a baby in tow (which I should be used to by now), the non-stop combative dynamic of my two oldest boys has thrown me for a loop. At 18 months apart in age, they can have some really great moments of play, but they are often overshadowed by fighting and bickering and physical combat. Despite being a mom of boys for 7.5 years and counting, some days I’m left clueless as to how to parent these two Rowdy boys whose minimal age gap makes for quite the competitive pairing.
Kids are super smart—my Rowdy boys in particular. They pick up on the times when Mama is stretched thin and this summer they have pushed the limits right when the ice is cracking. Oh the juggle is real.
I had imagined this second half of the summer—when our schedule finally slowed down—would be spent playing in the sprinkler, making homemade cobblers, going on nature walks and coming up with cool art projects. Instead, it feels like it’s been replaced with the never-ending disciplining of my Rowdy boys. My ideas of summer freedom and exploration have been eclipsed by refereeing.
I know discipline is a touchy subject for some, but we have tried every age-appropriate form of discipline imaginable for our boys this summer. And while they seem to work for an hour or so (that may be a stretch), it feels like there is no long-term lesson for them.
I wrack my brain with a fun activity for us to do one morning, even pushing back the baby’s nap so that my big three kids can have summer fun. And yet, when we eventually get home after our activity, the fighting breaks out again. And at that point, I am stunned and short-tempered as I’m wrestling an over-tired baby to sleep. And then all the mom doubt creeps in. Am I doing too many activities with them? Am I doing too little activities with them? Am I disciplining them too much? Am I disciplining them too little? Should I just let them duke it out and hope we don’t end up at the ER?!?!
Honestly, I think my boys are quite simply bored when we’re at home. But at the same time, I don’t feel it’s my job to entertain them. I need for them to use their creative side to come up with activities. And oftentimes they do, but somehow it always resorts back to roughhousing or fighting.
And so this parenting exhaustion—both physically and mentally—is why I’m excited for school to start back next week. It’s an admission that makes me feel all the mom guilt, but at the same time, the mom juggle is real. My kids act so much more well behaved at school and out in public in general. Not only am I excited for them to have more time with friends in their classes instead of only having each other, but I’m also ready for the routine of school (which comes with its own set of issues, I know). It’s true that they say kids thrive from routine, and maybe our summer non-routine has just been too much for them. If form follows function, then hopefully tightening up our school year routine will also tighten up behavior issues. That’s what I’m praying, at least.
All this to say that if you are a parent who is also feeling guilty like me about being beyond ready for school to start back, I *think* that it’s OK and somewhat normal to feel this way toward the end of summer break.