Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

A Good Idea

Posted By on July 1, 2009

A Good Idea
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Since life is always so rushed, and everyone is so busy, what if we take the summer off and work as little as we can. We can keep the kids home (i.e., no camp) and work out a split shift for our work hours. Yeah, that’s the ticket, a nice, relaxing summer, just like I remember from my childhood.

Perhaps it was a good idea. I mean sleeping late in the morning is always nice. Staying up late at night watching movies is nothing to sneer at. Nice weather, we can take walks in the evening, and take a drive for ice cream, maybe even hire a babysitter for an evening or two out alone. Seems like the plan for a great summer.

“Hey, I have a good idea,” my four-year old says. “How about we eat ice cream?” “Great idea,” I say, “but we’ve already had ice cream today, and also dessert about an hour ago. No more sugar today.” Four year old has another good idea. He throws himself on the ground screaming, “I never get ice cream. You are so mean. You are the meanest mother in the world.” I leave the room sighing, thinking maybe I’ll sit down on that nice recliner chair that we bought a few months ago, the one I’ve only sat in twice. I could read a book, which is really a great idea.

When I walk into the room, I think perhaps a tornado has hit it while I was busy making lunch 20 feet away. Now I know this room was spotless when I went to sleep last night. Now it is the repository of Lincoln Logs, Lego’s, small matchbox cars, an upturned plastic tool kit, and at least two electronic toys, both of which are playing repetitive tunes. Suddenly, I have a great idea, “Let’s clean up,” I suggest. The small child put his hand on his hips and glares at me, “THAT is a really bad idea.” The bigger one yells, “That’s all we ever do!” Sighing again (my mother used to sigh all the time, now that I think about it), I say, “Yes, sometimes I think that is all we do, although it would be very hard to convince anyone who walked into our house.” I realize, of course, that my words just sounded like a low droning static in the background of their lives: waa-waa-waa-waa, as Charlie Brown’s mother used to say.

After clean up, a near hour later, we decide to go on a spy walk. My younger son has morphed from a princess into a spy in the past few months. Spying is very serious business. First of all, it involves maps. He makes the maps himself, diligently on small post-it notes, and then rolls the maps up, and ties them with string. He passes these out, because everyone needs a different map. Then he packs his Teletubbies backpack. He packs a large desk-sized dispenser of scotch tape, 3 long twigs, a pack of popsicle sticks, and a jump rope which is tied to a metal detector. Hanging off of his shorts are two hangers bent into the shape of a bow, binoculars, a flashing pumpkin pin left over from last Halloween, and a set of suspenders, all clipped on in the front. “Come on,” he says, bending down to hide behind a bush. We slink quickly and silently up the street, darting behind trees and bushes, his older brother playing along, patiently smiling in a superior 8-year old way. Occasionally, we stop and review our maps, and then we have to change directions, usually with great dramatic intensity. I’m trying to decide if this counts as “power walking,” which I am supposed to do to lower my blood pressure. No matter how long our spy walks are, whenever they end they will disappoint my son, who will throw himself on the ground and repeat, “We never have any fun. You are so BORING.”

I can see why they would think it’s been a long boring summer. First, we spent a week traveling to Washington D.C and Williamsburg, Virginia. We drove the Blue Ridge Highway, climbed to the top on a mountain and met a hiker who was walking the length of the Appalachian Trail. We went to the Air and Space Museum and rode on the airplane simulator ride that I’m still recovering from, but that my younger son thought was the greatest event in his life. I guess he likes being thrown back and forth at such a rapid rate that your eyeglasses fly off your face, your belly goes into your mouth, and you spend most of your time upside down. I had no idea it was so hard to fly a plane at warp speed. We spent time in Colonial Williamsburg, and got to take part in a reenactment in the slave quarters, listening to the slaves argue about whether or not to join the American Revolution. My younger son signed up with the rebels immediately, the promise of “freedom” made his eyes glow. My older son, always the more pragmatic, pondered his choices, and said thoughtfully, “How do you know you are not just trading one slave master for another,” which justified, in my opinion, the cost of the entire vacation. Did I mention that this reenactment was outdoors and there was a torrential downpour? I mean wet through to my panties, but my budding young stage actors refused to leave, drawn to the politics as much as the theater.

The next leg of our boring vacation involved a spending a week in Ptown for our annual trek for Family Week. There is always much to share about Family Week, but I will leave you with just one of our boring experiences. Picture this: Pitch black beach, with only the large fire pits glowing with flames and a glint of the water shimmering in the moon light. Surrounding the campfires are hundreds of strings of colored lights, glowing eerily. Upon closer look it is children, children wrapped in rainbow glow-lights, draped around their arms, their legs, their necks, hundreds of children. They have made long whips they are swinging around, and crowns to cover their heads. As far as the eye can see, they are covering the beach, dancing on the sand, playing by the water, and waiting in line for more s’mores. Our children, a rainbow tribe, glowing, playing, with the smell of sea and the sound of raucous laughter as backdrop. Another boring summer, growing up in a lesbian home. It still seems like a good idea.