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Broken by Spring Break

Must-Have Parent

It's spring break as I write this.

Doesn't that sound nice? Those words -- "spring" and "break" -- they're both great words.

Those words conjure images of frolicking and lolling about in the sun, of pasty white skin warming and browning after a winter spent indoors. "Spring Break" sounds like hammocks and picnics and late afternoon naps.

Aside from the allergies -- and the ridiculously late snowstorms this year for those north of the Mason-Dixon Line -- who doesn't love "spring"?

And "break"? Who doesn't love a break? That word just sounds awesome.

That is, unless you are a Must-Have Parent, particularly one who works from home in a job that doesn't care that it's "spring" and doesn't allow for a "break."

After 10 days of non-stop children (5 school days and two weekends), I think spring break has broken me.

But it all sounded great a few weeks ago.

"Two more days until spring break," we cheered, dragging ourselves to the bus stop and dreaming of sleeping in.

We gushed as we planned for how we'd spend that time, the fun we would have, the projects we would do. We would both accomplish everything, and catch up on much-needed rest.

It would be glorious. 

And then reality set in. Spring break, or any other school vacation, is basically about as enjoyable as a natural disaster for a Must-Have Parent. But it's more like a hurricane than an earthquake or a tornado, because we know it's coming -- and we're still powerless to stop it.

Instead of lolling about in the sun and lazy afternoon picnics, what spring break really means for me is having three little faces in my face all day, whining about being bored. And how could anyone be bored after all the work they put in destroying the house?

What spring break really means is that my house gets broken.

Spring cleaning, logically, must follow spring break because I'll need some time to assess the damages.

Dishes are broken. The trampoline is broken. Two dining chairs and a dog bowl -- broken.

But most of all, my nerves are -- that's right -- broken.

We started off strong. We always do. I loaded up on sticker foam and paint by numbers sets. I bought science kits, and the oldest child even got a brand new bike. We (and by "we," I really mean "they") would spend days crafting and playing outside.

The youngest had a full drawer of Anna and Elsa underwear because, gosh darnit, I was convinced she'd be potty trained by the end of the week. After all, we had a whole week.

But by the end of day two, we'd already gone through all the craft projects. Goggly-Eyed foam animals were displayed on every flat surface. Canvases and easels were propped up in the corners. It was like an elementary school art studio had opened overnight in my living room, and the masterpieces, like Gremlins, kept appearing in previously undecorated crannies. Someone must have gotten them wet after midnight.

Outside play happened, sure, but I worried that the neighbors would hear all the screaming and yelling and think that my (obviously shattered) nerves had gotten the best of me, so I kept calling the kids back inside. 

See, the thing is, I never stood a chance.

These kids approached me with a strategy. Years of living in a military house, during an unconventional war, apparently paid off for them. They had absorbed the major concepts of forming an insurgency and applied those skills. That, or they're just natural-born usurpers.

Whatever the case, by day three I'd lost control of the cabinet of extra birthday gifts, the bikes, scooters and skateboards had flattened my beds of newly budding flowers. I knew (and despised) the names of all of Barbie's Dreamhouse friends and I'd launched a personal fatwa against Minecraft Steve.

But all is not lost, and not only because everyone is heading back to school in a few days.

I don't think it's an accident that savvy summer camps send out their mailers in late March and early April. Fear is a powerful motivator. If it took only one week to break me, I don't want to know what three months will do.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Military Parenting

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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