A DeadBeat Mom's Tips for Surviving Summer: Tip #1 Tattle Tax

In New York, our summer weather lasts for five whole entire minutes. And not, like, five minutes in a row or anything. What I mean is that from May until September there will be five perfect minutes dispersed willy nilly throughout the months. Half of those precious, sunshiny minutes will take place while you are in the waiting room at the orthodontist. The other half of the minutes will appear, without warning, sandwiched in between hail and an inexplicable windpocalypse. And this half of the minutes are magical. Like a unicorn.

Because of the severe lack of awesome weather here, it feels like a crime against humanity that our kids go to school until nearly the end of June. This year, they missed ⅓ of the nice weather minutes because they were still in school. And it wasn't like they were even being educated at this point… they were just barely contained because everyone under the age of 100 goes absolutely bananas when there is finally nice weather. So, the kids are learning nothing but Flag Day songs, while the NWM (nice weather minutes) are just evaporating into the atmosphere - to be immediately replaced by 99.75% humidity.

By early June, I start seeing pictures on Facebook of kids’ last day of school. By mid-June, people are camping and hosting neighbors for bonfires. By the end of June, everyone else is enjoying the “staycation” portion of summer. But oh no, not here in New York. Here, at the end of June, we still got field day so…

But here I am now, four weeks (and 4.5 NWM) into the shortest summer vacation in America, and I am wondering how on earth I will make it to September. I don’t know about everyone else, but summer days are longggggg when you’re home with five kids (and it won’t stop raining.) Now, don’t get me wrong here. I love my precious angel babies, and by the time school ends I am equal parts excited, relieved, and terrified. It’s “a different kind of busy!” than the school year, I cheerfully tell people at the grocery store as a gaggle of children follow behind me, just wanting gum so bad.

And it’s true, it’s definitely a different kind of busy. It’s the kind of busy that makes me hide in the basement for three minutes and forty eight seconds, so I can just watch one America’s Got Talent audition video on youtube. Because, those auditions are life. Those auditions make me weep, and then believe in myself. And I am inspired to go on.

And in the spirit of going on, I will be doing a mini-series of blogs about how to survive the remainder of the summer. If you only read one tip, this is the one to read, because it will not only change your summer with your children… but it will change your whole life.

You will want to make out with my husband after you read this, because he is responsible for the brilliance that IS... Tip #1. You may not make out with him - you homewrecker - but I can understand why you’d be tempted, because this tip for summer survival is the single reason that my children are still allowed to live in my house. Without further ado, I offer you…

TIP #1:  Immediately institute the TATTLE TAX.

As citizens of our home, the children have certain inalienable rights. Not many, but, whatevs… everyone’s eating, alright? Our citizens also have certain responsibilities. These vary depending on the child’s age, ability, special skill set and whether or not I am spazzing about company coming. And then there are the privileges. These can be earned or lost depending solely on my mood and how many times that day I have been asked for gum. Beyond the rights, responsibilities and privileges, we also offer our citizens certain services.

Enter: taxes.

As benevolent dictators, one service that we will provide the citizens of our home is that of conflict mediation. If our citizens cannot or will not independently resolve a conflict, and we receive an “incident report” (formerly known as tattling), we happily provide the service of mediation… as long as both parties have paid their taxes. For the reasonable tariff (one completed chore) we will provide our citizens with the invaluable service of conflict management. The plaintiffs must complete the chore TOGETHER and to my satisfaction and once the tax has been collected, conflict resolution will be promptly executed.

Guess what my kids don’t do anymore?

That’s right. Tattle.

You know what they do now? They talk it through like the angelic creatures I taught them to be. Or they stuff their feelings and move on. I honestly don’t care which it is. Because all I know is that I have gotten hours of my life back, and my kids are learning the valuable lesson of letting go of an offense instead of always getting their mother involved. Do you know how much better they will be at life because they are learning to solve and/or avoid their problems? So much better.

I will say that I have, on occasion, allowed tax exemptions for extenuating circumstances. If someone comes for help because they or another child is in danger? Tax break. If an older (trusted) child is appropriately coaching a younger citizen, and the younger party is still, I don’t know, let’s say… licking the window like a feral cat, backup will be provided and read my lips, no. new. taxes.

But apart from these unusual scenarios, tattling is virtually a thing of the past. In it’s place is the very lucrative business of tax collecting. And - all kidding aside - my kids really are learning the valuable lessons essential for the success of all human relationships: Which offenses are worth sorting out? Which issues must be accepted vs. hashed out? Is it more important to win an argument or to come to a compromise? How do we deal with irrational people? How do we speak up for ourselves and/or negotiate? How to listen and forgive and repair relationships.

And, most importantly, how to make vacuuming a two man job.