Dog days - FamilyEducation

Dog days

July 29,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

We didn't sign the kids up for any camps this summer, despite the good intentions we had back in March, when we pulled catalogs and sat down and tried to pick camps. The only camps L. would even half-way consider were computer camps and since most of our time is spent wrestling L. away from his beloved computer, it seemed silly to spend $175 for the purpose of giving L. more computer time. Experience has shown us that signing L. up for a camp he has no motivation to attend ends in disastrous and damaging ways, so getting him to buy into the experience is critical. But months passed and we didn't do anything about the camps. I admit it: we flaked out. We did have discussions about budget, and about whether or not we should spend close to $400 on camps for the kids, or instead use that money for family activities. In the end, we decided in favor of family activities and outings, instead of sending each child to a half-day camp for a week. 

Of course, now that we're almost into August, I'm really regretting the choice.

Or, rather, I'm spending a lot of time wishing my kids would just get along. Maybe $400 would have been a fair amount to pay to get the kids away from each other, if even for four hours. We live in a house of extremes, unfortunately. L. is either moody and withdrawn and wants nothing to do with anyone, or he and T. are going at it--arguing over everything. I'm never sure whether to be happy they are interacting on some level, even if if it's over who owns the two pence coin T. found in her piggy bank.

It doesn't help either that T., so desperate for some level of interaction with her brother, has decided that picking fights and pushing his buttons is better than nothing. And, boy, can that girl push her brother's buttons.

I'm sure I fought with my own siblings during those long, hot, seemingly-eternal summer days. I'm know that I spent many summer days bored out of my mind, wishing for something exciting to happen, waiting for the next entertaining thing to come my way. I know, too, that in no time at all we'll be setting alarms and packing lunches and Scott and I will be thrown--ready or not--back into our crazy-busy exhausting work schedules and tag-team parenting lives. I don't know what waits around the bend. Be patient, I tell myself. Let the kids be bored. Let them learn to work it out.

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T. and I made papier mache on Tuesday. For the first time in days and days the temperatures dropped just enough to make being on the screened-in porch bearable, and so I sat and thought about a craft we could do. Most papier mache recipes call for vast amounts of glue, which I didn't have, but I found a glueless recipe online for mixing "five parts flour with one part water." The proportions didn't work out right, so I added more water until the consistency was of gluey paste. Then I boiled this in a pot for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.

It worked great!

I had no idea how much T. would love papier mache. We've done things with it before, but never have I turned a big pot of goop, piles of stripped newspaper, and assorted boxes and odds and ends over to her. T. is a very tactile-oriented child, and she thoroughly enjoyed getting her hands goopy. She made a mini volcano using a small clay pot and something yet-to-be-determined.

L. even emerged from the office and spent 15 minutes using the papier mache to make a small train tunnel.

And all was peace and harmony, for a short while, at least--until T. decided to super-size her own tunnel, and one-up her brother.