3 young children in back of a carMy kids are counting the days to summer vacation and telling me about it daily.

Sometimes hourly. Our oldest son has senior-itis so bad he can hardly haul his ass out of bed, even though finals are this week. And our youngest son is trying to use the same excuse even though he has no idea what finals are. Our daughter merely recites the statistics several times a day until I want to scream.

I’ve been a bitch about this, but I’m trying to be better this year. Summer vacation is not exactly something I look forward to. Some years I’ve just cried in advance. Some years I’ve la-la-la-ed my way through the last month, figuring denial would buy me some more time. Some years I’ve become increasingly cranky until the kids stopped telling me how many days until summer and stayed out of my way.

Since I hope to see my kids after they’ve grown up and gone, I have to shut up and find a way to deal with the complete lack of routine. Our youngest son isn’t the only one who can’t turn on a dime. We both like a good twenty-four-hour notice before any change in plans. Preferably in writing.

What I always need to remember is it could be worse, we could be scrambling for daycare for the youngest or forcing his siblings to watch him forty-plus hours a week, therefore cementing their rebellious urges and guaranteeing they’ll stay away during the summer once they can. We could be gone every day and hope the teenagers aren’t getting into bad stuff while we’re at work. We could hope they got in each night.

Knock wood.

What gets me is that I seem to spend the entire summer like a pinball bouncing between the minivan, the store, the sudden changes of plan, never getting around to anything proactive. It would help if any of our offspring were sports enthusiasts, or wanted to go to sleep-away camp, but they don’t. I have three wonderful home-bodies when all I want is a few hours to call my own once a day to actually work.

I’m thinking bribery.

There’s a tentative plan for siblings to take turns with younger bro three mornings a week, and some friends have offered a few hours on another. I’ve also heard about this thing in large families called “quiet hour,” when the kids go to their rooms and “play quietly,” and mom goes to her room and does whatever she wants. It seems impossible. It seems unlikely. It seems like money might do the trick.

Every year I think I’ll set a schedule so that the less spontaneous in the family have something to cling to, but so far I’ve failed. Maybe this is the year. The year of summer without silent screams, without bitchiness because it happens to be summer break, without a mom with a look of desperation in her eyes that signals the urge to go out for beer and cigarettes and never come back. Summer begins on June 16 (June 2 for the senior), so we’ll see then.

I just have to remember that every time the kids tell me how many days to summer break it is, my job is to smile for them and say, “Really? Wow.”