The other day at the water park, with his hands full of fried dough, a sprinkling of powdered sugar covering his chest, and his mouth rimmed in orange Dorito dust, Little Guy asked,
If I finish all my funnel cake, Mommy, can I have a treat?
Ummmmm. We have a problem.
I can't really blame him...this summer has been a bit like that, tending toward excess: My unconscious decision to stop orchestrating very quiet activities for the duration of Baby Girl's morning nap and therefore, the dramatic uptick in the boys' TV-watching. New bubble wands at Target, just because. Popsicles at the pool in the middle of the afternoon and lemonades with lunch. Buying a bucket of Costco sand toys, when they really just need a few plastic cups. Long slurps of Mommy's Diet Coke. Weeks with no enforced rest times.
All of it is fine to a certain extent, but it's not how we normally operate and I don't like what it produces. I find that when the gimme beast is regularly fed, there's just no satisfying it. When toys come quick and easy, they have no problem breaking them. When meals are capped off with sweet treats, it's all they want. When Spiderman and Batman are on in the morning, afternoon play is rougher. When Mommy is lenient, obedience is slower and less cheerful.
And when obedience is slow and uncheerful, well...it's like that saying, If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
So now, we're working on restoring a little balance. The boys are spending the first part of Baby Girl's nap, when she's relatively unwake-able, doing chores. I fold laundry, they carry it to rooms and put it away. I bag up bathroom trash, they take it to the trash chute down the hall. I serve Cheerios for snack, they sweep up the spilled ones with their little hand brooms. THEN they watch some Little Bear 'til sister yelps and we head off to the pool.
While the children were out with the Mister this weekend, I packed three boxes full of hunks of plastic that were just cluttering our toy collection. We enjoyed each of these toys in their time, but now they've been forgotten about, matured past, or used up. In the two days since, the children have not asked about one single item in those boxes. To Goodwill they go. There will be more.
All the books I don't enjoy reading to them, the ones I dread that they will pull off the shelf at bedtime? They're going too. Because, you know...If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
When we get home from the pool each day, having spent a long afternoon luxuriating in the sun and water, I assign the children to the tasks of getting the water bottles to the sink, the stroller to storage, and the wet bathing suits and towels to the washing machine.
Just little doses of work and reality, to temper the excess.
Summer is a magical time. It's my favorite time of year. I want it to be relaxed and fun and full of the sweet stuff of childhood memories.
But I also want us to come out the other end knowing full well that the funnel cake IS the treat.