It’s Not Over Yet

Posted by mwallach on July 24, 2012 in My Kids |

Dear That’s Life,
With my oldest three children in sleep away camp, our home is quite different during the summer. I would say it is quieter, but that would be an exaggeration. I will say that the house settles down earlier in the day than it usually does, as my younger three children go to bed at reasonable hours. There are certain things, however, that largely remain the same about our summer schedules, particularly because my husband and I are still at home.

One summer tradition we all enjoy is going to Brooklyn Cyclone games. Besides loving baseball and it being a fun night, the tickets are cheap enough that if the kids fall apart during the 5th inning, we can take them home without feeling as if we have wasted a lot of money. Plus, it is a good introduction to sitting through a major league game. Even as a spectator, you need to graduate from the minors before heading to the majors. The seats are just that expensive.

Another important summer ritual is one my husband and I take very seriously. Explaining its origins is almost as important as the tradition itself. Stemming back to the first summer we sent our eldest to camp, a competition ensued between my husband and I as to who could send better and more frequent packages to camp. It started because I would not sign his name to the letters I sent our daughter in camp. “Write your own letters,” I told him. That was enough to spark his competitive nature. “So, that’s how you want to play it?” he said, a twinkle in his eye. “Game on.” And so it began.

Ever since that summer, we have competed to send the best packages to camp. It seems that no matter what I send, he wins. The contents of my packages may cost more, but his are always dubbed better by our kids. It solidifies his place as favorite parent, which is okay with me. Once they started calling his name in the middle of the night, leaving me to sleep, I knew there was a benefit to being coming in second. Regardless, our summer competition is something to which we look forward simply because of our competitive nature. And our kids are aware of the fun we have doing this, as they are the beneficiaries of our playfulness. Lucky for them, he started very early this year. Even before they left, he had hit the ground running.

One night before they left, discussion of the competition ensued. My husband assured them he had no intention of losing and promptly presented each of them with a package. In it contained personalized stationery he had made for each one, complete with pre-typed mailing labels and envelopes for their convenience. I was allowed to by the stamps. Otherwise, he had taken care of everything else already. As to be expected, the kids loved what he had done and were examining the contents of their packages. It became clear that the stakes were going to be high this summer and he was wasting no time. My eldest picked up on this very quickly and, with package in hand, leaned across the table to me and said, “You’re dead.”

Less than a week into camp, he had taken such a lead that I could barely see the back of his head. While I thought I was holding my own, I was sorely mistaken. Part of his tactic was that items were being sent individually or in small groups. Keeping in mind that things he included in packages could be as simple as giveaway items he picked up for free at trade shows, it did not matter. Anything Daddy sends is cool. And while I was proud of my first package, by the time it had reached camp, he had already sent three others. It prompted a letter from my eldest, thanking my husband for doing such a great job while imploring me to get moving. “Give me something to work with here, Mom,” she wrote. Not much of a pep talk, but good enough.

Still refusing to change my game plan, unbeknownst to each other, we were simultaneously prepping packages to be shipped the same day. “I clinch with this one,” he said, beaming. “There is nothing you can do – you are done after I send this one.” It was big talk for a guy putting only one t-shirt into an overnight envelope. “I have my own package,” I said, confident that my most recent endeavor was impressive. “Really?” he said. “What’s in yours?” I smirked and had no interest in showing my hand. “I’m not telling you,” I replied. For just a moment, I thought he was feeling intimidated, worried that I was gaining on him. Silly me, however, as he just wanted to tell me what he was sending.

With the camp Olympics beginning this week and the teams held under lock and key until announced to the campers, he had already found out what countries are children were going to be representing. Somehow, within minutes of it being announced in camp who was on what team, he was already informed. With that information, he went straight to the mall and had t-shirts for each appropriate country made for each of our children. My son, playing for China, would soon be the recipient of his own custom China t-shirt, my daughters to receive their own England shirts as well. And while his efforts were uber impressive, how he got the information was what really piqued my curiosity.

“How did you find out what teams they were on?” I asked him. It seemed he received a call from someone in camp who was aware of our package competition. In short, he has a ringer. “I want you to beat your wife!” he exclaimed, and with that, my husband sent the package to sink my efforts completely.

Rest assured, I am down but not out. I will rise again. But trust me, if my kids continue to wake him at 3:00am, I am just as happy letting him take this one to the finish line. Stupid I am not.

As Seen in The South Shore Standard July ’12

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