It is the first Sunday of the summer.
The sun is high in the sky above our bungalow, cheery and radiant. With no school and no homework, the kids are well rested, and their eyes, bright and carefree, are dancing right above the bridges of their tanned and freckled noses.
My husband isn’t working this Sunday, so we are all especially jubilant. I can’t remember the last time everyone was this calm, this present.
The kids can smell my good mood over the scent of the pancakes my husband is flipping.
“Tatty is home today?” my son asks eagerly, grabbing a pancake for his plate.
“Yes!” I answer, smiling broadly, “so let’s plan a fun day!”
“A fun day?” my daughter asks eagerly. “Yay! Hmmm, what should we do? I know! Can we go boating?”
My son claps enthusiastically. “Yeah! Let’s go boating!”
For a split second, I am thrilled. They agree on something! Miracles happen!
But then my son continues talking. “Let’s not go on those boring boats, where you have to use oars. Those things kill my arms, and those boats are soooo slow!”
My daughter nods in agreement. “And not the kind of boat that you have to pedal either. Those kill my feet! It definitely needs to be a motor boat!”
My son sighs. “But not the rickety motor boats – like that pontoon we went on last summer that almost tipped when we tried to go ten miles an hour.”
“Right,” my daughter says approvingly. “Last summer we were the slowest boat on the lake. Those new motor boats were zipping right past us!”
“So,” my son says confidently as he reaches for the maple syrup, “motor boating it is.”
I stare at my husband, mouth agape.
My husband clears his throat. “Um, Mommy and I had something simpler in mind,” he says diplomatically.
He might as well have poked a hole in their boat and left them in the middle of the lake to swim home. That’s how aghast they look.
“Simpler than boating?” my daughter asks shakily. “Like bowling or something?”
“Bowling is boring,” my son whines. “At least let’s go to an arcade – or a batting cage.”
“No,” my husband insists patiently, “we thought we would do something closer to home.”
“Is the problem that the boating place is too far?” my daughter asks, confused. “Because we will promise not to complain the entire way there. Not even once.”
I smile wryly at her magnanimity. The problem isn’t that the boating place is too far. Or even that it is too expensive. It’s just that it is too much for what was supposed to be a regular Sunday.
I fill my kids in on what I had been thinking:
Lots of laughs, lots of memories, lots of fresh air and family time. No miles logged, no credit cards used.
My idea of perfection.
Looking at my kids’ flushed faces, I don’t think they agree. So even with a clear blue sky, I sense a raincloud on the horizon.
We are the most boring family, they’ll moan.
We never do anything fun, they’ll argue.
And that makes me sad.
Because as my kids get older, it has become harder and harder for them to feel satisfied. To feel content.
It feels like only yesterday when a sticker was a good incentive, and a lollipop was the ultimate prize. When a trip to the local park was as much fun as a trip to an amusement park. Now, everything has gone up like 12 notches. No, like 1200 notches.
I take them for pizza, and they ask to order sushi and of course a slush. Let’s not forget the two different types of fries. I offer to buy them Crocs, but they ask for Natives. Or Crocs and Natives. Meanwhile, I still wear the slippers I wore in high school.
We can’t keep up. I don’t want to keep up! I just want to play Frisbee!
But I can’t complain how spoiled they are at the same time that I give in to their demands. I can’t kvetch that my children are so entitled, when I am the one making them feel that way.
Sure, we can go motor boating without breaking the bank. But I’d rather show my children that they can enjoy a beautiful day spent with a family that loves them too much to spoil them.
“Hey, kids?” I say lightly. “The reason Tatty and I bring you to the bungalow colony every summer is because we want you to enjoy the simple things: the freedom to run around outside with your friends, the time to play frisbee with your father, a nice picnic with your family. We can save the big trips for a special occasion.”
They nod, letting it sink in.
“So no boating?” my daughter asks.
“And no batting cages?” my son whimpers.
For a moment, I think they get it.
Then my son pipes up. “Can there at least be sushi at this picnic?” he asks hopefully.
Okay, not yet.
But maybe a game of frisbee will convince them.