Summertime blues


August. How can it possibly be August already? And how can summer go by so quickly yet simultaneously be so very long? 

Perhaps it’s the heat, the unbroken stretch of heat we’ve had here for quite some time now. Or the fiery smoky haze that’s been hanging over us for days. Whatever it is, I find myself cranky. To quote Bilbo Baggins, “I feel all thin, sort of stretched, like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” 

How do I account for this feeling? 

Well, for starters, I may feel thin, but I certainly don’t look it. The summer has been composed of too many burgers and too much ice cream and not nearly enough time (or ambition) to exercise. 

Beyond that, however, it could be my beautiful, amazing, wonderful kids. I love them more than anything, of course, but do they really need to call me at work 10 times a day with earth-shattering revelations like, “I’m hungry” or “the cat threw up” or some other breaking news. 

I used to joke they should alert the media with these reports — I think they took me way too literally. 

The phone calls from kids are actually less nerve-grating than what I hear while I’m at home, where the past few weeks have been an endless loop of ABBA songs since my daughter discovered “Mamma Mia,” video game battle sound effects and arguments over important global issues like who ate the last of the Cheez-Its or put the empty milk carton back in the fridge. 

Throw in the incessant “I’m bored” chant and some days I want to turn around and go straight back to work when I get home. These kids have been in every summer camp Evanston has to offer, and when not in one camp or another the doorbell rings incessantly with neighbor kids wanting to play, yet they’re still bored after what must be an excruciating 30 seconds of down time.  

I find myself on repeat listing off all of the fun things they’ve been able to do this summer and restraining the urge to emulate Maximus in “Gladiator,” yelling, “Are you not entertained?!” 

All those things I swore to myself I’d never say to my kids — “because I said so” chief among them — come out of my mouth with astonishing regularity. 

I’m not sure when summertime became a pressure cooker to keep kids constantly engaged, learning and growing. I don’t remember going to a single summer camp activity when I was a kid and, all things considered, I think I turned out OK. These days it’s like a requirement to see how many fun and educational things you can cram into the 12 weeks between school years. 

This is all amplified by social media posts documenting the wonderful experiences other parents are having with their kids all summer. Doesn’t anyone else ever make it through a day, take a deep breath, and pat themselves on the back for not having a complete breakdown? 

Summer makes me feel like the Mother of the Year … Not. 

Then there is the increasing number of other phone calls I’ve been getting this summer. I just checked my voicemail and had nine messages since yesterday. One was actually someone calling for me by name. The others were super spunky automated voices telling me I’d won a trip to a luxury resort, that the IRS was after me, that my computer was infected with a virus, that my Windows license was going to be terminated, that I qualified for a reduced credit card rate and that someone was readily available and waiting to help me enroll in healthcare coverage. 

I remember how great it was to switch to a cellphone several years ago because the telemarketing calls stopped. How annoying it now is to have to deal with them again, especially when so many of them appear to be coming from local numbers and aren’t even telemarketing but are blatant scams. I sometimes stay on the line in an effort to give people a piece of my mind, but they hang up too quickly for that to be even remotely gratifying or worth the effort. 

I spent the first part of summer like I have for the last several years, volunteering for the youth soccer program. I love the kids, and I keep doing it year after year for the kids. But some of the parents … that’s a different story. 

I’m not sure what’s expected from an all-volunteer recreational kids’ league, but complaints on everything from the (youth volunteer) referees, the (un)professional coaches, the rules restricting bringing the family pooch to soccer and even the weather are not uncommon. Seriously, folks, get a grip. We already have to beg people to coach and referee because everybody wants their kid to play but nobody wants to help, yet we’re somehow supposed to guarantee high-quality coaches to prepare these kids to be the next Pelé or David Beckham. 

Then there’s work. I love my job — I’ve mentioned that before. The summer months are full of awesome community events to cover. But sometimes there are so many of them going on at once I wish I could replicate myself to give them all the coverage they deserve. 

There have also been a whole lot of heavy stories to cover over the last several months — fires, multiple criminal cases, escapes, high-speed chases and more — that are at times difficult to remove yourself from and cover objectively without letting emotion interfere. Our little community has also seen more than its share of controversy on multiple issues recently. 

You know you’re getting a bit delirious when you get sent a news story about a school superintendent back east somewhere resigning after getting caught defecating on a rival high school’s football field — and you go into a hysterical and uncontrollable laughing fit ultimately resulting in tears and your husband looks at you like you’ve totally gone off the deep end. 

Perhaps I have. 

I’ve been thinking about how lovely it would be to be “sick” the first week of school. I could sit in a quiet house and read a book without interruption or watch what I want on television or even get in some much-needed exercise. There would be no ABBA or video game battles or constant chatter. 

It would be blissful.

At least until I got bored.

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