We’re a few weeks into summer and it already feels like it’s been a month – in a good way. My older girls are off at sleep-away camp for two weeks, my son and husband are having quality time without me, and I’m getting rare one-on-one time with my 16-month-old for two weeks in Atlanta. It’s been a truly great summer so far, but I’ve noticed I’ve had to keep at bay those pesky, guilt-ridden comparison thoughts, which go something like this:
Wow, that mom has her child read an hour a day. My kids haven’t cracked a book yet.
Am I the only mom who hasn’t opened up her kids’ backpacks to see what work they have to do over the summer? Do I really care if they check off all of the boxes on their summer school charts? No, not really. At least not yet. Selfishly I don’t want them to fill out the whole chart because that’ll mean they’ll get the opportunity to walk in the Gasparilla parade. I don’t want to walk in the parade, never mind what they want to do.
Wow, that mom has her kid in every camp imaginable. What the heck am I going to do with my kids in July and August? Heaven forbid I wait until the last second to decide.
Maybe if I buy one of those two-inch academic workbooks and make my kids sit down and do them I’ll somehow feel like a better mom. Nah, didn’t really make a difference the last six summers I’ve tried.
There are many guilty thoughts which creep in, but you get the idea. We put too much pressure on ourselves to have this perfect, well-rounded, academically fulfilling summer. But who decides what’s perfect? I say don’t aim for perfect, just aim for authentic fun. Enjoy the moment and put aside the agenda. Kick that summer bucket list to the curb and just relax into the swing of summer. If you feel the need to check off a few goals for your kids, stick with just a few instead of 20. Less is best and you’re more likely to accomplish fewer goals rather than overwhelming yourself with so many you accomplish none.
Unlike last summer, I don’t have a Summer Bucket List. It looked cute hanging on my bulletin board last year, but it was just a big reminder of all of the things we should be doing. This summer I’m aiming for less pressure and have landed on these six random lessons I’ll teach my kids over the break. I use the word random because there’s really no structure to them, and if they don’t happen then, oh well. These lessons can be taught anytime of the year, but there’s something about summer which stretches time and makes me feel like I have more of it. These lessons are tailored to my own kids and their specific ages, so if they don’t resonate with you then make ones that do.
No More Training Wheels
I want my six-year-old son to learn to ride his bike. It’s about time. Summer days are long and this task seems simple enough.
A Useful Household Chore
I want my kids to learn how to wash their own clothes. It may not be practical for my six-year-old and of course not for the baby, but I believe my nine-year-old and 11-year-old can handle it. Summer is great time to teach kids how to be more helpful around the house, especially since they’re probably making a mess of it.
The Art of Writing a Letter
This is an easy one for me this summer because my girls are at sleep away camp and if they want to communicate with family, they have to write letters. I sent them with stationery, stamps and an address list of friends and family. I even drew a diagram of how to stamp and address an envelope – God help the postal workers. I can’t wait to get my first letter from them, but I’m also preparing myself for plenty of spelling errors. Ugh. Guess that’ll be another random lesson to teach when they get home.
The Birds & The Bees
Anytime of the year is a great time to talk to your kids about sex, however I find summer is the easiest time. I don’t have to worry about my kids going to school the next day and sharing in circle time or with their friends what they learned about sex. I like to rely on books to get the conversation started. One book series I’ve appreciated as a Christian mom is by Stan and Brenna Jones, which includes four books in the series and ranges in age from 3-years-old to 14-years-old. The first book is called The Story of Me. I’ve also found American Girl’s, The Care and Keeping of You series a great resource to explain to my girls the changes their bodies will go through. And for my son, I’ll probably buy the Boys Body Book, which has great reviews on Amazon.com. I’d rather my kids hear about sex from me and my husband rather than hearing it first from their friends. It’s key to start the dialogue sooner rather than later, make it age-appropriate and don’t answer questions they’re not asking. Keep it simple, to the point and don’t go overboard.
This lesson is for my youngest daughter. As the fourth child, she doesn’t get all the quality reading time my other kids got when they were young. My goal this summer is to savor this extra time I have with her and read as much as possible. Even if she’s not exactly paying attention or shuts the book I’m reading and hands me another. It’s more about the process and her hearing my voice rather than her paying attention and me finishing a book. I just enjoy the quality time.
I want to provide plenty of opportunities for my kids to be creative. Whether they’re making miniature cities out of all of the construction paper I just bought, or setting up their own pretend spa for business, or using every pillow in the house to build a fort. My goal is for them to be creative and play make believe. The other day my nine-year-old daughter came out of her room excited to show me something. I got excited thinking oh cool, she’s cleaned her room and wants to show me the final product. Ha! What was I thinking? With a huge smile on her face she leads me into her room to unveil her mission-impossible style obstacle course made out of all the colorful string from her new friendship bracelet kit. Wow honey! That’s amazing as I take a deep breath and the idea of a clean room fades away fast.
When it comes to creativity and kids, the best lesson I’ve learned these last 11 years is to let it go. Let go of the control and what I think is the best use of those 100 sheets of construction paper. Or the best use of tape, or the best use of the friendship bracelet string. Who cares if they use it all up in just a few hours? The most important thing is their using their imaginations. And that’s worth every penny of what I may initially think is a waste of paper.
I hope these ideas spark more ideas for you. Kick the summer bucket list aside, focus on a few things to do, relax into the moment and enjoy the summer.