Make the Punishment Fit the Crime! Rhapsody’s Fail-Safe Formulas for Summer Fun with Kids

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Welcome back to the salon, Kittens!

Before we begin, a bit of light housekeeping: there will be no more apologizing at Rhapsody in Cool for our long absences. Blog Neglect is as normal as driving down the freeway at speed with the parking brake still on, and we should all stop acting like it isn’t.

Just think of me as your long-lost Favorite Friend in the World who goes missing for months, then shows up at your door wearing a fabulous kaftan to accept a dinner invitation you never made.

I missed you all, too. Now, on to today’s topic of SUMMER FUN with CHILDREN.

As you know, all posts at Rhapsody in Cool are deeply researched, so in preparation for today’s gathering I made a close study of exactly one website and a dated Powerpoint presentation, then fortified myself with a swim in the deep and refreshing waters of my own wisdom. What follows are all the most interesting bits of jetsam I dragged to the surface.

Also, I made us a pitcher of peach sangria. You are welcome.

I see a couple of you raising your hands to say that for full-time working parents or anyone outside the first world, a series of braying complaints about summer vacation is distasteful. We don’t want you to be upset, so please find the exit nearest you and leave the salon in an orderly fashion.

To those of you still here, allow me to freshen your sangria.

Perhaps you are parenting at home full-time or, like Rhapsody, are engaged in that piece of farcical theater called “Freelancing at Home While Your Children Are Also At Home.” The only hope for us, kittens, will be equally robust stocks of patience and beaujolais nouveau. To get through to the end of August, must stick together. Rhapsody in Cool is a community, after all— a village of people just like you and me, reclining in our chaise lounges and pondering what it all means.

It may not mean anything, my dears. This is the age of Trump and nothing is what it seems. Why, just this morning I had brunch with a Russian lawyer who told me all about it, in addition to offering me first-dibs on compromising photos of my PTO co-president.

Yet here we are, and the children must be entertained, or at least kept from committing acts of arson. So let’s top up our sangria and get started, shall we?

Tip the First

Here’s a rule that has guided school teachers and prison guards for centuries: structure is our friend! Idle hands are the devil’s playground. Unoccupied minds lead to fascist states and Instagram. The point is, you mustn’t let the hours slip into chaos. 

Each morning, I gather Brioche and Tannery around the dry erase board and illustrate the day’s plans. Then I let them comment and even contribute. I explain, gently, that we will have to make certain choices such as going to that indoor trampoline park again or paying for college, and I always give them a few minutes to think over these important decisions.

As many a child-psychiatrist will tell you (for $190/hr) and Rhapsody will confirm (for free!) you can’t raise children of independent spirit if you don’t let them flex their free will at bit in the home. So the next time you are tempted to lower the boom of parental authority and pick a playground that meets your needs for proximity instead of the waterpark just over the New Hampshire border that they prefer, remember that these are the same people who’ll decide if you get a 1-bedroom suite with views at the nursing home or a triple with no night-nurse.

Tip the Next

While many guides to summer vacations keep activities and disciplinary action in distinct categories, Rhapsody sees no need for such division and, indeed, has found great opportunities for enrichment in a method we like to call “Make the punishment fit the crime!” (patent pending).

Example: Brioche finds it diverting to take every bar of soap she encounters in our house and get it nice and squidgy with water so she can mash it into shapes and carve it like a soap-totem with her fingernails. This project leaves the sink full of gummy pieces of drain-clogging soap and tends to send Rhapsody into a frightening rage spiral.

But not anymore! With “Make the Punishment Fit the Crime!” the solution is straightforward, practical and bracing for everyone. I simply hand Brioche a fresh bar of soap and a dull knife and tell her she cannot re-enter the house until she has whittled me a museum-quality animal out of that soap. This morning, after finding the bathroom sink choked with soap slime, I made her— I mean, let her— carve me a spoon-billed sandpiper! I expect she may be finished by nightfall.

Yet another opportunity presented itself when Tannery gorged himself on Screen Time no matter how many times I told him that eight hours a day was more than enough.

Did I banish him from screens? No, friends, I Made the Punishment Fit the Crime and DVR’d 24 hours of PBS’s delightful travelogue, “Rick Steve’s Europe.” Then I forced– uh, invited— Tannery to watch until he could share with me every single one of Rick’s smarmy tips about traveling down the Danube while wearing a fanny pack.

See? Learning and fun do go together!

Tip the Penultimate

Always Beware the Ladies of Pinterest and their Summer Fun ideas.

Rhapsody has covered this subject in depth before, so we will not linger on the topic except to say that one must be especially cautious with those peddling “traditional” or “simple” crafts, such as making dolls out of corn husks or birdhouses from popsicle sticks.

Rhapsody fell prey to the former of these lunatic schemes and while Brioche and Tannery did enjoy spreading Elmer’s Glue around the kitchen, the only thing they really learned, as they watched their mother try to complete their abandoned birdhouse, were fresh combinations of curse words. And the birds? Those little bastards got jack shit out of it.

In summary, we should all remember that the only truly authentic summer pastime for children is back-breaking field work. Enough said.

Tip the Last

Never let the minions get you down, my friends. They’re kids. They don’t know what they want. All they really know is that It’s Your Fault, whether that’s the failure of the sun to shine on their Slip-and-Slide or the fact that little Timmy down the street us unavailable to play with them and their crappy toys because he’s at Paris Disney again.

To a child, summer is an eternity and while that seemed magical on the last day of school, it’s also kind of bewildering to float in a sea of time so vast it seems to have no beginning and no end. Rhapsody remembers offering her mother speeches about her summer boredom that were as passionate as any testimony offered in The Hague. She was so serious. So wronged. So… spoiled bratish.

But I got the perfect punishment for that crime the first time Brioche flung herself onto her bed and sang, mezzo-soprano, “I’m soooooooooooooo bbooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrred!”

Time has a nice way of fixing all our wagons, doesn’t it?

Well, I think that’s enough for today, and I see the sangria pitcher is drained. I wish you good luck and good humor for the remainder of the summer. By all means post your tips, complaints and legal opinions in the comment section below.

And I won’t, despite my modesty, be the least bit offended if you re-post  this thing all over the wide plains of the internet. Go right ahead, pets.




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