Summertime ... and the livin' ain't so easy

Teachers everywhere are rejoicing right now. Summer vacation has hit and they are free to pursue all the glorious things that summer brings. But parents? Parents are cringing and wringing their hands and begging somebody anybody for help.

We are no different. I have signed Javi up for a slew of day and sleepaway camps, which will start next week and will give him lots of ways to burn off energy and enjoy his carefree summer days ... but there are seven long, arduous days between now and then. Think I'm exaggerating?


Meltdown #1, 8:30 am: I instruct Javi to go get dressed in a tee shirt and shorts. He starts to suck his teeth and thrash around the room, but I curb his behavior with the promise of a reward. "Go ahead and get dressed, bubs. Then you can help feed the fish." But he takes a long time getting dressed and I know we need to leave soon, so I yell up at him, "Go ahead and brush your teeth while you're up there."

The ensuing thrashing and crying and stomping were pretty spectacular. "You said get dressed and I can feed the fish!" he sputters through tears. I tell him he will feed the fish as soon as he brushes his teeth. He does it  and then slams down the stairs and immediately beings to bully and taunt Bella. I give him a warning to cut the attitude. He sasses at me and winds up losing the privilege of feeding the fish.

We wind up 30 minutes late because he requires a time out before he can pull himself together to even attempt brushing his hair and putting on his shoes.


Meltdown #2, 9:15 am: We are in the car. I put on the iPod and "The Monster Mash"  and then "Gonna Have a Good Day" play and everyone's happy. Next is "I'm Me and You're You" and Javi yells, "this song sucks!" I give him a warning about watching his mouth. He says, "It still sucks and she sucks too!" while sneering in Bella's direction.

I tell him not to open his mouth again. He stares at Bella until she cries. I tell her to pretend like Javi's not in the car, that he doesn't want to be her sweet brother right now and we need to leave him alone. He starts up again and I let him know he's welcome to think whatever he wants, but that if he opens his mouth again, he'll be in daycare with his sister. He is quiet. Seething, but quiet.

When we get to Bella's school, he yells out, "Bye big baby!" as Bella's getting out of the car. She whines to me, "Javi had words come out of his mouth!" I reminder her that we're ignoring him. When I get back in the car I tell him he's exhausted his warnings. He is not to speak again until I tell him he can. He obeys.


Meltdown #3, 10 am: We've signed up for library programs and are now at another center signing up for a few weeks of fun activities. A child walks in with his lunch bag, but we know there's no camp this week. I try to help him while Javi stares at him. The child is obviously older; Javi is impressed by his independence and wants to impress him as well.

It is time for us to go, but Javi stares after the boy, who is wandering around the center. I tell him it's time to go and he resists. He makes weird faces and hand motions. Again, I tell him it's time to go. He exaggerates his motions/expressions. I head for the door and hear him thrashing and sucking behind me. He says, "I'm staying here. You need to pay for me to stay here." I explain there is no camp today and direct the secretary to help the boy.

Javi cries the whole way home. "You should've let me stay! All those boys were there and you were supposed to let me stay!" I tell him that I'm sorry he got confused, that the kid is likely being picked up by his mom now, and that he'll get to stay next week. I then let him cry it out.


Meltdown #4, 1 pm: We've had snack and lunch without any issues. Javi has played quietly at the table with the "boredom box" we picked up over the weekend. I hear him starting to get frustrated. He's huffing and hitting something. He asks me where the scissors are and I get them for him. He looks confused so I ask him what's wrong.

He tells me that he is trying to color a roll of pictures that has dots for cutting with scissors, but the instructions don't tell him to cut anything. I explain to him that he can choose for himself whether to cut the paper. He yells, "but the instructions don't say!" I read the instructions and they show a full roll completely colored. I ask Javi, "Do you want to make one long roll or do you want to cut it?" He starts to cry and says, "I already cut some!"

We go back and forth about why it's okay that he cut some and that he can leave it in two pieces, making two rolls. He's lost his patience but wants to see it through. So I put away the shorter roll and tell him to focus on the longer one. All of a sudden he's slamming his fists on the table and growling through tears. I ask him what's the problem and he says the edges keep rolling up and nothing he does will make it lay flat. I try to show him that if he puts heavy objects on either side, the roll will lay flat, but he is too far gone.

I take the roll away and tell him we're going outside. He cries and pushes at me. I lose my temper and yell at him to put his shoes on. His rage bubbles over and he's screaming and throwing things while yelling about the "stupid instructions." I grab him by the arm and yank him out of the room and onto our deck. We both just sit there for awhile until he calms down and we apologize to each other.


We are on Day #2 of summer vacation, and the day is only half over. I see the rest of our summer stretching before us in a haze of frustration and impatience and tears and resentment.

I try to remember that we'll hit our stride and that I have a child who doesn't handle frustration or transition well. I try to remember that this is a hard day and we'll have easy days, too. I try, but it's so hard and the urge to sit him in front a television or video game is intense.

We'll get by. The summer will pass and we'll have some really great memories. I want to live in the present, but right now my sanity hinges on that bright and glorious future. And that has to be okay.


  • liz

    Isn't it crazy how quickly they get bored!!? If they knew how any of us adults would LOVE to be bored...

    We had a week of nothingness as well, and I couldn't wait until camp and her new dance class, etc., started up!

  • Cheri

    I'm not even there yet, and I already feel your pain! My two have finals this week - which means they are done school at 10:35 a.m. on Weds & Thurs and 11:00 a.m. on Friday. And then they are home. Two 16 year old girls who can't quite drive yet, and who will be whining about how bored they are before an hour into the first day home. I'm dreading this summer. ugh.

    P.S. Did you get the DVD I sent you?

  • Justine

    Here I am pining for my daughter (she's at daycare while I work all day) and your post reminds me that there is no such thing as the ideal place to be. I've been home with her before where she was being completely impossible to deal with and all I wanted to do was to go back to work again that day. I idealize what I don't have and you show me that parenthood is hard. Period. No one has it any better than the other. There are good and bad days for all of us, whether we see them all the time or hardly at all.

    Thanks for this. I hope things look up on your end soon.

  • Kelly

    Oh honey. I don't think it's like this for everyone, though all kids have a level of frustration. Mine happens to be hardwired to rush headlong to the edge without the ability to slow himself down. Being home with Bella is completely different, though toddlers bring their own set of challenges.

    I do agree, though. The grass is always greener, and being away from them is bittersweet.

  • Rudri

    I feel your pain. School has been out since May 15 and I am trying to fill my daughter's days with activities and fun stuff to do, but with the meltdowns at every juncture, I sometimes want to stay at home and say we are not going anywhere. But I know I can't entertain at her home, so for now, I just have to do the best with the tantrums. But I get you and this post. ..

  • BigLittleWolf

    Oh yeah. Two boys, and I can't believe I survived it, including the boredom years when they definitely wanted action action action and I had neither the money nor the energy to provide it. ACK. But you get through. (And some of those days are u-n-b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-y long.

  • Kelly

    I hate to say that misery loves company ... but it totally does. I shouldn't need it so badly, but I feel normal again after hearing that it's not me, or him, or us.

    BLW - It must bring a wave of nostalgia to think back on these years when your boys are paving such interesting and independent paths right now!

  • The Drama Mama

    I am blessed that Jellybean is in school still this week, but it's the last week. I am REALLY REALLY hoping that she gets to go to the week long day Softball camp next week so I can be weaned in on this whole Summer vacation crap. (Lol).

    I'm fully expecting the change in schedule to have a huge effect on how she reacts. And I KNOW that we are going to be butting heads all summer because I tell her "outside is the place to be" and she wants to come in 5 minutes later...

    Kelly, can we just hibernate through the summer and wake up after Labor Day? :D

  • Anonymous

    Summer blessedly isn't any different for us than any other time of the year. The life of a working mom! But I'm hoping in future to be able to take longer periods of time off with them come the summer months. Perhaps you've just convinced me that's not a good idea :-)

  • Bibliomama

    Some kids do have SUCH a hard time with change and transitions and it must be so difficult to have to first anticipate that and then deal with it. Sounds like you're doing everything right, but oh, I feel for you. Best of luck.

  • Amber

    Kelly. Wow. I KNOW what you are going through. Since my brother has Aspergers, summer break is super hard. He has complete meltdowns--screaming, kicking, and throwing--at least twice a day. It is awful!

    No advice for you but I can offer understanding.

  • TKW

    That picture of him...hoo-boy. Sort of says it all, doesn't it?

    I was exhausted just reading this. I really hope most of your days ahead run more smoothly. ((hugs))

  • ck

    Yeah, we've had many a melt-down already and we're only 1.5 weeks in. The worst part? Some of these melt-downs have been mine.

    I hope things have gotten better for you guys. I'm behind in my blog reading so you should actually be pretty close to his first camp, right?

  • Andrea

    I've decided to come out of lurking to tell you what we do, in case it helps anyone.
    For the past 2 years, we have gone camping the day school breaks out. It's crazy busy to get everything ready, but the benefits of throwing the kids (oldest of whom is gifted and has ADHD) straight into nature is worth all the packing effort (I will have to remind myself of that in 2 weeks when we do it again...Canadian schools don't finish until end of June). We usually just go for a few days, but by the time we get home the kids are exhausted, and we find that it makes settling into home life easier, maybe because the change from school to camping is so huge it's a bit of a culture shock to them!?

  • Kelly

    Andrea - I love this idea. I mean, I hate that's it's camping, but I love the theory behind it. Camping is something we do anyway, so it wouldn't be a big deal at all. I'll definitely try it next time!

  • Penny Williams

    That is exactly how every day last week went for us. And meltdown #1 is daily for school or not. I was beginning to think Luke's new medicine wasn't right but maybe it is really anxiety and transition. It's so tough for our little guys!
    {a mom's view of ADHD}

  • Kelly

    Penny - I think anxiety plays a huge role in Javi's meltdowns. He is resistant to everything and really gets stressed out about trying anything new/different, but then always loves it once we get over the hump of him trying it. If we let it, the anxiety/hassle would keep us from pushing him to do anything -- but he has to learn that new things can be really great.

  • Lola Granola

    I he once summer feels more normal for him, he'll get better with it. Meanwhile, oh, I feel those meltdowns too. I don't have a big guy with an issue with it, just a little girl, adopted and home for a year, and the change in routine really gets to her, but not to any of the other three. It's hard...if she's not melting, she's luring the others into it. I can't make every day exactly the same just to make it work for her...shes just going to have to find a way to cope.

  • Life with Kaishon

    Oh no. Maybe he should come to our house. I ban meltdowns until August : ) I need at least one happy month! Kaish has school until Tuesday. Can you even believe that? We are so ready for it to be over. So so ready!

  • KLZ

    This whole post makes me think of my husband. Wish he;d had a mom like you.

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