Oh, the Fun (and Stress) of Summer!

Categorized as 05/26/08 Goshen News article

When summer arrives, a whole new world opens up for the boys. While that world inevitably includes chores that evoke the usual grumbling and charges of slave labor, there is plenty to keep a boy happy and occupied. There are campfires, for instance, with intermittent emergency bulletins being issued to the Pantry Nazi (me) when the s’mores supplies are getting low. In fact, if you hear the emergency siren go off in Wakarusa, just ignore it. It’s only the boys letting me know we’re out of marshmallows.

Another thing that they’re anticipating this summer is turning the place into their own personal campground again. Last year we left the tent up from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and those two lived like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for the entire summer. They had sleepovers with cousins and friends. They read books out there. They emptied the linen closet and schlepped the bedding back and forth. One of them strung an extension cord all the way out from the house and they listened to Adventures in Odyssey by the hour. They fell asleep to the sound of the bullfrogs.

The Head Groundskeeper is expressing reservations about issuing them such an extended camping pass. He says it will kill the grass in that spot. Perhaps if I gently remind him that one day first Tom, then Huck will graduate, leaving the tent empty and the linen closet undisturbed, he will go ahead and approve their application. Knowing his weakness for chocolate, I plan to exploit that fully and ply him with s’mores. I think he can be bought.

For reasons that I as a girl cannot explain, warm weather brings out a masculine urge to dig. It has already begun. The other day a large hole appeared in the garden. With the little would-be archaeologists’ known history of digging for an Indian in that very plot, one can only guess at what they were looking for this time.

Holes have also appeared at the base of a pine tree. They’ve been treasure hunting again. There’s just something about the pinging of a metal detector that throws a boy’s imagination into overdrive. I mean, you never know – maybe there’s a long-forgotten stash from a Dillinger heist still waiting to be uncovered. Perhaps a previous owner buried his life savings in the backyard and promptly forgot about it. A boy can hope, can’t he?

So far, all they have to show for their efforts is an old key and a rusty toy car with no wheels.

With the advent of summer, a mother’s stress level is often more volatile than normal. The outdoors can be a dangerous place, and for some reason boys are not content to sit around and color pictures or spend hours in meaningful conversation. They drop down out of trees onto trampolines. They set off firecrackers in five-gallon buckets when their mother’s back is turned. They carry a little brother and his ride-on train up an old, rickety ladder and then call for help, leaving a very small boy looking down from a very high haymow. Is it any wonder that there are days their mother feels like the poster girl for PTSD?

Then there’s the language barrier. There are days when it is clear that I am speaking a foreign language, say, Swahili for instance, for all the response I get. After one such day, I distinctly remember dialing up their father and saying, “Come quick. Save your kids!” When I explained to him that I was awarding him full custody for the foreseeable future, the snickering on his end stopped abruptly.

With the 14 year old being a self-described “ravenous wolf at lunchtime, Mom,” I am doing my annual review of our pantry security protocols. Some ideas we’ve thrown around in the past have included a slavering Doberman and an ex-Fort Knox guard. Lately I’ve been checking Consumer Report to get the lowdown on retinal scanners and voice recognition software. In a household of four boys with two hollow legs apiece, this is really not extreme. It’s only prudent.

With such endless possibilities for fun, I’m ready for the poor, unsuspecting soul who dares to complain of boredom in my hearing. I’ll say what I always say, “Then I’ve got some work for you to do.” They’ll do what they always do – hit the back door at a dead run. Inevitably, there is a slam before I can even put the period on the sentence. Then I laugh to myself and exult in the fact that I’ve just bought another hour of peace and quiet. And that’s summer at our house.

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