Summer Vacation or Summer Purgatory (#324)

I know parents who can’t wait for summer vacation.

“No more making lunches!” a mom of three rejoiced on the last day of school a few years ago.

“We’re totally sleeping in,” said the mom with twins.

Another mom chimed in with, “No nagging about homework for 2 whole months!”

There were moms who had vacations planned, or had already purchased season passes to Disneyland. They were as giddy as their kids about the end of school.

I was never one of those moms. I dreaded summer vacations. My only child NEVER slept past 6 AM. Baby D was a restless bundle of energy (and if you let it build up it would explode as destructively as possible).

Baby D building a moat for his sand castle.

We walked the dogs to the park, ran errands, had Nerf wars, and then hit the beach or the pool before those other, luckier moms ever got up; like that old Army slogan, we did more before 9 AM then most people do all day.

Some afternoons I’d fall asleep on the floor in mid-battle between his stuffed cat army and my dog/bear army. Mostly I woke up before he jumped on me (always knees first) or snuck off to draw an ion canon from Clone Wars on the living room floor.


By the time Baby D was in elementary school, I was planning out as many half-day summer camps for soccer, surfing, baseball, gymnastics, basketball, or swimming as we could afford. In March.

And then came the pandemic. Last year, even the outdoor camps like Junior Lifeguards and British Soccer were canceled. Baby D’s regular soccer team didn’t hold practices until August. The best I could manage was a coach to wear out work with Baby D in private and semi-private lessons (outside with masks).

The only camp available was Mom Boot Camp, which Baby D hated. Mom Boot Camp meant that screen time was forbidden until after Baby D worked on his cleaning, laundry, cooking, dishwashing, weeding, sweeping, and dog washing skills.

Baby D slaving away in the kitchen.

This meant he also sharpened his whining and arguing skills, especially when I called him back to re-wash something properly. (Pro tip for the ruthless parent: this strategy of deterring slipshod cleaning is most effective when you interrupt games of Fortnite or Minecraft Bed Wars.)

This year, soccer camps returned, although most of them were not in LA County. I booked what I could.

When Andy announced that he would take Baby D to Hawaii to visit his mother for a whole week, I did a victory/ happy dance around the house while he checked the calendar and priced tickets.

I stopped mid-fist pump and asked, “You did check with your mom, didn’t you? Do not hit that ‘purchase’ button until you check with her.”

“She said she’s not going anywhere this summer,” Andy told me. And pushed the button.

Which meant that when Andy talked to his mother 10 days later, he learned that he’d booked flights one of the same weeks his sister was going with her entire family and her in-laws (and they were staying with Sunny for nearly a month). Sunny told Andy there simply wasn’t enough room at the inn. Unless he wanted to get a hotel room ($$$$) and rent a U-haul (since there were no rental cars available in Hawaii), Andy would have to cancel the trip.

This is how United Airlines acquired over $1,000 of our money and I lost my chance at a week by myself in the house after a year-and-a-half of Pandemic-Induced Always Togetherness.

I went for a walk until I didn’t want to murder my husband anymore.

It was a long walk.

When I returned, I told Andy that since he wasn’t going to use his vacation days for Hawaii, he could use them to take Baby D to a 3-day soccer camp 3 hours away.

“But it’ll be expensive,” Andy protested. “A hotel and eating out!”

“The hotel has free breakfasts and a kitchenette. Take a cooler of food.”

“But what am I gonna do while he’s in camp?” Andy whined.

“Sit out by the hotel pool and pretend you’re in Hawaii.”

Andy said nothing further.

Last week, the husband, the child, and the giant cooler of food drove away in the early morning hours.

The quiet was immediate.

No child demanded food or attention. No husband played music, argued on conference calls, or banged around in the kitchen.

I cuddled with the cat. I read books, blogs, and articles uninterrupted.

Usually, I made Baby D a big breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, bacon, and fruit. That morning, I opted for the easiest breakfast I could think of: cereal.

Only to find that there was no milk.

I texted Andy: Next time maybe tell me when you take ALL the milk.

He texted back: But you have cream.

I called him and yelled, “Did you just MARIE ANTOINETTE me?!”

I didn’t really mind, though. Sure, I would have to go to Costco later and buy milk.

But for the moment, being alone in my tiny house felt like being in a luxurious castle.

And I was queen.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

22 thoughts on “Summer Vacation or Summer Purgatory (#324)”

  1. I always dreaded summer vacation, too. It was less about being constantly “on call” since we both worked; instead, it meant higher daycare costs. We may have worked, but we weren’t raking in the dough at the time. And I wasn’t the only one: it was a ritual on the first day of school for all the parents to let out a loud cheer once the school bus pulled away from the curb.

    Glad you got a mini-vacation to yourself! Sounds like it was sorely needed.

    1. Yeah, those camps aren’t cheap, either. It’s a constantly changing equation: x money + y time away = z optimal mental health for mother and child. Or something like that.

      I’ve heard of parents at the bus stop with margaritas. At 8 AM.

  2. I can’t believe he did that without checking with his mom first. I’d still be on that walk. Yay for you for finding a camp. Maybe the solitary around a pool did him good too.

    1. RGIHT? Seriously, when I plan a trip to see my family, I email, text, and then call before I spend that money.

      I think he did enjoy just kicking back for a few days and playing video games while I took care of pets and house.

  3. I can understand your irritation about the plane tickets and the poor planner who bought them. I’d take a long walk, too. I’m glad you got a few days to yourself. Around here in the pre-pandemic times, there were early morning parties with balloons and firecrackers as the buses drove away on the first day of school. Everyone was invited for champagne and donuts. They were well attended.

    1. Solidarity! Thank you! I know some of it has to do with the pandemic, but I swear this is the summer that men–specifically husbands–cannot plan their way out of a paper bag. One dude’s parents were flying the whole family (his wife and 3 kids!) to the Caribbean for a week at a resort and this dude neglected to check his passport, which had expired, until days before the trip. Another dude was in charge of his son’s medication while his wife was recovering from surgery and decided not to administer it because “it was expensive and the kid was sleeping until noon and the day was half over anyway.”

      I could go on and on.

      1. I must jump in to defend husbands, my wife is the idea person, and then I have to work out the details. Passports I had to push for so we could go on a cruise(2018). I find the 2nd dude’s justification rather foolish….He already bought the medication, no point in ‘saving’ it for later. Especially if it’s antibiotics, he’s just creating resistant bacteria!

        I cringe at your husband though, just assuming for such a big trip? I am surprised he managed to find the nerve to complain about the cost of soccer camp when he just made a 1000$ error in basic scheduling. I do love your put down though “Sit out by the hotel pool and pretend you’re in Hawaii.”…yowza I would of loved to see that burn in person.

        1. I did slough off all the work of passports to my husband and he did a very good job making sure we had one for Baby D. That’s now his project, forever more. No backsies. But it’s just one little project in the much bigger childrearing world of immunizations, schools, sports, activities, summer camps, eye doctors, dentists, etc. And it only has to be done every 10 years.

          #NotAll Husbands for sure, however. 🙂

          Pent-up resentment makes for the best burns, LOL. I’m still flabbergasted that he didn’t check with his mom first.

  4. Oh, at last you got some well deserved childfree time! I honestly don’t understand those mums that were looking forward to the holidays. Summer holiday in Spain is 3 whole months! Luckily my excuse is that I have to work, but in the afternoons I can’t escape…

      1. Yes, there are camps, although I don’t know if they cover all of the time haha. I will need to research this in the future. (Adults have one month of holidays).

  5. Great post!!! Some favorites: “It was a long walk.” And “Did you just MARIE ANTOINETTE me?!”

    It may be harder to have one child than three. And boys might be harder than girls. My three girls always seemed to be able to entertain themselves. My 13-year-old grandson, on the other hand, iis siblilng-less and NEEDS to get enough exercise every day. I think my daughter usually starts signing him up for camps in December. Luckily, Rockville, MD has been able to keep lots of camps going (with lots of rules about masks, etc.)

    1. Some kids are very good at entertaining themselves. Like my genius introvert nephew who taught himself to read at age 3.

      Baby D was never one of those kids. My husband and I often look with great envy at parents who can take their kindergarteners out to nice restaurants because THEIR children will sit quietly and color. When my dad came to town for a conference and wanted to take the three of us to a nice restaurant, we spent two hours in the pool wearing out Baby D beforehand.

  6. I always loved summer vacation. Summer is my “happy season” and I grew up at the seaside on the south coast of England, where we had a beach hut and I spent every fine day of the summer at the beach. It was paradise!

    In some ways I think you are lucky having the kids waking up early. Better to get to the beach, park or wherever you are headed before the crowds get there and also before it gets too hot! Having lived in Florida I know it’s more comfortable on the beach earlier in the day before the sun switches to “scorch” mode!

    I’m envious of you living so close to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm too. Been to both and they are wonderful, but since Covid we are very wary where we travel.

    We also lost all out flight costs last summer as we had refundable tickets to Cyprus and couldn’t travel. Actually the flights still ran, but with Covid we considered it too dangerous to risk it and the airline wouldn’t refund our money. Better safe than sorry though.

    1. There is something magical about summer vacation, isn’t there? It’s actually quite nice that some moms can still tap into that. And we are very lucky to be close to the beach. The Pacific is a pretty rough ocean, especially compared to the tame Atlantic that I grew up visiting, though, so I’ve had to be pretty vigilant. Every year we lose kids and adults to riptides, concussions, and drownings. If you’re unfamiliar with the power of the waves, you’re lucky to escape with just a broken collar bone.

      As for getting up early, I often tell myself that if it weren’t for Baby D, I’d have missed hundreds of beautiful sunrises.

      Sorry about your flights to Cyprus, but you were smart to stay home. Cyrus will still be there after COVID. If there is an after COVID. And if the fires hitting Greece don’t become endemic to the whole region.

      Wow, aren’t I just a bundle of optimism today with my drownings and fires?! 🙂

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