The Summer That Didn’t Suck: Kids Edition
Summer vacation is just around the corner for us. I am excited. The kids are definitely excited. But probably for different reasons. I am looking forward to not having so many time obligations. Right now my life is broken up into two and three hours blocks. I’m alway dropping somebody off or picking somebody up. Being a taxi driver is very time consuming. I’m also looking forward to the fact that my kids are old enough to get breakfast for themselves and I can sleep in a little. Okay, maybe not sleep, but at least play dead so I won’t be bothered. The kids are excited because once school is out, it’s on to their much “needed” vacation. I know being a kid is tough. Like really tough. It’s complicated and exhausting and confusing. But, uh, so is being a gown up. Summer vacation doesn’t exist for parents because they still have jobs to go to. My job simply shifts from carpool mom to activities coordinator mom ( minus the awesome cruise ship and tropical paradise). But “NO MORE” I say!
We live in a time when the expectation is that we parents are here to make a magical life and childhood for our children. Our main purpose and goal is to bring them enjoyment and happiness. What the what!!? I love to see my kids doing things they love. But oftentimes, it’s at the expense of me doing anything that I love.
I read an article last summer that was amazing and inspiring. The author talked about her childhood growing up in the seventies and how summer vacation was so different then. She talked about the simplicity of it all. The times were different but the concept should be the same. Summer is a break for everyone. I was really challenged to look at my expectations and plans and do something different. So take all those outrageous expectation you have for your kids’ summer experience and all the guilt you will feel if you don’t live up to them and shove them into the palm of your hand. Come on, use your imagination! Now wad it all up and make a fist. Now raise that fist and throw that shit away! This is it. This is your summer! This post is not titled, “The Best Summer of Your Freaking Life”. No! It’s titled, “The Summer That Didn’t Suck”. All of this applies to people without kids as well. If you don’t have any children, when you see ‘kids’ just read friends or spouse. Let us begin…….
In the past as I have scrolled through Pinterest post after Pinterest post planning the best summer ever for my kids, I have feverishly saved pins, and recipes, and podcasts, and lists, and blah blah blah. But as I was looking through recently, I thought to myself, “This is ridiculous!” When would I ever sleep? If I were to do all the things, I would be a ragged, exhausted remnant of a mom. What a waste of summer. Now, don’t get me wrong; if you have an amazing Disneyland vacation planned or are going somewhere wildly adventurous. Good for you! I’m all about making great memories with my family. And if you are a mom who has so much time and energy that you want to devote it to things like creating “Camp Mom”, more power to you! “Camp Mom” is a real thing on Pinterest. I, on the other hand, cannot possibly be the best version of myself and do all of those things. I have done them. And then I was extremely tired. My kids are done having fun 15 minutes later. Everyone starts fighting. And then I think “why the heck did I do all of that. Nobody was happy anyway”. Then we wake up and do it again the next day. The more I do, the less they can create their own summer experiences. And the more we all can’t wait for school to start again! So I have committed myself to stepping back in time a little and making this summer awesome. Maybe not in the traditional sense. Maybe not in the sense my kids are waiting for where I do a million things to create fun for them, and am also a short order cook who will bring food to their “cabanas” . Yes I am in fact a glorified pool boy. But not this summer. Nope. We are doing summer mama style. Like the gypsy soul I am, we are going to go off grid and free ourselves up to actually enjoy this time. ALL OF US. So here are some ideas to help you create your own “Summer That Didn’t Suck”.
- Don’t Over Schedule
I think structure is good. It’s great! Kids need it. We need it. But sometimes in the summer we can feel a lot of pressure to have lists and schedules and an activity guide to keep us all on track. As I was scrolling through Pinterest there was a hideous number of summer scheduling plans and graphs and contracts. It was a little terrifying. I’m an organized mom for sure. And I don’t want to live in chaos all summer. But I also am not my children’s recreational coordinator. So here is a list that I found that I really liked. It’s simple and will help create a summer that is meaningful. Not just full.
2. Less is More
I do want to have some things for my kids to do that are fun and easy for them to do with us or on their own. Creating games or activities doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. In fact, I feel like when they are, it’s way more disappointing (rage inducing?) when the kids are over it after a half an hour. Or when they fight the whole freakin time. The more basic you keep it, the more you can let go of your expectations and ideas of the outcome of your activities. Less is more. Less work and more fun. Paint rocks, do chalk art, stock up on bubbles, play lawn games. Make a backyard scavenger hunt (if you promise not to spend more than 30 minutes making it!).
3. Don’t Feel Bad for Watching TV
I think that there is a big stigma on parents who let their kids watch tv. I’m not saying you should let your kids rot their brains out by watching tv all summer. I am saying that you should relax. Make summer fun and different. Instead of watching all the mind-numbing shows you have to watch with them all year round, switch it up. Have an old movie marathon or only watch shows from a certain era or genre. Get them out of their typical box and introduce them to things you liked as a kid.
4. Plan Snacks Ahead of Time
Sit down with your kids and get a list of snack ideas and plan out a menu together. The more you prep healthy snacks that are easily accessible to them, the less you will be running to the kitchen every five seconds. My kids eat a lot. All day. So between the three of them, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. If they have snacks they helped decide on (or even make), they can be more independent. And you can kick your heels up ( in theory)..
5. Camp Out in the Backyard
I am talking classic campout. Do not create a camp retreat with a full S’Mores buffet and hot dog cart. Simply set up a tent full of all your cozy bedding and sleep outdoors. If you don’t have a big enough yard, do it in your living room. You can use a real tent or easily make an indoor camp fortress out of sheets and scarves. Your kids will love being in close quarters with you. Just keep it simple. Tell stories, eat snacks, and catch some zzz’s (hopefully).
6. Do the Classics
Turn on the sprinkler. Get into a water balloon fight. Bust out those squirt guns. Have fun keeping cool without making it into an all day event. Water is always fun. It doesn’t have to be in a beautiful infinity pool or a water park for kids to enjoy it. I am talking about this ( photo above). Not this! (photo below)
7. Read a Good Book Together
Find a book that your kids will enjoy listening to and that you will enjoy reading to them. Open up whole news worlds from those pages. Find a chapter book you can read to them a little every day at a certain time. Or carve out time before bed. Its educational for them but also great time to connect.
8. Create Your Own Traditions
Create memories that are simple and pure that will last way after they have forgotten about that awesome amusement park, or those amazing craft projects you prepared. One of my fondest memories of summer (and really of childhood) is of sitting with my grandma on her front porch, wrapped up in a blanket, looking at the stars at night. We would recite, “Star light, star bright. First star I see tonight. I wish I may. I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.” I like to say that with my kids now. I hold onto that memory so close to my heart. Not because it was amazing, or well planned, or extra special. I loved it because I felt wonder, and love, and connection. So stay up late once in a while and watch the stars. Or get a family quilt that becomes your go-to snuggle blanket. Or make some other tradition that means something to your family. Keep it simple. Keep it pure. Your kids will think about those times years from now and thank you.
9. Plan Day Trips
Make plans to go places you can get to and return home from in 24 hours. Find a place to hike, or picnic, or swim at. Pack up the kids and a lunch and hit the open road. But don’t go anywhere you have to pack half your house to enjoy. You could plan one big vacation or take several mini day-long vacations. You will be less exhausted at the end of it all and you will have the opportunity to see and do so much more. So roll down the window, blast your road-trip playlist, and head out on an adventure. A short adventure, is an adventure none the less.
10. Enjoy the Simple Things
Do regular things together. Do them slowly and leisurely. Take time to just be together. Cook together. Sit out on the lawn together. So many times, we make summer vacation about keeping our kids happy and entertained rather than just including them in our every day regular lives. Kids want to know us. They want to be with us. It doesn’t really matter what we are doing. So why do we make it so complicated?? Put on that 60’s music and dance around the house together while you are doing chores. Plan a BBQ for you and your friends and make a menu together. Plant something. Live your regular life. You don’t need all the bells and whistles. Your kids think you are awesome just the way you are (whether they show it or not).
We lost ourselves somewhere along the way in letting our kids think it’s all about them. They miss out on us when we do that. Let this summer be a reset. A time machine that takes you back and lets you change the coarse you are on. One that lets you find that place in the middle between doing it all and enjoying it all. One where you let your kids run wild and you take time to sit down and read a book you’ve had on the shelf for months. One where you have hot dogs for lunch three days in a row but get in a ton of snuggle time. Live it up this summer! But not at the expense of truly being able to be content in this thing we call “summer vacation”.