Last Monday I went to the grocery store, as I always do, to stock up on food for the week. By noon Tuesday, most of what I had bought was gone. It is officially summer. If you need me, I will be either restocking the pantry or drying pool towels. If I’m unlucky, I might have a spare moment to respond to one of the 400 times the boys say “I’m bored” or “I’m hungry.”
I tried to return the kids to their teachers. “I’ll be back at 3 to pick them up,” I said when I went to the school on the first full day of summer break to drop off a gift. Ford’s third-grade teacher just smiled and laughed. She thought I was joking.
Of course, I enjoy the new, leisurely mornings. My older boys can (and will) eventually feed themselves if I haven’t woken up by 7 a.m. (they call this “sleeping in”). My youngest son isn’t so understanding, but I usually can coax him into snuggling in my bed. His only request is that I let him sing the Scooby-Doo theme song (or, rather, the two lines he knows from it) over and over, on a continuous loop. This isn’t so difficult when I’m fast asleep, my head shoved under the covers, and having an inordinate amount of dreams about Scooby lately.
Speaking of Scooby, during the school year I was mostly successful in hiding Lindell’s habit of acting like a dog from his older, cooler brothers. They didn’t realize the extent to which Lindell’s friend Preston walks him on a pretend leash. They didn’t know that Lindell actually would fetch a soft, stuffed ball on his hands and knees and bring it back in his mouth. Ford looked stunned the first day that Lindell said, “You be the owner and I’ll be the dog,” then got down on his hands and knees and panted. Owen smiled at the obvious opportunities. “Go fetch my Darth Vader toy,” he told Lindell. And then, “OK, puppy, now lay down and go to sleep.”
Why didn’t I try this tactic at 6 in the morning?
My biggest complaint about summer is the endless snacking. For a period of time on Tuesday, the door on the pantry and the door leading to the front porch slammed so frequently it began to sound like music. Bang, smack, bang. When I dared to get up from my computer (I’m not on summer break, by the way) and venture into the kitchen, I found a trash can full of empty wrappers and chewed-up bubble gum. I opened the pantry. It had been raided.
The next time I heard the front door slam, I yelled, “I hope you’re not coming in for snacks.” A moment later, the back door slammed. I poked my head out the window and said, “Don’t bother coming in for food; you’ve eaten all of it.” No one heard me. There was a pile of boys in the backyard wrestling for the Super Soaker water gun.
I went upstairs to fold laundry. The front door slammed again, followed by what sounded like a herd of cattle making its way to the pantry.
“No more snacks,” I yelled downstairs.
The back door slammed.
When I went back into the kitchen, I knew they had smuggled more food out of the house. Apparently they weren’t listening to me. So I decided to write a note instead. I found a pad of sticky paper, grabbed a Sharpie pen, and began to write.
“Only three snacks a day!”
“Stop and think before you grab. Have you just eaten?”
“Once this food is gone, I’m not getting more until next Monday.”
“Stop slamming the front door!”
“Did I mention that you’ve already eaten all the food in the pantry? STOP!”
I placed the notes in strategic locations: on the box of Nilla wafers, beside the front door, on the television screen, inside the fridge. When I went back upstairs to finish the laundry, I smiled at my own cleverness.
A few minutes later, the front door slammed. Their giggling and stomping stopped. They were reading. “Huh, what’s this mean?” one of them said. “Only three snacks a day?”
When Dustin came home from work, Owen looked scared as he told him, “There are notes everywhere, Dad. She’s put them everywhere.”
The next day, the boys didn’t stop talking about food. “Can we have our first snack now, Mom?” “Does an apple count as a snack?”
“Stop talking to me about food!” I screamed. “All you have talked about today is food. Can’t you think about anything else?”
Ford and Owen looked sideways at each other. Then Ford said, “It’s kind of hard not to think about food when there are notes all over the place — in the pantry, on the fridge, on the wall.”
He had a point. Still, I stomped up the stairs for some alone time. Down below, I heard Owen say, “So does this mean we can have our second snack now?”
Lindell barked, “Res, Raggy.”
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at email@example.com.