A few years ago, I wrote a post entitled “I Am Not A Summer Parent,” where I detailed why having no schedules and being the one in charge day after day was not for me. It was all true but not how I wanted to stay. I wanted to find joy in all the seasons even the one with the ability to cook an egg on my head. Like most things in parenting, it took practice. Trying things. Making mistakes like too much camp and not enough water and using other parent’s standards. But it all paid off and I finally look forward to summer. Not the heat or the leg shaving but the free time to do, or not do, things with my kids.
These are five things that helped me to get there:
- Make a list: My children and I sit down before breaks and summer to make a list of all the things we want to do. Then I, in my wonderfully compulsive nature, split things into “can do on my own,” “might be able to do with only 1 or 2 kids,” and “definitely need another adult.” Those in the last category get scheduled for weekends or my husband’s day off or I invite friends who don’t also act like children along for the ride. The rest are a free for all. This list not only make us all look forward to the summer, but it also helps on those days when I wake up and cannot be energetic or creative or fun but I know I can get us to a park or a play on our list and supervise enough that everyone comes home with two eyes.
- Get out of the house: In other words, use the list! I aim to get out of the house every other day. Yes, our home is a blast and I love here, but it’s also where I think: OMG I HAVE TO GET SO MUCH DONE AND ANOTHER KID IS MAKING A MESS. Home is also where kids think: OMG MY SIBLINGS ARE A HORRIBLE PEOPLE DOING HORRIBLE THINGS AND I HAVE TO REMAIN FOCUSED AND VIGILANT ON THEM AT ALL TIMES BECAUSE THEY ARE TRYING TO STEAL MY SOUL. Getting out of the house distracts everyone from these OMG moods and often tires us out enough to be easier on ourselves and others. We don’t need it all the time but we do need it.
- Have goals: The ubiquitousness of summer often overwhelms me. So many choices (thanks to my lists!). So many Facebook photos of braver, cooler parents. So many opportunities to suck. But when I break down my summer into pieces, it’s easy to face each day. Plus, summer can be all fun all the time or after bedtime, the mountain of dishes, laundry and bills will keep me up too late to be a good parent the next day. So each day we have small goals to reach and it has the added bonus of helping to manage our time. We have academic goals like daily reading time, household goals like everyone doing chores every day, and we can add goals for our pets or organizing or practicing piano or whatever helps our lives continue to function when most of our schedule is thrown out the window.
- Don’t over-schedule: While I love our lists and goals, I have a tendency to cling to them too hard. Last year, I scheduled two or three weekly things every Friday afternoon thinking: Fridays are like any day in the summer. NO. Fridays are still the end of camp weeks or the beginning of a weekend of traveling or maybe there’s something about a Friday afternoon that demands leisure like a Monday mornings demand grumps even if we are home. It was too much on top of too much camp. This year, I’m keeping our weekly commitments to a minimum, and when that’s not possible, I’m asking to go every other week.
- Get some alone time: Find a babysitter, good friend, family member, daycare, camp, play date or anything that let’s you have quiet. No person should be in charge of a group of wild rebels 24/7. It just leads to tyranny. Good parents take breaks or a coup may break out next.
With all this said, LET IT GO! Whether it’s a big plan to go to five new places or a promise of swimming all day long or get all the laundry done, sometimes the best thing to do is stay home and watch a movie. Don’t be afraid to miss one sunny day so everyone can stay in their pjs. You’ll always have the opportunity to melt tomorrow and you can avoid that meltdown from the kids… or yourself.