How I’m Learning to Enjoy My Kids Over Summer Break
Last week began our summer vacation… there was a lot of excitement building up to my kindergartener’s last day of school. We even had a little celebration the night before, complete with balloons and ice cream sandwich cookies. “This is going to be awesome!” I thought as I cleaned up the kitchen that night and thought about all the fun we were going to have this summer.
The last school day came & went in a flash and I woke up the following morning with the kids staring at me like “Okay, Mom, what’s the plan?!” Oh boy….this may not be as easy as I thought it would be. By the end of that first day of summer vacation my husband came home from work to find me on the opposite side of the yard as the kids, having heart palpitations and considering going back to work full-time. Okay, okay, I probably wasn’t really having heart palpitations, but I was definitely frazzled. After a long hug and some reassurance from my husband he took the boys and I stepped away for a bit to think, breathe and mentally come up with a plan.
I knew that I had to be intentional this summer. I had to see it as an opportunity for growth and a chance to pour into my kids and simply enjoy them, without a lot of expectations. I had to accept the messiness that was going to occur with having three little boys home everyday and embrace that there is going to be a lot of water, stickiness and maybe even sand tracked into the house (insert a small shriek here because I hate sand). I knew I needed a stockpile of popsicles, swim diapers and sunscreen because being outside seems to be the best plan for us. I decided to embrace this summer and all that will come along with it, including the sheer exhaustion by the end of the day.
I’m not saying I do this perfectly and it went against the fiber of my being to sit back and watch as my two oldest sons made “cement” in the water & mud when they were playing “construction workers”. But for an hour and a half I watched them work together and enjoy each other without freaking out over the muddy little bodies in front of me. And at the end I had the pleasure of hosing them off before they stepped one little muddy toe into the house. Even the one-year-old got in on the fun. How much joy would I have missed had I been focused on the mess versus being focused on the little people having so much fun.
This is only my second summer home in this role of homemaker. I’m learning some tricks that help make the summer more fun and enjoyable for everyone. I’ll share some with you!
- We do fun stuff. It’s even better when the fun stuff is free. We hit up all the local parks and gardens, and sometimes spend hours there. Many days we’ll pick up or pack breakfast and head to the parks early before it gets too hot out.
- We research and checkout what’s available right in our own communities. There is so much available, it just takes the time to research and find out what’s out there. Day trips are fun too and we recently took a trip to the zoo, which turned out super-fun and educational. Listen, I know it’s not always easy to plan for and travel with very small children, but it can be done relatively easily with good planning and the right attitude.
- Another family favorite is checking out local yard sales on Friday & Saturday mornings. I’ve found this to be a great chance for the kids, particularly my six-year-old, to learn to bargain shop, negotiate prices and buy used to save money. Recently he saw this first hand when we found a really cool “big kid” toy that would have cost us $170.00 in the store and we paid $8.00 for it at a yard sale. Even if we don’t buy something at a sale, it’s fun to look and the kids enjoy it.
- We don’t throw routine and structure out the window during the summer. Although I’m a lot more flexible when it comes to our routines during the summer, we still maintain somewhat of a schedule. There’s not a lot of rushing to get up and ready, but we do get dressed, discuss the plan for the day, do a few chores and get moving. It just works better for us to have some kind of plan. The kids even ask about it and though it’s never set in stone because of the changes in the weather or something that may come up, it’s good for them to know what to expect and what’s expected of them.
- We love play-dates and hosting fun stuff at our house. Get-togethers with friends & family, birthday parties, cook-outs, fireworks & roasting marshmallows…it’s a time to get to know your neighbors, reconnect with friends and spend time with family.
- Vacation Bible Schools galore! My six-year-old was finally old enough to start attending VBS’s last summer and loved them (yes, more than one!). This summer we looked at all the local vacation bible school programs and he is signed up for three of them, with eager anticipation. We’re fortunate to live in a community with a slew of great day camps available as well.
- Another way we keep busy is by doing projects and chores. The kids are home, so why not give them something to keep their hands busy? Maybe your garage needs cleaned out or the closets could use reorganized? We really enjoy our garden and our boys get to water and weed it almost daily. Even my two-year-old likes to do his “chores” and feel like he’s part of the team. Kids can help, really they can. And it may not be done perfectly or the way that we’d do it, but it can prove to be very helpful. Did you know that 89% of kids do chores and 47% of them start doing them before the age of 6 (www.touchstoneresearch.com)?
But many days… we just hang out. Whether it’s watching a movie, playing outside with every yard toy imaginable or piling up to tell stories or read books. Down days are good for the soul and give rest to the body. Most times movies are watched from cushions on the floor versus on the couch. My OCD nature begs for me to straighten and pick up… but I’m learning to let it go… at least for a time.
The bottom line is that summer is such a valuable time to invest in and enjoy our kids, whether you’re home with them full-time or not. Chances are, even if you work, you’re off more in the summer with vacations, etc. or maybe your kids are up later than normal thus giving you more time with them. So let’s embrace, even celebrate, the sticky hands, dirty feet, ice cream faces, toys scattered in the yard, skinned knees and later bedtimes. Heck, why not join them and say “yes” to a race across the yard, have a water hose or water balloon fight or (if you’re brave enough) mix up some “cement” and be a part of the construction crew. Since when did we adults lose the desire to just let loose & play?! Our kids can teach us a lot if we’re willing to learn.