Our Summer Mantra: “Is It Worse Than Cholera?”

“They just don’t know how good they really have it.”

That was the consensus among my friends at the pool the other day, as we waded in the shallow end, keeping an eye on our swimming children while chatting. The conversation was one that happens between parents who have hit the wall when it comes to surviving June, July, and August…and whose children may or may not have just made the comment that swimming at the neighborhood pool was boring because it doesn’t have a slide.

We have come to that point in the summer when things start to wear. The novelty of being out of school is over. We’ve already taken our vacation. A moratorium was called on scheduling camps and activities every week when both the family minivan and wallet each made motions that they also get a summer respite. And with me working from home more hours than before, well, things have been a little slow for the children around our house.

When things are slow, my kids seem to fill their free time with finding things to complain about. Like pools with no slides. Really?

Articles about giving your kids a “70’s Summer” are everywhere, encouraging parents to promote more laid back days filled with unstructured play, television, friends, and apparently, Tang.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that sounds fabulous. I mean, that’s pretty much the way I spent all of my childhood summers (except for the Tang. I lived on Hi-C Ecto Cooler, because I was an 80’s kid). And it has pretty much been my general modus operandi as a parent as well (even before it was trendy). But let’s face it, trying to convince my children of how cushy their lives are by starting a sentence with, “When I was a kid…” is futile. Because things were awesome when I was a kid…and still quite cushy.

No, I needed to really drive home the “first-world-problem-ness” of their first world problems if I was going to make it to the start of a new school year with any shred of sanity. Something that would shut down their whining about Disney Channel never running new episodes of their shows, or that I don’t run to the store to immediately restock the bag of chips they just finished a day after I bought them.

Then the heavens opened, and God gave me one of those winks like, “I get it. My son complains every time I ask him to die for the redemption for humanity. Kids are selfish a-holes sometimes.”

I was discussing one of my daughter’s summer reading books with her, and the answer became clear (as did another reason why I wholeheartedly support mandatory summer reading assignments for students). My saving grace came in a book titled, The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, The Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson.

“Mom, did you know there was this thing called cholera and it killed like everyone? Even babies. Even kids.”


“I know. We are sure lucky to live in a time with things like vaccinations, good health care, and better sanitation. It’s crazy that kids like you had to worry about dying. It kind of makes being asked to put away your laundry seem like not such a big deal, huh?”

“Yeah, definitely.”

“By the way…go put away your laundry.”

And just like that, our summer mantra was born: Is it worse than cholera?  tweet-button(1)blogcholera

I don’t want to go outside and play. It’s too hot…Is it worse than cholera?

Grilled fish again?…Is it worse than cholera?  

I don’t want to stay at the pool. None of my friends are here. And I don’t care that yours are, and you just poured yourself a nice little cocktail…Is it worse than cholera?

There’s a fly on my hot dog, the sun is too bright, and I’m getting mosquito bites everywhere…Is it worse than cholera?

“She broke my Lego car.”/ “He ate my brownie.”/ “She won’t play what I want.”/ “He keeps burping in my face.”…Is it worse than cholera?

What do you mean we’re just staying home today?…Is it worse than cholera?

The beauty of this mantra is that whatever they are complaining about is NEVER WORSE THAN CHOLERA. Ever. These five little words may not really convince my kids to appreciate how good they have it as much as I would like. But at least I don’t have to hear them complaining further about all the things they shouldn’t be taking for granted.

And THAT is enough to make me hopeful I will indeed survive the summer…and not die of cholera.

This post is featured on the TODAY Parenting Team Best Summer Ever Challenge. Please go vote for it HERE! Thanks 🙂


Check out my newest free printable coloring page for the kids! It’s called Summer Sprinkler Fun, and the idea came from sisters Ella, age 7, and Callie, age 5. They were the winners of my Summer Coloring Page Contest! Get your copy HERE.

free summer coloring page


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18 thoughts on “Our Summer Mantra: “Is It Worse Than Cholera?”

  1. I have to read that book to my kids! Was it you that wrote that one of your friends said a good way to teach kids about scarcity is to purposely run out of one thing each week (bread, milk, cereal, etc.)? I can’t remember but it’s great advice. We could use some perspective around here and if I’m honest, I’ve become just as much of a complainer as my kids this summer. I decided when I woke up this morning that my new mantra would be, “Just roll with it.” Now it’ll be, “Just roll with it. It’s not as bad as cholera.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was not me, but I love it! And since my kids are always saying we have nothing to eat, I guess I’m doing a good job teaching them about scarcity. And my daughter liked the book. She said it was slow at the beginning, but then she got into it. I didn’t get a chance to read it because someone else requested it at the library while we had it, so we couldn’t renew it. So you’ll have to go off a 10-year-old’s recommendation (and I guess also a 5th grade teacher’s recommendation, since that’s who put it on her summer reading list to begin with)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. YUP. I might start using this. I almost always catch myself when I mentally complain about something ridiculous and think, “Yeah, but Louis Zamperini survived all that stuff in Unbroken.” I think this is shorter and funnier. I’m definitely using this starting today! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember when you wrote about that! He is a bad ass…but yeah, this is shorter. “Zamperini” is fun to say though. But I can TOTALLY see you using this. It has a certain “Anna” quality to it. You must be rubbing off on me!


  3. HILARIOUS! And BRILLIANT! Voted and Shared on Twitter. Can’t tell you how much I love this, Kelly. Now to go find a great book for my kids to read that involves lots of child suffering…


    1. You are awesome!!!!! Thank you so much. You made my day! Someone should make a list of books parents can use to teach their kids how good they have it 🙂 We can call it “The World’s Most Depressing List of Books That Will Convince Your Kids There Is Nothing Depressing About Their Lives”


        1. Would love that! I actually just wrote my first collaborative piece with another Blogger/Friend and we had such a great time. It’s totally inappropriate even for me:)


  4. Oh my gosh! Yes. We’ve also reached *that point* of the summer. Our book was I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912, by Lauren Tarshis, possibly inspired by her own kids’ lack of appreciation for cushy circumstances. Although it’s a historical fiction account of SURVIVORS, Tarshis doesn’t sugar coat that plenty didn’t and describes quite the scene of the main characters waving to the peeps going down with the ship. So of course I snatched it right up. “You don’t like hanging up your swimsuits and towels or clearing the dinner table? Bet those folks on the Titanic would have given anything for another day to clean up…” Yeah, I’m ruthless like that. My mantra is more or less “Titanic!” with a little side-eye… I think I’ll go ahead and reserve the cholera book for Christmas break. GREAT POST! Just a few more weeks! We can do it!


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