Brother’s scoop of ice cream is bigger than hers. Sister’s bedtime is later than his. She got a sleepover, but he didn’t. He saw the movie that she wanted to see. Her chore is more difficult. He took most of the mac n’ cheese. She got more computer time. He got to pick the TV show.
“IT’S. NOT. FAIR!”
All day long, my kids want me to pick sides and balance the sibling scales. After a long day of rivalry, my insightful 9-year-old broadcasted from the backseat in his best announcer voice: “Welcome to the Fairness Game! Hosted by everyone’s favorite celebrity: MOM. Today’s contestants are Brother and Sister.”
As much as it irritates me to hear them fight and compare and whine about why life isn’t fair, I’m honestly just happy to have them back with me for a couple weeks. Sharing my big kids with their dad back in Houston for half the summer is one of my least favorite things to talk about. Not only are they away from their siblings, step-dad, and myself, who miss them terribly, but they are also away from their friends for weeks at a time. My 12-year-old and 9-year-old long for endless summer days with their friends, going swimming, riding bikes and scooters, and staying up late at slumber parties. But my kids miss so much of that. Their friends are having that fun together… without them. And then, I am actually the one screaming in my head, “It’s just not fair!”
It’s not fair that they were put in this position of summer-splitting. It’s not fair that they are gone for long periods of time and have to miss out on birthday parties and lake trips. It’s not fair that by the time they finally transition from being at Dad’s to being back at Mom’s, they have to pack up and leave again. And the worst part of it is realizing that the referee and hostess of “The Fairness Game” (that’s me) is one of the reasons my kids are in this unfair position.
Mommy guilt is a real thing. It’s so tangible that you can feel it in your throat, choking and gagging you. It’s so overwhelming that it can move even the most stoic personality to uncontrollable weeping. It’s such a strong force that it can cause you to push chores, responsibilities, and bedtimes to the wayside, so that your time together feels the way summer should: fun, carefree, memorable, and endless.
Parenting through these emotional ups and downs has been extremely challenging, but all I can hope for is that the scale tips more toward good times than bad. My wish is that the kids will look back at their summers and remember beautiful experiences and togetherness, rather than somber hand-offs, difficult transitions, and missing out. With that hope in mind, we’ve been checking off some of our summer bucket list, and here are a few faves that we recommend.
The Lakeway Swim Center: It’s a great swim center for kids of all ages, with big and small waterslides, a basketball hoop, floating leap pads, and a zero-entry shallow area. You can bring in food and drinks, but there’s also a small café with kid-friendly options. The pool has an entry fee for 3+.
McKenna Children’s Museum (New Braunfels): This is more of an indoor play area than a museum, in my opinion, but it’s so much fun and definitely more affordable and does provide hands-on learning opportunities. The kids can grocery shop, build with large blocks, play in home centers, pretend to be NICU doctors, play in water tables, and climb on a shaded outdoor playscape. I’d choose this option over going to an inflatable place or trampoline park any day. (Check Groupon before you go; there are occasionally offers available.)
Community Pizza and Beer Garden (Wimberley): This place has yummy pizza, great craft beer selection, and a super fun play area for kids, plus it’s close to the cute Wimberley town square and down the road from Blue Hole (make reservations online to swim), so you can make a day out of it. This restaurant is small, so at peak times, you may have to wait a while for a table and for service, but you can grab a drink and kids can play in the shade. Just allow plenty of time.
McKinney Falls State Park (Austin): This one has it all… cliff diving, “cave” swimming, climbing, river access, hike and bike trails, water falls, and a discovery center (closed temporarily for renovations). Bring your floats/tubes, wear water shoes, and only let strong swimmers swim independently. This park is not really stroller-friendly, and the Upper Falls swimming hole requires some climbing and traversing to get to.
Route 12 Filling Station (Dripping Springs): A restaurant with a splash pad? Yes, please! It also has a small playground, indoor and outdoor seating, a full bar, really good food, and friendly service. It’s just down the road from Treaty Oak, so you can visit two family-friendly hot spots in one evening.
Nature and Science Center (Austin): FREE center with hands-on discovery rooms, wading in the creek, digging for dino fossils, nature trails, and small animal exhibits.
Legoland (San Antonio): My kids had never been to any Legoland property before, so we had zero expectations. And we had a BLAST! You can get a FREE child’s ticket for each adult ticket purchased at http://www.legoland.com/honestkids. (Adult tickets are $22). Be sure to factor into your budget the cost of parking. Legoland is in the Marriott River Center mall, and the parking garage is the most convenient place to park, but it’s pricey ($20 for 5 hours). All attractions are included with admission (4D theater has 3 different movies; two rides that littles over 36” are allowed on; creativity room with lessons every half hour on a building project; and all the climbing and building areas). Most attractions are all in one big room, so it can be hard to keep track of multiple kids with their own interests. There is a cafe ($8 kids meals, $11 adult meals), but we brought in food. I’m not sure if that was allowed but no one checked my bag or said anything. Kids MUST have socks for the climbing area.(If you forget, the cafe sells socks for $1). We were awestruck by the details and little surprises in the LEGO Miniland model of San Antonio, but it made us want to check out ALL of the San Antonio attractions that we admired. So, I recommend allowing a few extra hours in your visit. The Alamo and Riverwalk are close walking distance.
I hope you’re having a great summer and checking off your own list in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. As you do so and especially if you find something really fun that you think other families would love, please use the hashtag #drippingwithkids. If you want to see more of what’s going on in the area, follow me on Instagram at dripping_with_kids and/or on Facebook @drippingwithkidsblog.
Thank you for reading!