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Monday, September 9, 2013

Tracking Out

The past two weeks I have watched my newsfeed on FB spammed with photos of kids going back to school. Some parents are very excited, doing the happy dance that the long summer is in it's death throes, and their little children are off to a regularly scheduled calendar. Other parental units are sad, wishing that the time did not go by so quickly, and how they are counting down the days to the first big vacation time, months away.

And here I am, watching these photos scroll by as I contemplate that my kids are about to track out this week, and I have got to get off my ass and figure out how to keep them from killing each other for the next three weeks.

Year round school rocks. I can't advocate it enough. Nine weeks of school, then three weeks off, all year round, non stop. It's perfect. The kids are just about brain fried by the time the ninth week rolls around and everyone is ready for a break of homework. The third week of track out, the kids are itching to get back into a schedule and see their friends on a regular basis again.

It's this third week that makes me seek comfort in mojitos though. By that third week of carefree days, the kids are strangling one another an hour after waking up, deciding Gladiator style who wins the right to whatever electronic they are fighting to the death for.

I try my best to keep them all occupied during vacation. We live in an area that is filled to the brim with family friendly places and activities. The problem lies in the expense. While I have lots of great ideas of trips to the zoo, beach, aquarium, etc, many things can get pricey. And with three kids to haul around, it gets pricey FAST.

So I try to pick one or two costly things per track out that we can do, and the rest of the time I look for free things. We'll hit a lot of parks, do some hiking, lounge in the G-Rents pool. We'll have movie nights at home, head to the library to pick out bedtime books, and wander around a few of the free museums.

And this track out we're hitting the beach (rare treat) for two days and a night, our most expensive outing for five. It's the parental units way of showing pour gratitude for doing a kick ass job in school.

But even with all of these great ideas, there is still plenty of downtime at home. And that's where the fighting comes in. Each child, through genetic coding, is a lover of all things techy. Xavier likes the computer. Ashe loves the WII U. Soren adores the Xbox. Two of these are on one TV and the third is off in a corner, with a chair that has melded it's contours to the shape of my oldest rump.

After watching the kids this weekend and seeing how they glue themselves to an electronic device until we pry their wee hands off controllers (sometimes by force) I am going to reinstitute the track out rule of having a set time per day the kids can play. I am sure I will allow it to lapse on those days when I just need quiet for an hour or two. I'm not perfect, and can admit guilt in sometimes taking the easy way out when it's either that or run out the door screaming like a loony bin, pulling my hair out. But I'll do my best.

And maybe, instead of having them initiate the Gladiator death fights each morning, I can try to make taking turns fun. Maybe I can do some contests. Or see who can help me clean up the most. Or who can whine the least per day. I'll get creative.

Parents who sent their children to school recently, I acknowledge your happiness or sadness as you send your child off to school. I get it. And while I think of you in whatever feeling you are embracing, think of me as well, while I feel both sides simultaneously as MY kids start vacation.


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