I've been working from home for three years now, and each year, when summer rolls around, I prepare myself for the onslaught of guilt and panic that comes with the "perks" a flexible schedule provides me, which include repeatedly asking my child to find something to do while I finish working.
The something that she typically finds is the soft, soothing glow of a screen, where she can binge-watch episodes of shows, play Minecraft until her fingers seize up, or otherwise click, swipe and stare her way to summer zombiehood. Every year, I fret about how thoroughly her brain is dissolving, and how incredibly jacked up she'll be after years of being saddled with a mother who won't nurture her brain and mental growth over the summer.
But not this year. This year, I've been training hard for months, and I'm prepared to give absolutely zero fucks about my child's mental development as she whiles the hours away in front of a screen. I refuse to feel guilt. Here's why.
A good mother would send her child outside, supposing that both mother and child lived in a place where the local weatherman did not tell you to use caution while venturing out because heatstroke deaths are on the rise.
We don't live in one of those places. We live in Texas, where you can burn yourself on your seatbelt after your car has been parked in the lush, sweltering shade of the garage all day. If you're dumb enough to go outside in July in Texas, you will find that the swamp-ass is immediate and the danger of fainting is real. We have a community pool here that's empty between the hours of nine and six because the water is too hot. Hell, I don't want to do it, so I'm not going to make her do it either.
Even if I felt guilty and hateful enough to kick her tush out into the backyard for 15 minutes a day, that doesn't address the plethora of insects and animals that would like to do nothing more than murder the shit out of anyone stupid enough to go outside. Welcome to Texas: land of poisonous snakes, venomous ants, pissed off wasps and the kind of spiders they make docu-horrors about. I worked at a preschool one summer with a five-foot high wall ringed by a safety gate, and we still had to practice mountain lion safety drills once a week. Go outside my house anytime after the sun goes down and you'll hear what sounds like 50 coyotes howling about how delicious your face is. No thanks.
Alternatively, I could send her out front on a bike and tell her to outrun the murder zoo that populates North Texas, but that's out because people in this neighborhood will snap pics of unattended kids as old as 13 and threaten to call the cops on their parents. Can't exactly supervise her, though, because I'm working, remember?
Sure, I write listicles and pieces about Duggar drama; it's not like I'm curing cancer over here. But I am curing a little disease called Payingmyrent-itis. Given the choice between being a bad mother who lets her kid watch TV and being a bad mother who enriches the shit out of her kid while her home is being foreclosed upon and all that's in the pantry are some Cheez-It crumbs and leftover Peeps, I'm pretty sure which bad mom I would rather be.
If I tell my child to stop playing Minecraft — where, I'll remind you, she's learning about math and coding — she's just going to want to come and talk to me about Minecraft. This may literally be the only thing in the world that she cares about more than internet cats, and I just can't do one more summer of long, one-sided "conversations" about redstone, lava mobs and Stampy Cat where I nod politely and watch the minutes to deadline tick rapidly away.
When did this happen? An overnight camp is going to run me thousands, while a shitty half-baked day camp will require me to withdraw anywhere from $200 to $500 so my kid can go to some community center for two hours a day with other kids in matching T-shirts where she will probably just watch TV anyway.
I did not get to pick how to spend my summers. When it became clear that my mom was not going to show up at term's end, I was invariably shuffled into weeklong programs that involved enrichment activities doing chores with about 20 other pissed-off kids whose parents forgot them. Later, I would just work, mostly for people with progressive and relaxed opinions about child labor laws. Given a choice, I probably would have just watched TV too, and look what a well-adjusted individual I am. Obviously, if she starts choosing to spend her summers running an underground dark web prostitution ring, I guess I'll have to step in. Otherwise, it's not my summer break. Grown-ups don't get those.
This is a kid who hacked a kids' art app once because she didn't like the color picker that came with the program. She'll be a'ight.
Like beating my child for watching too much TV, or taking her to get a tattoo or teaching her the best way to break up an ounce of stank, sticky kind so that the other teens won't laugh at her ineptitude when she's older. I'm fucking working, not taking her to dog fights.
Last year my kid watched TV, just as she did the year before that. She'll get bored. She'll whine. She'll solve the problem with reading or drawing or LEGOs or by braving the death menagerie outside for five minutes before deciding she'd rather live. Rinse, repeat. She'll come out of it OK, and if the worst thing my kid can say in therapy years from now is that her mom worked while she had free reign of the anime channel on Hulu, than she's already miles ahead of most adults I know.
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