It is officially the end of May. The Pinterest pages, Facebook feeds, and family magazine features are loaded up with all the activities you should do with your kids summer. AS. IF. As if we need more activities. MORE I say! As if I am sitting here, ok, really lying here in my end of school year coma, thinking, "OMG! I CANNOT wait to tackle that homemade moon sand recipe we will dye ourselves with the skin of organic vegetables, then shape our homemade sand into a perfect replica of the Millenium Falcon! ” Or, “Why yes, I am going to schlep 4 kids to that new science museum two hours away, where we will eagerly wander through the exhibits, each completing the 10 page scavenger hunt I created last night. Then we will come home and ‘discuss’ at great length the scientific theories we learned, because, brace yourself, what if we don’t keep our minds active ALL summer? GASP! Wait, hold it! We must, just MUST go to the dollar store and buy 125 pool noodles to construct a backyard water park! We will invite the neighborhood kids over, serve vegan popsicles, watermelon chunks cut out like dolphins, and a vegetable crudité platter shaped like a palm tree. And what summer pool party would be complete without nitrate, skin, meat, additive, and taste free hot dogs on gluten free buns covered in artisanal ketchup?
I am done. Sort of like I how I was done with the school year, but I am already done with summer. And by done, I mean I am done with all the forced smile inducing, uber planned and supervised, over the top summer life experiences I am supposed to provide for my kids. You know what I want my kids to experience this summer? The same type of summer I would have experienced in the late 1970’s. The exact same one. I survived it, and they will too. As a matter of fact, it must have been pretty memorable because 30 years later I can tell you exactly what it entailed. It entailed FUN. Fun we made all on our own. What. A. Concept.
My top 10 ways to give your 2014 kids a 1970’s summer.
1 . Let them watch TV. Plenty of it. But only the TV Land channel. I want my kids to watch The Love Boat, The Carol Burnett Show, The Jefferson’s, Charlie’s Angels, My Three Sons, The Six Million Dollar Man, Gilligan's Island, $100,000 Pyramid, and my personal favorite, Hart to Hart. Seriously, what little girl in the late 70’s didn't want to be an amateur detective married to the CEO of Hart Industries, driving around in a yellow Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster, while sporting a matching lilac pant suit and perfectly coiffed butterfly winged wavy brown hair? Because I sure as hell did.
2. Eat whatever you want, and/or whatever can find. There will be no more pantries full of organic vegetable chips, and non-GMO graham crackers. No more refrigerators full of anti-pesticide fruit, free range eggs, and cold pressed juice. This will be the summer of Frito-Lay and Red Dye #5. I want to see my kid’s reaction when I tear open a tiny envelope of cherry Kool-Aid, sprinkle it into a BPA laden plastic pitcher, dump 4 cups of regular, granulated, white, and maybe even generic sugar (not raw, stevia, or agave,) then add water from the tap, and viola! You are hydrated! I will be over here drinking a Tab. Lunch will be fried bologna and a blue can of Planter’s Cheese Balls, and for dinner we will pile in the car and go pick up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a styrofoam quart of mashed potatoes, and O. M. Geee, dessert will be pineapple upside cake! Made from canned pineapples in…….wait for it……syrup!
3. Make them play outside. Like all day. All. Damn. Day. Hot? Drink from the hose. Run through the sprinklers. Swim in the pool until your hair feels like straw, turns green, and the bottom of your feet are calloused from the bottom of the pool. Search for ladybugs, play hide ‘n seek between the houses, run down the street gutters after a rain storm. Read under a tree. I hear this lady named Judy Blume writes good stuff.
4. Send them to the movies for the entire day. I will drop you off at around 11 and pick you up for dinner. Its’ real simple. You sneak from one theater to the next. Nobody cares.
5. Spend three nights in a row at your best friend’s house. No, you don’t have to call to check in every hour. And yes, it’s totally ok their parents will be at work and nobody will be home all day. It will give you plenty of time for #1, 2, and 3.
6. Make stuff, like from stuff you find. No trips to Hobby Lobby for pre-cut, pre-stuck, pre-fabricated crafts. Find crap in the garage and assemble it into something you can play with. No, you can’t Google how to do it. Ropes are fun.
7. Have them put on a talent show. A real, genuine, sing and dance and entertain the hell out of me talent show. I promise I won’t upload it to Youtube or share it on Facebook. I pinky swear. No, there is no theme, no requirements, no directions, no anything. No, there is no right way to do it. You have an imagination. Please use it.
8. Play this until you want to throw it against the wall, or smash into 1,000 pieces. It’s the original train your brain app.
9. Build a fort in the backyard. No, I am not gonna help. Yes, you can use the $125 Pottery Barn Kids duvet cover from your bed. I don’t care anymore. Making a memory trumps 400 thread count cotton.
10. Finally, learn to find the amazing in the ordinary. Trust me. You will need this skill in your 40’s. I pinky swear.
Posted by Melissa Fenton
This week dads and kids around the country will hit the mall, department stores, and jewelry shops looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift. They will buy pancake mix, fresh berries, and specialty flavored coffee in preparation for making mom breakfast in bed. They may wash her car, take her out to dinner, or surprise her with tickets to that concert she has always wanted to see. Lovely cards will be given from spouses, little kids will work hard at school this week tracing their hand over a Mothers Day’s poem, and teenagers may actually give mom a genuine hug and grunt out a “Happy Mother’s Day Ma.” And yet, none of these things, these gifts and gestures, cards and meals, are what moms really want this Sunday.
I know it’s not what I want. No, I don’t want to be left all alone on Mother’s Day with a box of chocolates, the remote, and a quiet, peaceful house. I also don’t want to be waited on hand and foot all day, pampered and fussed over, like someone who has just come back from a traumatic experience and needs a refreshing makeover.
There is only one thing I want for Mother’s Day.
I want to be told I’m doing this right. This whole motherhood thing, just be told I’m doing it right.
I need to hear it. And I don’t want it told to me in the form of a bouquet of roses, a scented candle, and a burnt omelette brought to me in bed on Sunday morning.
Remember your very first six weeks of mothering? When you endured around the clock care taking with zero feedback, when the only sounds you heard were wails and the only sight you saw was a red scrunched up face? When did you first feel like you were doing it right? For me, it was the first time my baby looked up and me and smiled. That one wide grin told me everything I needed to hear, that I was doing it right. In the years since, I have allowed myself to forget what it feels like to be smiled at, and I have simply forgotten to be aware that I am doing it right.
So please, please tell me I am doing it right, and not just on Mother’s Day.
Tell it to me on days I need to hear it the most. On days when I am at my worst.
When long days leave me weary and emotionally bruised from the unattainable expectations of raising kids that society throws at me, I need to be told “You’re doing it right.”
When my patience tank is grossly depleted, and my children’s wants and needs have left me in a state of panic and suffocating anxiety, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I doubt with every bone in my body that the answers I give my inquisitive teenagers about relationships, marriage, love, and life are actually intelligible and inspiring, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I have flipped what feels like my 85,000th pancake, packed my 10,000th lunch, and served yet another plate of spaghetti to children who are not old enough yet to grasp what a hot, homemade meal truly means, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I lie down exhausted in the evening, when anger has fueled my speech and I go to bed full of regret and shame for not doing better, knowing better, and being better, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I look at piles of dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and dirty faces, and only see failure instead of full bellies and active kids, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I am left with nothing more to give, when I feel I cannot do another single second of parenting, of molding, shaping, and raising boys into men, I just need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
I can only assume I speak for thousands of mother when I say this; telling me I am doing it right one day out of 365, a day where a calendar and TV commercials are reminding you to tell me I’m doing it right in the form of charm bracelets and pedicures, is not what I need.
Please, tell me more often. Tell me in words.
This Sunday, if you’re lucky enough to still have your own mother in your life, call her up and just say one thing, “You did it right.”
This Sunday, call up that single or divorced mom you know, the one who I bet more often than not feels “less than” because she is going at it alone, and tell her one thing, “You’re doing it right.”
Next week when you pass that young mom in the grocery store, the one with the toddler and infant in tow and the dark circles and frumpy appearance clueing you in to the fact that she is utterly exhausted, pat her on the shoulder as you pass and say, “You’re doing it right.”
When you are commiserating with another mom of teens, about how you never thought age 17 would be this difficult, how dealing with the modern adolescent has sucker punched you both in the face, remind each other, “You’re doing it right.”
To the special needs mom you know, who spends her days not just as a mom, but as her child’s angel, superhero, and savior, and yet wonders daily why she was chosen to parent this child, please tell her “You’re doing it right.”
And that friend you have who is expecting her first baby? Don’t go on and on about sleepless nights and the terrible twos. Hug her, look her right in the eyes, and tell her, “You’re gonna do it right.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who think they are doing it wrong. Here is your gift from me-
"You're Doing it Right"
Posted by Melissa Fenton