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Summer : The Instapot of Parenting

By: Christina Gentile

Here we go: summer. Everything wonderful and joyful and exuberant about life is supposed to happen in summer (and at Christmas). All of the freedom, the laughter, the friends, the splashing and sun and… the exhaustion just thinking about it. And the pressure. The pressure to make sure that your kids have A Summer To Remember, especially after like 2000 months of lockdown and quarantine and remote learning. The pressure to make sure that they wear sunscreen. The pressure to make sure that they don’t forget everything that they didn’t learn this past year in “school” (or at your dining room table). The pressure to create the perfect balance between unstructured time and keeping some kind of a damn schedule, even if it’s just having them brush their teeth. All of these conflicting messages about how we’re supposed to parent in the summer - they push up against each other to create some kind of messed-up tectonic plate undersea ridge volcano thing like I tried to understand this year with my 6th grader.

I ask my kids to go to the beach or the pool and they recoil in horror, then later complain that I never spend any time with them. I tell myself that today is The Day when we’ll have them start reading, but then today is also The Day when they are begging to go to the beach. Really? Last summer we bought an above ground pool that we used four times. (It burned a pattern in the grass that hundreds of years from now that future generations will think is a crop circle. It was depressing as hell, but then there were these unexpected moments where we’d get in the pool and the whole thing would shake and shudder and we would start laughing so hard that we couldn’t stop.) This summer must be an improvement on the sad wobbly pool, I tell myself.

I think that we need to detach ourselves from the image of what a perfect summer looks like. My kids probably have no clue what they actually need or want to do this summer, after what has been the most mind-blowingly, confusingly eventful AND boring year. I may be totally fine letting them use their computers all day, never brushing their teeth, rarely emerging from their rooms. They’ll be none worse for it, and you’ll have time to read. Cut yourself some slack.

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