Several years ago one of the office supply stores ran a commercial wherein a mom and dad coasted through the aisles, ecstatically buying pencils and paper, to the tune of the holiday song, It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Two sour faced kids sit sulking in the cart during the parental happy dance.
I never found the ad funny until this year's calendar rolled to August, most of our friends disappeared on family vacations, R. started a new job, I fell weeks behind on the promotion schedule for my upcoming novel, The K Street Affair, and I caught myself asking, "What the heck am I supposed to do with this kid for four more weeks?"
In the city. In the wet, sticky heat. Without friends.
This is a high class problem. We took a great vacation at the start of the summer, and I don't begrudge friends who wait until August to enjoy some family beach time. But I'm starting to think that kids too young to appreciate summer vacation perhaps shouldn't have three whole months of it.
The Grape asked me every day, for all of June and July, whether he could go to school. Now that re-entry is nearly upon us, he's over the whole thing. He's come down with a nerve-jangling case of anticipatory anxiety and I'm bracing myself for a string of tearful mornings and clingy afternoons.
The Grape, Lila the Dog and I could pack up our household show and re-locate to my mom's house for the duration of the summer. She has a pool, albeit one green with some indestructible strain of bionic algae at the present moment, and better: she lives near the beach.
It's tempting, even with the verdant pool. But if we head down there, I will get zero work done before the week after Labor Day. On the other hand, does delaying the start of my third novel by less than a month really make a difference? Answer: I could argue both sides.
Maybe I should have enrolled the Grape in some kind of toddler day camp, but I liked the idea of spending the summer with him. He just turned three, and he's suddenly this fully interactive, really fun little human. I like going on adventures with him, and I know I'm extremely lucky to have the choice to do so.
Most American women do not have the luxury of choosing to stay home with their kids. Even if they sacrifice life's little extras. It's still a choice reserved for a small minority of us.
I'm also fortunate because the Grape can entertain himself, but only if I don't try to accomplish anything important while he does so. If I am chopping vegetables or folding laundry, he's content to play alone with his cars, but as soon as I even think of approaching my desk, he wants to be in my lap. It's like he's wired to sabotage the book "baby," my other labor of love, and therefore the Grape's arch rival for my attention.
When I ask author friends who are also mommies how they do it, I almost always get the reply, "My kids are older than yours."
They are right. The Grape won't be little for much longer. Maybe I should stop stressing and go build sandcastles, eat chowder and swim in the green pool while he still prefers my company to anyone else's.