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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Occupy the Kids: a Summer Survival Guide for the Uninvolved Parent

Photo by Geoff

I am a hearty believer in the value of self-entertainment. A raging introvert, I love my own company and can amuse myself devoid of other human interaction for days or weeks. Probably even longer, but R&D on that usually fails because of the need to do stuff like respond to my family members’ words and return CPS phone calls and buy things I can’t procure via Amazon Prime.
That Hubby has a full-time job and the kiddos attend public school are simple facts of awesomeness when it comes to enabling a surfeit of Me-Time.
The months of June-August, however, prove a serious challenge to my personal space.
But having survived multiple summers with multiple children I feel I have amassed some wisdom. I’ve developed some strategies and policies and tactics for keeping the kiddos out of my hair engaged in creative play that I’d like to share in the hopes that as more people get on board with my manifesto of laziness child empowerment, I will be viewed as a sagacious trend-setter rather than as that mom, who’s so engrossed in her novel she doesn’t notice her kid drowning in the deep end of the pool. I may one day even put out a bestselling book on effective strategies for avoiding parenting.
So, here they are: five easy ways to rebuff your children’s attempts to interact with you this summer.
* * *
Task One Child With Spying on Another
There is nothing one sibling desires more dearly and viscerally than to destroy the life of another sibling. Tell the one that’s pestering you that you’re positive his brother/sister got a pound bag of Tootsie Rolls in the mail from Grandma, but you’ve been unable to catch him/her eating them. Caution the spy to conduct surveillance in the most clandestine manner possible, so that future missions will not be compromised because the targeted sibling suspects s/he has been ratted out. And tell your secret agent that if he finds the bag of candy it’s all his.
This activity should keep the engaged child busy for at least a couple of hours, with minimal, if any, intervention from the parent.
Have the Children Set Up a Home Pet Spa
Rover sure could use a bath, couldn’t he? How long has it been since Lady Fluffy-Butt had her claws cut, filed and painted, and her split ends trimmed? And those gerbils haven’t been buff-puffed in a month of Sundays.
This is an outdoor activity, of course, and best done inside the confines of a sturdy fence. Unless you’re sick of feeding and housing pets, in which case just kick the whole lot of them out into the yard or parking lot and hope for the best. (Or the worst.)
You’ll probably have to help the kids collect all the stuff they’ll need: a large bucket or kiddy pool, some (dull, blunt-ended, so PETA doesn’t come after you) scissors, old toothbrushes, bars of soap, nail clippers, foot powder, hair ribbons, etc. But once the Pet Spa is under way you can go back inside and lock the doors.
Oh, and call the neighbors to let them know to bring over their menageries, too.
Organize a Scavenger Hunt
This one can be either an indoor or outdoor activity. And, if your kids are like mine, they’ll do just about anything for money. Exploit this.
Hand each child a list of things to find, and sweeten the pot by telling them that whoever collects all of the items first will be awarded $[whatever amount of money will generate relentless pursuit of success]. Here are some ideas for your search list:
a purple paperclip
a green toy car
three hot-pink ponytail bands
six four-leaf clovers or three five-leaf clovers
an unused Atomic Tangerine-colored Crayola in its original paper
a silver-tipped Himalayan Edelweiss, with root ball
an un-canceled postage stamp of the Shah of Iran, circa 1972
the Shroud of Turin
the lost ring of Sauron
Host Kid Olympics (or Thunderdome Reimagined)
Pull out all the athletic equipment you can find: bikes, trikes, jump-ropes, soccer balls, croquet mallets, javelins, nunchuks, crossbows, etc. Tell each child he must design a new type of Olympic event utilizing at least three different items of equipment. Have the children run their competitions outdoors or in a sturdy rec room, developing their own standards for self-judging and peer-judging. It will end in tears and screaming and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and probably a trip to the E.R, but you’re likely to get at least an hour and a half of solitude before the smack-downs really get underway.
Score extra points with the neighbors by inviting their kids to participate, too. Get hold-harmless agreements signed up front.
Arrange an Adorable Urchin Yard Sale of Sadness
Put out a table in front of your house or apartment complex and seat your children on chairs behind it. Dump on the table every toy you’ve confiscated from the kiddos because they were fighting over it, or playing with it instead of doing their chores, or utilizing it in an unsafe and/or unacceptable manner (e.g., “helping” a sibling shed a loose—or an unloose—tooth with the business end of a lightsaber). Write “YARD SALE: MAKE ME AN OFFER” on a large piece of poster board and tape it to the front of the table.
You need not even price the items. Neighbors and passersby will feel so sorry for your weeping children they will pay reasonable amounts to take off your hands things you don’t want your cherubs to have anyway. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Well, except maybe the kids.
* * *
So there you have it! Feel free to use these activities to free up your time this summer. Maybe these ideas will even springboard you to some awesome responses of your own when you hear the dreaded words, “Mom, I’m bored!”
And not to pat myself on the back, but I didn’t even grow up with near-aged siblings through whom I learned this stuff. I guess I’m just a prodigy when it comes to neglecting my progeny.
Have a great summer! I know I will.


  1. Where DO you come up with these ideas? And by the way, who won the Adult Coloring Book?

    1. No one's won yet! The winner will be chosen on July 7. Spread the word!