My kids and I love summer, so the last few weeks of school are always pure torture as we dream of sunny days by the pool and the death of all structure and routine. This time of year always feels like we’re limping and crawling, barely making it over the finish line. Honestly, we barely survive the end of the school year.
But then school ends and the kids are suddenly home full time. Our excitement for the fun, fancy-free days ahead quickly turns into a Battle Royale as the five children and I struggle for alpha spot in the house.
You see, it's the same thing every year. They’ve been in school for 10 months. They’ve had regular space from each other and me, and days with friends. They’ve tasted independence and been subjugated to structure from strict, organized teachers. So the second that authority disappears, they decide they’re the ones that should fill the vacancy.
Those first few days of summer are hard as a parent. I find myself questioning why I thought summer was a good idea. I think maybe I should investigate those all-year schools I’ve heard such great things about.
My kids are tired and cranky and don’t want to listen to me — especially if I ask them to do something as horrifying as a chore like picking up their room. Or, heaven forbid, get along with their siblings for five minutes. They walk out of school and into a life they assume will be nothing but iPads and YouTube 24/7. They expect maid service anytime they holler at the top of their lungs for it. They'd love a a live-in chef — one they would prefer never asked them to eat vegetables and had an unlimited supply of fruit snacks and ice cream cones.
The every-day struggle can get intense. I don’t just have to demand they listen and obey; I actually have to follow through with the consequences I lay out, which is difficult when I’m as tired and worn out from the school year as they are. I’m left fighting the battle all by my lonesome. I’m the bad guy who has to demand rooms still get cleaned and teeth still get brushed. I'm a lone warrior sending them outside and making them step away from technology.
No one is letting me sleep in and laze around in my pajamas. Nobody makes me breakfast with a smile on their face and an ambitious to-do list running through their head. But I'm desperate for a laid back few months of pure fun, too.
So this is the reason I get to be top dog. They can fight me all they want, but they will not win. I’m committed to being commander-and-chief of this household. I refuse to back down. No matter how many of them there are. No matter how loud their protests and whiny their excuses.
Thankfully, once we settle back into our home routine and the little anarchists let go of their fantastical attempts at grabbing power, we can move on with our summer and the abundance of fun waiting for us.
Stay strong, mama! You are the parent and they are the children. Nobody can give them a better summer than you. Even if they try their best to convince you that video games are just as good as a summer reading program. Even when they assure you their room will only get messy the second they finish cleaning it so why bother?
Hold your ground and eventually they’ll remember who’s the alpha and who has to complete their list of chores before swimming is ever an option.
Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.