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5 of the most exhausting things about parenting a preschooler in the summer

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor Foster ( his “Brown Mom” wife), and their 3-year old daughter Viva, who needs to be slathered in bug spray and sunblock every 20 minutes or she turns into a Gremlin.

Those of us who know people with school aged children know how much they hate their kids. We know because every August they post on Facebook how happy they are to get them out of the house and back to school. It’s like the parents are watching the last regiment of an occupying force march out of town for the last time. Those of us in the first five years of parenting only have the kids out of the house part time in any season – they’re gone for as many hours as we’ve shelled out money for classes and preschool.

I am, however, finding some crucial differences between parenting my 3-year-old in the summer versus in the winter – and the differences have got my tail absolutely dragging already, and it’s only the first week of July. So, what’s the big deal? Let my lazy listicle tell you:

CAMPS

Camps are what passes for preschool in the summer months. There are zillions of them. Visit a park in Chicago any time on a weekday and you’ll be run over by kids in matching t-shirts lead by frustrated counselors and frantic assistants trying to keep little Tinsley from throwing little Brinsley off of the slide, and remembering they left the Epi-Pen in the clubhouse only after little Aiden wipes his peanut butter sandwich on little Brayden. Schools have camps, park districts have camps, churches have camps, arts places have camps – I think even the Walgreens by me has a camp now – they teach kids how to make you sign for Sudafed and why you shouldn’t smack George Bailey in his bad ear.

What’s so exhausting about camps? Well, we’ve signed Viva up for many different camps, both to suit her interests and to keep her off the streets (it might be summer for kids, but most parents just keep on keeping on with the soul-crushing work) – and almost every day at every camp is different. Is it swimsuit day or painting clothes day? Is it raincoat day or pajama jammy jam? Is it Anna braids day or the day with the rainforest animal play? I can’t keep my own meetings straight and now I’m trying to figure out which day we send paper towel tubes with the baby for crafts. And making sure there are frozen ice packs in the lunch bag with whichever foods AREN’T cheddar bunnies. Exhausting.

Oh, and whichever the camp, they’re going to send your kid home with mountains of “paintings” – so clear off the fridge … or be prepared to sneak off to the recycling bin in the middle of the night.

SKIN PROTECTION

Full disclosure – I can’t stand lotions. I don’t like them on my hands, on my body – I don’t even like putting them on other people’s bodies: in my youth, any time an attractive woman asked me to rub something onto her skin, I’ve had to ask her frankly, “Are we going someplace naughty with this? If so – awesome – let’s cut right to it and skip the part where my hands get greasy. Cuz, yuck.” I realize I have a problem.

But summer with a preschooler? It’s all bug spray and sunscreen all the time. And big hats, which don’t feel weird but can look pretty silly if you aren’t The Shadow or Carmen SanDiego. (Full disclosure, part deux: I am neither.) Get ready to chase your child with hands full of sunblock and pesticides or go to bad parent jail.

Perhaps in your own youth your parents drove you to the beach with no seat belt on in a car with dirty ashtrays and thrust you into the sun with a little dab of SPF 15 to the strains of such AM gold as Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” and The Little River Band’s “Reminiscing”. But now we know that the sun – that golden, glowing orb worshipped by cultures the world over since the dawn of mankind – is there to steal our youth and murder us. We also know that Nick Glider would not have significant follow up to “Hot Child in the City.” We’ve learned so much since the summers of our childhood.

So get out the SPF 100 or whatever we put on kids now that is so powerful as to actually dim the daylight slightly. And reapply it every several minutes from waking to sleeping to a child that is trying to get away from you with all their might. It’s like a greased pig contest, if the pigs were whinier. This is what most of your summer hours look like now.

VISITING THE SUBURBS

All those family members you say you’re going to see and all those friends who already made the exodus to cul-de-sac land? They’re going to cash in their chips this summer with barbecues and get togethers and birthday parties, and you’re going to need to make the trek. “Great!” you say, “It’ll be refreshing to get out of the city and go someplace more open and naturey and less … bullety.” Cut to Sunday night when you’re headed back into the city on any of our perpetually vehicle-choked expressways, down $60 in gas, your kids carsick, your belly leaden with “Olive Garden” – perhaps trying to get past Soldier Field as tens of thousands of stoned senior citizens roll out of a Grateful Dead concert.

That’s enough suburbs ‘til Christmas.

FINDING POTTIES

Summertime means outside, and outside means not inside, and not inside means not by a potty. I guess if you have boys you’re always near a potty, because the world is your potty. I have a daughter, however, and every time I’ve tried to help her pee outside in an emergency, she’s ended up soaked. I don’t think I understand the angle – I’m sure the internet can help me but I’m afraid someone will see my search history.

The park, the beach, nature preserves, ball parks, street fairs – these are places you either can’t find a bathroom, or if you do find it, ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER.

In the winter, you’re either in someone’s house, at a play or in a restaurant. I know where the bathrooms are at those places. I don’t WANT to go – but we can get there if we have to. In the summertime it’s a world of troughs, bushes and port-potties. All bad options.

SHIELDING YOUR CHILD FROM FESTIVE SUMMER DANGER

Fireworks. Horses. Berry picking. These are dangerous concepts. (Well berry picking isn’t dangerous, but it’s itchy and I hate it.) Swimming and diving and skiing? Hella dangerous. Bike riding? Dangerous! Fishing? Climbing? Scootering? Monkey bars? Grilling? Hot tubbing? The Cha-Cha Slide? All things you might find yourself doing in the summer – and all dangerous, dangerous, dangerous!

There are very few beloved summer activities that don’t run the risk of frying, maiming, crushing or drowning your kid. That means you’ll spend three months diving for your kids, chasing them, knocking things out of their hands and frantically wondering where they’ve disappeared to.

Forget texting – you can’t look down again until September.

So that’s my beef with raising a preschooler in the summer. It really wears a guy down. If, like me, you’re chasing a toddler or preschooler around from now until the leaves turn colors – I wish you luck and proper hydration. It’s a tough time of year.

Oh, and everyone wears shorts in the summer and shorts look stupid.

You can CALL the White Dads now on their hotline: (347) 766-3866. Leave a message or a question they can play on the podcast!

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