In Anticipation

The countdown is on! What countdown you may ask? The end of school where parents anticipate lazy and less-scheduled days? The time of the year when there are no more mad rushes to get lunches ready for the next day? Or perhaps simply the beginning of summer where the weather warms up and the sun shines into the evening? Could it be the big family trip of the year that makes a parent’s stomach tingle as they look beyond the packing to frolicking somewhere on a beach with their most cherished ones?

A parent’s anticipation this time of year could stem from all of these or the anticipation can be mixed like a less than satisfactory weekend cocktail, with dread. For a SAHM, summer can be the hardest part of the year. Running at full throttle to ensure our brood has a balance of rest and relaxation coupled with activities or camps to keep them busy so the house is not entirely destroyed. Checking the cupboards and filling them with healthy snacks as they attack like scavengers desperate to fill their never-ending empty tummies. We ask with a hint of panic in our voices to other parents at the park, “What do you have planned for the summer?” in the hopes a future playdate will be offered as we look ahead to eight weeks alone with our kids.

Now please do not misunderstand me, there are some wonderful things about spending eight weeks with a group of young, young people. The morning cuddle in bed knowing you do not need to rush to get out the door. (If it is not a camp day.) The leisure to have a planned reading time lounging on the newly put together patio set with coffee in one hand and Ramona the Pest in the other enriching your children’s mind with wonderful children’s literature. Successful outings to the ice cream shop to reward excellent behaviour. The family trip planned overseas to introduce the kids to a new culture.  All of these and more will build memories.

However, for a SAHM of three or more (at the younger age spectrum) who is for better or worse, on their own with the kids for eight weeks, with the wonderful comes a big dash of reality. The reality if it is a rainy, cool summer. The reality the house will not really be clean for eight weeks. The reality my time really becomes their time. The reality that I am up to bat. Some days I may strike out and others hit a home run, but all I can do is keep going.

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When I have brought this up to other people they look with confusion at me and state, “why  not enrol them in camps?” Sighing, I often wonder how to explain the budgetary constraints of enrolling three kids in never-ending camps throughout the summer when you are on one income? Or the logistics that it would be harder to enrol three kids in three different camps at three different locations because their ages are far enough apart my options are limited. For all of our sanity I need to be able to have a one-stop drop off and pick up. Not to mention my two-year old is too young to even appreciate camp and going through the inevitable separation disaster of a new environment makes my skin crawl to upset his schedule again a week later. My older two are in a couple of camps for the summer. Carefully chosen for not only their individual interests but convenience there are a couple of weeks where two out of three kids will be exploring theatre, art and the wonderful outdoors. But after that, our days will be casually planned with well, whatever strikes my fancy.

So think of me and others like me this summer and if you happen to see a red-haired woman walking a yellow lab with three small kids trailing after her and she looks a bit tired, give her a thumbs-up. She will appreciate knowing that she is doing an okay job and that somebody noticed.

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A walk on a spring day.

Another weekend passes by in a flurry of activity. It seems spring brings out everyone with invites for coffee on the patio to drinks at a favourite restaurant. Mingled with the exuberance of our kids itching to dig up worms and plant jewels in the hope a splendidly brilliant jewelled plant will emerge from their muddy pots, it is a time of renewal and yes (insert sigh), spring cleaning.

However, I put all of that on hold this past friday afternoon wanting to enjoy the sunshine and lack of planned activities. I endeavoured to take the kids plus Jake, the dog, on an inaugural walk around the block. The rarity of nice weather has meant our poor yellow lab has been regulated to quick walks in between kid stuff or the backyard with a few good walks a week thrown in by a paid dog walker. This mom just was unable to face taking my crew on a walk while ensuring my old guy did not clip one with his leash while holding umbrellas as it poured around us.

Deciding that as the nice weather continued and I felt safe we were finally out of the clutches of old man winter, I did not look for another dog walker when our current one took on a full time job and was unable to continue helping out. I felt confident in my abilities that if the weather was pleasant, I could handle a walk with kids plus dog.

Walk?

Walk?

After a busy week full of after-school activities, I looked forward to Friday already planning a walk after enjoying snack time out on our patio. My three munchkins, squeezing their knees under the too small toddler table as we await the arrival of our new patio set, were munching on cookies and apples.

After their little tummies were satisfied, we forged ahead. First mistake. Do not let a five year old or seven year old decide to take their “vehicle” of choice unless you are very confident they will ride, scoot etc. the whole way. Giving them a chance, I forewarned them that watching a  runaway toddler while trying to hold Jake meant I could not help with their vehicles. They were responsible for them. Promises were given. Helmets were securely strapped into place and we were off. One on a bike. One on a scooter. One being pushed in an orange “drive-drive” car that we inherited from a friendly neighbour. One on leash excited to be with his “pack” and sniffing all the wonderful smells in our front yard.

Forty-five minutes later, we turned the corner back onto our street from a simple walk around the small block. (Typically this is a ten-minute walk.) Elizabeth was walking her bike having decided she had enough riding. Audrey was pushing Jacob in the car the best she could having to stop every few feet and move it off the lawn she had pushed it onto. I was carrying a scooter while trying to pick up dog poop. What a sight we must have been for the neighbours. The last one hundred feet to our blessed driveway were spent coaxing all the kids to keep going while trying to tell Jacob, who had enough of sitting, not to run across the street.

Giving in I untied the dog’s leash, the relief in my arm immediate as the strained feeling from holding my seventy-five pound guy on a short leash the whole walk and I let him run the rest of the way home. Placing Jacob back in the orange car, I took over pushing the car while carrying Audrey’s scooter as the girls ran ahead. But at least we had made it. The sun was still shining and the neighbour washing his car who had been amusedly watching the whole debacle, shook his head and chuckled as I murmured, “I thought it would be easier this year now that they are a little older?”

As I put all the vehicles away in our full garage, my brood, Jake included, ran crazily into the backyard to drink water claiming all to be “quenched with thirst.” After checking to ensure all were safely playing and Jake was lazily rolling in the newly seeded grass, I started dinner in our kitchen wondering when Mr. L would be home and cocktail hour would start.

I wonder how long it will take to find a new dog walker?