As school ends and summer gently drops its bags inside our front door for a good long stay, I picture myself sitting on our back patio sipping a cool drink, writing in my planner, reading a great book or paging through the my most recent Good Housekeeping magazine. This relaxing would happen while my children are happily entertaining themselves with something educational or productive after making their beds and cleaning up after breakfast. We would rest, play, and I would still accomplish the daily list that I had when they were in school all day.
Why do I picture that which never occurs?
In reality, the transition from school to summer feels more like being dunked into a basin of shockingly cold water. One week our three teen-aged children are gone for 8 eight hours a day, busy with tests and school and end of year activities, and the next week they are sleeping until ten…ish, and then needing forty-two rides around town, and eating all the food in the house. It’s normal, and I am happy to stock up on extra food and increase my gas budget, it just happens so suddenly and every year it throws me for a loop.
Now that I have walked through 13 summer transitions (starting when our oldest was in Kindergarten), I have learned some things. Things that I would like to share for those of you who are starting to feel a little panicky right about this time. These “things” are not magic, you will still feel like you are dunked, but the water won’t be so shockingly cold:
RELAX for the first two weeks. On everything. On schedules, on eating, on how everyone should be getting along, on expectations. Throw them all out the window. I used to, in my panicky state, structure much of our kids’ lives from the first day of break–bible studies, chore charts, even asking them to set their alarm so they didn’t sleep the day away (I know, not fun mom). I was just terrified of NO STRUCTURE. If I kept my kids busy, they wouldn’t be bored or argue or completely shrink their brains with screens–all things I feared. But I noticed after a couple years of this that it made everything worse. They fought more, they were stressed with my expectations and I was just plain frustrated.
So one year I decided to not to have any structure for the first two weeks. Let them sleep, be totally unproductive, and watch TV longer than I preferred. And they were okay! In fact, they worked out their sibling issues with in a week or so, they got bored watching TV and started getting outside and being creative, and they slept–and that is so good for their growth and development. So give it two weeks and see what happens.
LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES I listened to an audio recently of Gary Smalley and his wife being interviewed about how they managed their family summer. They shared how each family member should find both REST and LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES in their summer structure. Sometime in those first two weeks, sit down as a family and ask each person what their ideal summer would entail. What would make each person excited? More sleeping? A great vacation? Time with friends? Reading a novel or two? Try to honor everyone’s wishes within reason, and then remember when your teenage son is still sleeping at 11:00AM, that this is life giving to him.
BE INTENTIONAL Now be intentional about making your family’s hopes happen. Put them on the calendar. Make them a priority. If your husband really wants to take the family camping, honor that and find the time. If your daughter would like to learn how to do pottery, sign her up for a class. And figure out what YOU would like, and honor yourself enough to make it a reality. If in the family meeting you and your spouse valued doing something together as a family each week, then you will need to say no to certain things, and move others around to make that a priority.
SET ASIDE YOUR AGENDA–or slow it down. For me, this is the hardest part of summer. I have a design business, love to write for my blog, errands, housekeeping and exercise when I can. I am full steam ahead with these activities while the kids are in school and I find that when I forget to make the shift to kids being home I just feel frustrated that I am not getting things done.
MOMS, WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE DO LIFE IN THE SUMMER. If we want to be engaged and present with our kids, we need to rework what our days normally look like the rest of the year. For me it’s rising early to get a couple of hours of work in before the kids wake up. Then I try to be available to them and enjoy the chauffeuring and sitting at activities. I slow my workload WAY down, and if you are not able to do that, consider hiring someone to take care of your kids while you work so you can be present with them the rest of the time. I also shift my expectations of how clean my house will be–I will be vacuuming and picking up more, and that’s okay because it means there are lots of little people around enjoying their summer.
ALLOW YOUR KIDS TO BE BORED. For some reason as a mom of young children, boredom scared me to death. It meant whining and fussing and I was often tempted to never allow boredom to happen by over-scheduling our days. Yet boredom forces our kids to be creative. It causes them to engage a part of their brains that is not used when we are constantly entertaining them. Put up with the whining for however long it takes–an hour, a day? And then watch what your children begin come up with to creatively fill their time.
As a mom of a child heading off to college this fall, I know the blessing and gift of summer for our family. It is where we treasure some of our best memories, and it is also a time that has caused me stress over the years. I was truly that mom that had bible studies ordered and chore charts made and alarm clocks set. And our sweet kids tried to accomplish all the “goals” I asked of them. While some structure and contribution is so good for our kids, my hindsight perspective is that I wish I would have relaxed more, let there be more unstructured time, and investigated each family member’s desires for their summer and made sure they happened–including mine which would land me back on the patio with a Diet Pepsi and a magazine!
Summer MOM Challenge: Spend some time thinking and praying about what your summer stressors are. What is frustrating to you? What are your fears? Ask God to give you clarity and then come up with some ideas about how to change things up this summer to relieve those issues.
Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall. I will be creating a new version for each season of the year. If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these. They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse. $15, including shipping. Just click here to purchase now!