The summer holidays with kids are rough. Generally, I’m speaking of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, but summer as a whole is pretty lame, too. Personally, I loathe hot weather; my ideal summer would probably be spent in the Yukon or Siberia. (I hear the permafrost is just lovely in July!) This heat aversion extends to the kids, too, because our pre-people aren’t all that great at hot, either. Jack is both a toddler with an under-developed ability to thermo-regulate and a ginger. He’s pretty much screwed. Joshua fares a little better as he can sweat and be exposed to sunlight for more than a few minutes without combusting. But the heat still saps him of the ability/will to exist. A few weeks ago, I had to carry him up the hill from our dock because he was tired from sitting under an umbrella and coloring while it was 83 degrees outside.
Beyond the heat and the sun, both of which are justifiable reasons for being a hermit between Memorial Day and Labor Day*, there are the crowds. I don’t do well with people. I’ve got some social anxiety issues which are whatever, but I also just don’t like trying to navigate crowded spaces, especially with kids. It was better when Jack used a stroller more. Then I could use it to plow indiscriminately through the masses. But now that he prefers to toddle on his own, I have to select with care our destinations based on factors including stairs (the four steps from our sidewalk to our front door take him no less than three days to climb; it’s basically his Everest), the likelihood of encountering other people (almost a given; the zombie apocalypse can’t come soon enough for my liking), and the presence of Dangers (when you’re one year old, this is pretty much everywhere). This rules out the beach, amusement parks, most museums, restaurants, baseball stadiums, the Out-of-Doors, and much of the In-of-Doors.
There’s an argument to be made that it’s good to take kids to these places when they’re crowded. This way they learn how to interact with people in large numbers. The issue is that I am their Life Coach when Jen is working. And as I’m rubbish at dealing with people in large numbers, there’s no lesson they can learn from me on the subject except that trying to look cool while standing in a corner whilst quietly sobbing isn’t really possible.
Joshua’s streak of independence now runs strong, so he wants to do things for himself. Ordinarily, I plan extra time into all of our activities to account for him 1) wanting to do things on his own, and 2) being slow as hell at doing things on his own. Sometimes it’s just not possible because we have the rest of our lives to continue on with, but I do try to give him time when I can. This is another practice which does not scale up to places with large crowds. For example, we went to the mall a few weeks ago to get him some new socks. If I were to go by myself, or even with just Jack in a stroller, this would take about ten minutes. Instead, with Captain I-Do-It-Myself, we were at the mall for three hours. Thirty minutes of that was him telling me that he didn’t want to buy new shoes (which we were not there to do), ten minutes was the actual purchasing of socks, and the rest of the time was spent walking around looking for all the letters of the alphabet.** Walking around isn’t an especially taxing activity, but walking around with a five-year old when surrounded by people two feet taller and four times heavier*** is slightly less stressful than a Doughboy sticking his head up above a trench. Walking with Joshua must be what it’s like to take a walk with a crow. They’re both easily and constantly distracted by and attracted to shiny objects, skittish of loud noises, and prone to picking food up off the floor.
Jack is a time bomb. He’s a fun and cuddly little boy, still covered with enough baby fat to make him a bit squishy. But in the sun, he’s all ginger, and even with sunscreen, his skin will go from pasty to burnt pastry with terrifying speed. Ten minutes has to be added to the start of any trip outside. It takes five minutes to put on the sunscreen and another five to catch him and hold him because, when his smooth skin is freshly lubed, he’s as close to frictionless as a thing can be. A secondary timer counts down the time until he will decide that he has had enough of being awake. Rather than just falling asleep in his stroller (I miss those days already), he will instead yell, whine, cry, and scream about how not asleep he is. This will happen around lunch time, or sooner if there’s a lot of stimulation (that stupid mall), so working the timing of Joshua needing three hours to buy socks and Jack needing less than three hours in a public place is just gosh-darn exciting.
Because I dislike both heat and people, I eschew vacationing in the summer. The aforementioned issue of kids only reinforces this for me. My parents were Summer Beach people. We went every year to the same hotel at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My memories of the place mostly involve the beach being hot, the TV having not enough cartoons, and a plethora of themed restaurants where you can both eat and reenact the Battle of Gettysburg or the Battle of Agincourt all at the same time. I’m sure I had fun, because kids excel at having fun even when there isn’t much fun to be had. But on the parent side now, I get that my parents were just trying to escape the crush of reality, even though bringing a kid along is basically just bringing a big money hole which will probably make the debt that goes along with reality a little more real. Beyond that, Jen’s parents didn’t really do the traditional vacation thing. The end result is that we Staycate in the summer. We like the occasional weekend trip to here or there, but we usually try to plan a vacation in the spring or fall when the weather is better and the people are fewer.
So, to review, my kids go on vacation in the spring or fall if they vacate at all, they’re going to be homeschooled, they have no idea how to eat like people, they’ll be learning their social skills from Social Anxiety Dad****, they don’t watch a lot of TV, and my oldest speaks more like a character from A.A. Milne than a real boy*****. In short, we have already failed our children for life in 21st-Century America, and they’re only a combined age of 6. We’ve got the rest of their lives to prepare them for time travel, I guess.
*Except we live in Virginia, so there’s, like, an extra month of hot on both sides of that span. I went to grad school in Georgia where it hit 87 degrees over the Thanksgiving holiday in November. My love for and pride in the South just has limits.
**Mercifully, there’s a nail salon called Queen Nails, else I think we’d still be there looking for that blasted Q.
***We live in America, so this is probably more like six or seven times heavier.
****This action figure is no longer sold in stores, but it came with a non-functioning phone it could hold to its ear to pretend to use in lieu of conversing with others, as well as a head that could only pivot downward to as to avoid making eye contact with passers-by.
*****When leaving swim class last week, Joshua dropped his lollipop on the locker room floor. When we got to the car, I found a lollipop there I’d gotten at the bank earlier. I handed it to him, and he replied, “I didn’t know you had such a thing about you!”