advert

Summertime, and the Living is Teen-sy

Feb18

by

For a number of years, I wrote a weekly column for a parenting site about the joys and tribulations of working from home. I shared about everything from tax brackets to choosing a paint color for my office, from the process of forming an LLC to lamenting that I kept killing the plants on my desk. Every single year, at some point, I’d come around to the Summer Worry post: working from home during the school year is a very different thing than working from home when school’s out.

I think I was about two or three years in when someone commented on my Summer Worry post, “Don’t you go through this every year? How have you not figured it out yet?” The answers were yes, and no, because children—tricksy little developmental whirlwinds that they are—grow and change and need different things at different ages and stages. When the kids were small (really small, like need-constant-supervision small), there was no question that summer needed to include a full-time care plan, whether it be camps or babysitters or some combination thereof. The problem was that when they were quite little, my business was still new, and the cost of full-time care when I’d been managing with just public school and the occasional sitter for most of the year would quickly consume any profit I’d made. Later, I could afford whatever care they might require without it ruining me, but by then they were into those slightly older years where I could often keep them occupied and manage working while we were all in the same house (provided an occasional “I’m bored” or “he’s touching me!” wouldn’t throw me too far off my game).

Then I remarried and moved and my husband happens to be on the faculty of our local university; while I wouldn’t say he doesn’t work during the summers, his schedule is pretty flexible, and we’ve been able to tag-team the kids’ needs during the summer, for the most part. As the kids have gotten older, they’ve been happy to have a few unstructured months, too—there haven’t been any complaints about sleeping late, pursuing their individual hobbies/interests, lazy afternoons around the pool with their friends, etc. It’s been a long time since I worried about “coverage” for the kids the way I used to. Heck, if I needed to leave the house for eight hours a day, I could just leave them to their own devices at this point and they’d be fine. (Mostly. I think.)

I thought the Summer Worry would be a thing of the past, by now, but it turns out that it’s changed rather than vanished. With two teenagers, I no longer have to worry about appropriate childcare, but about “enrichment” and “balance” and “money.” Suddenly my daughter loves nothing more than to remind me that she only has a few summers left before college. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this information. (Panic, maybe? Panic seems appropriate.) There’s a summer enrichment program she’s been begging to attend since middle school, and circumstances and finances have never rendered it possible (it’s in a neighboring state, and is a 3-week stint, so not exactly pocket change), but every year she begins lobbying for it shortly after New Year’s. Then there’s local classes; last year she talked us into paying for a course she wanted to “get out of the way,” and so for five weeks she did math for about six hours/day. Knowing that the enrichment program is probably never going to happen, she’s changed her priorities, a bit. Now she’s talking about getting a job so she has some money. Great idea! If only she was qualified to do… anything, really… or was driving (because I wonder who would have to ferry her back and forth to work…?)… or jobs were plentiful around here in the summer (they aren’t). And it turns out that the old “volunteering looks good on your college applications” thing is totally old-school, because now my kids’ high school actually has a volunteer hours requirement for graduation, so maybe we should be trying to figure out how they can get some of those out of the way over the summer. My daughter—taking after her mother, I’ll admit—pondered the options and declared, “But I hate people, so it seems like this is going to be problematic.”

Hmmmm. Then, of course, there’s my son. Mandatory volunteer hours? He’ll be game as long as it’s something he enjoys. I’m guessing there probably aren’t a lot of openings for volunteer Dungeon Masters (I could be wrong, of course), so I may need to put some extra thought into this one for him. He’s got more time to figure out what he wants/needs to accomplish before college, but he does love his lazy summer. He’d be perfectly content to hang around the house, swim, read books, and game online. (He is never the one who complains of being bored.) He doesn’t want to take a class or work (“Summer is supposed to be vacation!”) or do anything that requires wearing shoes, really.

I went to full-time camp every summer as a kid until I was old enough to take care of myself, at which point I usually angled for an enrichment program of some sort (nerdy theater stuff, mostly) that I could fit in around babysitting and other jobs. I was a full-time camp counselor at my son’s age, which—looking at him, even knowing we’re very different—now seems like a crazy thing, that I was entrusted with a gaggle of preschoolers as a young teen. I taught Sunday School when I was in high school, too. I bought my first car with babysitting money, and headed off to college knowing I could afford gas and the occasional pizza without whining to my parents. Nowadays you can’t even get someone to hire you to babysit unless you’ve got CPR certification, and the age at which I started a booming business (11!) seems dangerously young to me, now.

My kids should volunteer, hopefully not doing things they hate, but not necessarily doing things they love, either. They should also be learning the value of a hard day’s work. At the same time, the “real world” will suck the joy out of those lazy summer days before we know it, and I’m reluctant to take away their childhoods any sooner than is absolutely necessary. There’s a balance to be struck, I’m sure, but hell if I know where it is.

Hi, my name is Mir, and… it’s February, and yes, I am worried about summer.

About the author

Mir Kamin

http://wouldashoulda.com/
Mir Kamin began writing about her life online nearly a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she's become one of those people who talks to her dog in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she's continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she's bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.


Subscribe to posts by Mir Kamin

13 Responses to “Summertime, and the Living is Teen-sy”

  1. Jo Feb 19 at 3:22 am Reply Reply

    What about having your teens take the bus or ride a bike to and from work for activities.  I used to do that as a teen, and I see plenty do it today.  To be honest when they turn eighteen and go off to college a car will be a money suck, and knowing how to use public transportation, or ride a bike on their own from point A to B is quite worth it.  I went to school with freshmen who were too afraid to ride busses and walk places on their own because their parents had always took them places, so they never got to see the city off campus.  That is kind of a shame because eventually we need to all do these things, and being a pedestrian myself I find walking and bicycling everywhere is economical and enjoyable.

    • Mir Kamin
      Mir Kamin Feb 19 at 9:51 am Reply Reply

      Great point, Jo. We’re not exactly centrally located so it’s not quite as straightforward as “go grab the bus,” necessarily, but I need to factor this in, as well. Maybe they get a ride to the bus stop and figure it out from there.

  2. eileen Feb 19 at 10:21 am Reply Reply

    We’ve been having this same conversation in our house. Fifteen seems like the year to branch out a little. My daughter is involved in a local theater/performing arts group and she’ll be volunteering for (and performing with) them, but I’m of the opinion that volunteering should involve SOME amount of… sacrifice? In any case, know you’re not the only one planning/fretting this far ahead.

  3. TracyB Feb 19 at 11:02 am Reply Reply

    They both seem to love Duncan and Licorice. Why not volunteer at a pet shelter or vet’s clinic? I did that for a couple of summers, once at a pet shelter and the other time at a groomer’s shop, washing dogs. It was a blast! Best summers ever! Just a suggestion. ;)

  4. RuthWells Feb 19 at 11:31 am Reply Reply

    Last summer one (of many) source of incredible stress for us was getting Kid #1 to fulfill the community service requirement for the National Honors Society. I heartily recommend getting started on this early and not waiting until the summer before senior year…..

  5. RL Julia Feb 19 at 11:35 am Reply Reply

    Beat you to it! I start worrying about summer on January 2. It’s sort of my on little insane kick off. As for jobs – kids get jobs these days through your friends and contacts. Since they’ve never had jobs, maybe think about a week or two of volunteering – and “internship” in an area that they are interested in (I too have a child whose strength is not child minding – but she’d be a great free office assistant to someone). I have found that having one or two unpaid experiences with a non-family member who can vouch for you is a good way to segue into a paying job the following summer – but you have to hustle.

  6. Frank Feb 19 at 1:13 pm Reply Reply

    Now, I know you dont live where I do, but here is a thought. The gaming stores in this area run summer camp type things all the time. And they are always looking for ‘volunteer’ type help. A chat with Monkey about what he could put up with, and a couple calls around town might actually help him BE a volunteer DM! its not a crazy as it sounds.

    • Mir Kamin
      Mir Kamin Feb 19 at 2:12 pm Reply Reply

      You’re a genius, Frank! I think we’ll look into that. :)

      • Nancy Feb 19 at 3:27 pm Reply Reply

        Don’t forget about a local science museum–at our museum we are always looking for computer/nerdy/science types to help plan camps (if they don’t really like people) or help with camps.

  7. Kathie M Feb 19 at 5:05 pm Reply Reply

    Don’t forget to check at any local comic book stores too. I have a friend who owns one up here and he’s always looking for people to put together D&D, gaming, etc. He even hosts a crafty night for those of us who are comic book geeks and crafters.

  8. DontBlameTheKids Feb 19 at 10:24 pm Reply Reply

    OMG, your daughter talked you into LETTING her study math 6 hours a day for 5 weeks? Please teach me your Jedi mind tricks. 

  9. Toni Clark Feb 22 at 8:06 pm Reply Reply

    My kids are 11 and almost 14 and I’m worried about the summer too.  I have 4 different things for my 11 yo daughter fairly well lined up, but the boy.  He’s applied to an enrichment camp that lasts for a week, (also pricey!), but he’s never been away for a week before, so that’s a hard thing.  He is going to volunteer at the library, though.  I’m trying hard to get things in place because I’m having a hip replacement in June.  Talk about trying to get your house in order, I am already a-buzz with arrangements, new furniture for my soon-to-be-bionic hip and fix-it stuff that must be done before the first floor becomes my rehab unit.  :)  My point-I worry, too.  Hang in there!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Kids. SHEESH! | Woulda Coulda Shoulda - Feb 19

    […] like that. If you’re starting to think about what your teens will be doing this summer, please come on over to Alpha Mom and commiserate with me. Misery loves company, and I promise not to breathe on […]

Follow us on Pinterest

Close