The Loathsome Days of Summer

Today is the official last day of school for two of my four children. Thanks to the wonderful winter weather up here in northeast Michigan rearing its ugly head, the school season had to be extended by several days to make up for the multitude of school days missed because of snow and ice.

Only hours remain until the smoggy diesel sound echoes through the neighborhood and that big yellow bus full of excitable youth pulls up to the corner for the last time. As the school season comes to an end and summer break approaches, I start to feel this wrenching in my gut. Unlike many of my parental peers, I loathe the end of school and the beginning of the dog days of summer.

By noon tomorrow, the phrase, “I’m bored”, will be repeatedly uttered nearly every day for about one hundred days. I can plan and coordinate only so many art projects, bike rides, playground visits, trips to the beach, or fishing trips in a week. Somehow it is never enough, and sooner or later, those words will slip from one or more of my children’s mouths, “I’m bored”!

I cringe at the sound of my children’s voice as they repeat those dreadful words that scratch at my eardrums like fingernails dragging across a blackboard. The sad puppy dog eyes and moping faces do little to garner an ounce of my empathy for their pleading to entertain them.

“Go outside and play”, I say.

Our yard and shed are filled with every type of outdoor toy you could imagine. There is a sandbox outside filled with a plethora of toys, and a playhouse with kitchen supplies of all kinds to make imaginary pies and cakes. We have bikes, trikes and scooters of all shapes, sizes and number of wheels. There are Frisbees, balls, bats and rackets.

“But I don’t want to do that, dad, it is too hot”, they pout!

They droop across the couch and sag somber in the recliner, flipping through the cartoon channels and movies. Since going outside, my next suggestion to cure their boredom is to shut off the television and dig into the arts and crafts. In my office, there are three small plastic totes and one huge, four-drawer filled with markers, colored pencils, paints, brushes, scissors and glue. We have a surplus of paper, recycled cardboard, cups, yarn and jewels. There is nearly everything a budding artist needs to keep themselves busy for days on end creating. But their lack of interest and unmoving eyes locked on the television is answer enough…

“But I don’t want to do that, Dad”, the respond in petulant silence.

The park always snaps them out of their passive resistance to my efforts to cure their boredom. “Give me a few minutes to finish up my work and we will walk to the park”, I spout. But no, the park two blocks away just won’t do. The protests begin and the obstinacy continues. They want to travel across town to the park we have not been to in weeks, pack a lunch and head out on a road trip to someplace miles away, or spend the day at the beach.

“But the park in town is no fun, and we always go there, Dad”, they protest.

By now my patience are starting to wear thin, what ever writing project I have to get done, the little one has the “HOLD ME’s” and seriously needs a nap. What is worse, it is not even 11:30am.

And, as if on queue, I hear the screech of brakes, the growl of a diesel engine and the flash of dingy yellow slowing at the corner, and the raucous howls of excited youth. Oh, yes, I dread the return of the loathsome days of summer.

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Where there is Family, there is Magic

For those of you out there that scoff at the notion that there is magic in this world, I am here to tell you there is. I know this for a fact because my eight-year-old told me this morning while we were getting ready for school.

She had recently lost her sixth baby tooth, and for the second time in two years the Tooth Fairy missed collection and payment. The sad disappointment on my little girl’s face punched me right in the stomach. How dare that Tooth Fairy forget to reward my precious baby for her of hard work caring for those little teeth until her big girl set pushed them out!

“That’s it,” I exclaimed, “I am going to email that crazy old tooth collecting fairy the minute you get on the bus and let him know this will not stand!”

“HER, daddy. Girls have a girl Tooth Fairy and boys have a BOY Tooth Fairy.”

“Sorry, baby girl, daddy forgot. I’ll tell HER what for!”

I went on to blame her teething brother whom had woke that night in agonizing pain. Even expressing my own anger, blaming the Tooth Fairy for stealing all her brother’s pacifiers because we had prevented her from performing her Tooth Fairy duties. Her sad puppy dog eyes lifted from the floor and grew wide as her new bucktooth smile.

At dinner that evening, I updated my daughter on the progress I made with the Tooth Fairy. It turns out many children had lost teeth that day. She was overloaded and ran out of special coins to give them, but my little angel was the first on the list of stops tonight.

We made sure my baby girl had her box and note safely under her pillow when I tucked her in at bedtime. She hit me with that big smile and a thank you for putting the Tooth Fairy in her place.

The Tooth Fairy did not miss my daughter that night, and even compensated heavily for the mistake with three one-dollar bills, one gold dollar, one silver half dollar and two quarters. I don’t know what that crazy broad does with all those teeth, but it must be a lucrative business to be handing out that kind of cash.

My daughter’s jubilation this morning was well worth the extra effort to correct the Tooth Fairy’s mistake, and she told me something that brought me to absolute tears of joy. On the bus the day before, she told her friend that daddy and mommy were magic because we make all kinds of wonderful and fun things happen. When her friend argued there was no such thing as magic, she angrily spit back at him, “You don’t know, you have never even been to MY house!”

So I say to all the non-believers, I know for a fact that there is magic in this world. It can be found in family. Pay just a moment of attention to your children and listen close to what they have to say. Hearing my daughter’s story this morning was one of the little things that make parenting the most rewarding career I have ever had. Knowing that, despite our family being torn apart, trying cope with the separation and divorce while maintaining a loving environment, or staying strong against the many woes the world throws at us on a daily basis, my children can see wonder and magic in their parents.

If a little girl who has gone though so much in her young life like my daughter believes I perform magic, then I must be doing something right as a parent. And if your children see magic in you, even when the world is beating you down, then you are surely doing something right, too.