Communications Breakdown

When Vince and Connie skittered off to day camp yesterday, summer was officially underway at the home of the Parent Imperfect. For the previous two weeks, V & C had been at home, de-compressing after the long school year. The first of those weeks, the PI was off in Mexico, where the earthquake that shook him awake at two-thirty one morning was much more compelling than any of the work on regional migration. Most compelling for Liz was the fact that she was, again, parenting alone through the school-to-summer transition, which is always a busy time for her at work.

For week two, the PI was home with his charges, discovering that Vince is definitely no longer the good-natured young boy who is perfectly content to have his father plan his life for him. Having lost his cell phone on a trip to Canobie Lake Park on the last day of school, Vince is in something of a communications breakdown. The absence of the phone has highlighted just how much he relies on those private text tweets, perhaps precisely because they are so unintelligible to anyone over 35. Being out of touch means that he is desperate to stay home to be available just in case someone wants to get in touch with him by more traditional means. This has made him less amenable to his father’s plans for “family outings,” resulting in hard conversations verging on pitched battles. They did take a trip to a nearby lake (with friends of each child) to survive one 98-degree day, and saw a film to escape the heat of another. But the PI’s plans for early morning hiking and biking were soundly rejected, and nothing resembling academic workouts occurred at any point in the week.

It was, then, with some relief that the PI left Connie at her theater camp and Vince bouncing a basketball for the week. Never really planning the summer in any coherent way, the PI made a number of separate decisions that left Vince in camps for the next six weeks, over half it of them of the sleep-away variety. Perhaps that was his subconscious means of avoiding the struggles over what to do if he stayed home. Day One finished quite contently, but check back about Day Forty-One.

The nation’s oldest public school has charged V with reading and reporting on five books over the summer. He’s already finished Gathering Blue, but it’s hard to see how his schedule will allow him to read five books, let alone brush up on the Latin or Math work that gave him the most trouble this past year.

In a spasm of regret, the PI last night threw out the idea of just not going to one of the camps, and swallowing the financial consequences, which would be serious. Vince tried to be mature about it but he clearly didn’t like the idea. Liz was less diplomatic, saying that it was a little late for rationality to creep into the discussion.

And so Vince will spend the next month and a half bouncing from basketball to soccer to rock climbing to the beach. Life could be worse. These are all things he loves to do and it will certainly give him a chance to develop some independence. That may serve him well when the school bell rings again, but it may not provide the kind of break that he really needs this summer.

Connie will be slightly less disjointed over the summer. She will spend three weeks immersed in preparations for the staging of Thoroughly Modern Millie. While her father was obsessing over Vince’s camp schedule last night, her main concern was that the living room doesn’t give her enough space to practice her dance number. After Millie, she’ll have a week off before going off to her own two-week, sleep-away experience. The Harry Potter series has captured her reading fancy, and she’ll spend many summer hours transported into the world of Hermione. For the first time in her life, she won’t be spending that much time with her brother over the next six weeks. The PI can’t wait to see what comes of that.


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