Saturday, July 20, 2013

PTSD: Post Traumatic Summer Disorder

By Terri Lively

It is with a generous amount of certainty that I predict I will suffer from PTSD, or Post Traumatic Summer Disorder, at the end of next month. I had no idea how difficult it would be to go from two kids in school 5 days a week to two kids in no school for 5 days a week. Now, I am acutely aware of how difficult that is.

It’s not that I don’t love my children. I do. More than I love anything on this earth. They are literally the only things I wouldn’t think twice about dying for and would take a kidney out myself in the bathtub if they needed it, with or without ice (for my chardonnay of course, I wouldn’t want it to get tepid while I sawed into my back…).

But that doesn’t mean that I want to spend every single second with them refereeing fights, settling property rights issues, doling out screen time that seems to go too quickly for all of us, and managing expectations on how many activities Mommy is going to plan for them in a given week.  In fact, just coming up with that list just now made me cranky and itchy for a calendar with big red Xs on it counting down the days until school starts again.

Here are just a few of the reasons that I am about to click on Amazon for a big white paper calendar and a red sharpie:

The Law of Beverage: I can be alone in a room for five minutes as long as I am holding a drink in my hand. The second I put down said drink onto the floor or ground outside, one of my three progeny will be present within 5 seconds with lumbering feet worthy of a Sasquatch to kick it over. Coffee on the carpet is one thing, but spilled Chardy is a crime punishable by blood curdling screech.  This same law applies to freshly painted toenails. My kids NEVER step on my actual toes (my proverbial toes are constantly trampled) unless I have applied a fresh coat of polish. Again this can occur in five seconds or less.

The Importance of Being Earnest:  I’m a talker. My husband is a talker.  My kids have inherited both of our love of the spoken word. My toddler adds his two cents too, but it’s in Chinese so we have to ignore it, since none of us was smart enough to become fluent. Among all of us, absolutely no one knows how to yield the “floor “ to another speaker as what we have to say is always of the utmost importance. Add to that that my actual floor is tile, which does zero to help in sound absorption. All of these factos results in a cacophony of voices, each raised to be heard over the others that could make the unflappable Ms. Brady scream at them to “Shut their Pie Holes!” Being just a hair short of her patience, and G rated language skills, I have been known to scream a few times myself.

Candyland Conundrum: Honestly, I have had a hard time with how to handle board games. On the one hand, I think kids need to learn that no one wins all the time and how to take it like a champion. But on the other hand, I don’t think it’s fair that when we are playing Candyland, they pull the gingerbread card when they are close to landing on King Candy. I have been known to hide the gingerbread card under the Candyland board so no one will have to go back to the beginning when they were about to win. I have also drawn the ice cream cone fairy card on one of my early turns and quickly put it back in the stack so one of my opponents will find it on their turn.  I suppose this is because they are little and they should experience the joy of winning. So then the part of me that thinks that my kids need to learn to lose graciously to be prepared for the constant competition of life that has its ups and downs for all of us, is frustrated by my softness.  Before I know it, a simple game of Candyland devolves into an internal parenting philosophical battle. Don’t even get me started on Chutes and Ladders…a game bent on dashing the hopes and dreams of every child with it’s capricious punishment for bad behavior based on a random roll of the dice.

Out of Order: Phyllis Diller said, ““Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” Diller, whom I just Googled, was a housewife and comedienne from Lima, OH (yes, the same town as Glee is set in) and is spot on with this comparison. In her honor and my attempt to maintain summer sanity, I have decided that I will only do periodic cleanings throughout the day. That means that only once the space between the sink and the coffee maker is stacked at least two high with plates, bowls, forks, knives, cups, and half-eaten snacks and meals will I load the dishwasher. Sweeping has been cut back to every other day and mopping eschewed for wet paper towel hand applied on the dirty spots. But I’m not fooling anyone, including myself, that I like my new state of housekeeping. I am anxious and judgmental of myself the entire time. And I only have three children. Diller had six! No wonder she had crazy hair (and eyes) on stage.

Floor Work: As part of my new regimen to do less cleaning during the summer, I mop less often but pick up and pitch the large pieces, like corn chips or Elmo stickers. Today as I was scouting the floor for highly visible mess I spotted a clump of mud. This was, no doubt, a product of my toddler’s recent mud pie fest outside. I bent down to get it and realized as I picked it up with my bare hand that I was half right; it was a product of my toddler. Shortly after my realization, my eldest yelled down from upstairs, “Mo-om! The baby had a blow out.” Needless to say, I am mopping today. Shortly after I go to the kitchen and pour a second glass of Chardy. And wash my hands thoroughly.

Gun Control: My eldest son, like most young boys, is obsessed with guns. This includes Nerf, Water, Pellet, laser, and sticks that loosely resemble guns. Earlier, he aimed one of the sticks-that-loosely-resemble types over my head, cocked it like a shotgun, and fired it at me. I was a bit disturbed both by his accurate pantomime and his choice of target. So I asked him, “Did you know that when you are practicing to shoot a gun you are practicing killing people? Do you want to kill people?” I was pretty proud of my liberal gun agenda masked as concern for his conscience. That was until I got his response, which was: “I practice shooting so I can defend myself.” I didn’t have any liberal gun control rhetoric comebacks for that one.

Wail Songs:  The kids had a sleepover at church the other day. My kids have had sleepovers before, so I was pretty sure they would be fine. All week they were both happy and chirpy about how much fun they were going to have at the sleepover and “wasn’t it going to be sooo cool?” So you can understand why when my five-almost-six-year-old daughter followed me out of the fellowship hall packed with moms and dads and campers and counselors with very fake and very loud wailing of “I want my mommy!” left me both dismayed and embarrassed.  It’s hard to get really excited about leaving your kid at the church sleepover when you feel like you are abusing your child to do so. Or since it was fake wailing (meaning no actual tears), look like you are abusing your child to do so.

My school district has mercifully only granted us 69 days of summer vacation this year. Thank goodness I don’t go to school in Danville (home of Phineas and Ferb) where they apparently get 104 days. So thanks to a traditional schedule I am roughly halfway there. So if I pick up those mud piles with gloves next time and don’t ask any sarcastic questions that I don’t have snappy comeback for when they answer me reasonably, I will make it to the other side with minimum effects of PTSD. With luck and a whole lot of summer camp, the kids might too.