Recently we installed a wireless pet containment system for our sweet but “born-to-run” dog. As we train Lucy to her boundaries, she is becoming rather “hang-doggy” as she realizes the restriction to her freedom. No loping off to see her dog friends. No unleashed running through our neighborhood for the wild amount of exercise she desperately needs as a border collie mix. She is relegated to a leash for her daily walks now, under the watchful eye of one of her “people.”
Does this sound familiar? If not for your own furry friend but for you yourself? Because it is coming. We all feel its impending arrival. We cannot deny it. It is, of course:
The last day of school.
Even if we have lived this educational landmark many times before, summer vacation is a period of oft-challenging readjustment for for parents. For parents who work outside the home, there is the increased need for (and expense of) childcare and the scheduling of day camps to provide children with activity to supplant that which the school days provided. Or for parents who work within the home, a restriction of boundaries (“freedom” as a friend of mine called it) with less time for outside-the-home activities like appointments, errands and workouts.
Dear Lucy, I think I feel where you are coming from.
Guilt is a terrible emotion. Let’s be honest: as parents the Big G drives our feelings and actions more often than we like. And when it rears its ugly head on the precipice of three months of summer vacation, it is especially difficult to stomach. We parents do feel loss over our “free time” in the summer and concurrent guilt that we are not excited about having more time with our kids, kids who too soon will not find time with parents so appealing. Or we feel guilt that here we are not confined by the school calendar for three months but can’t get away enough to spend more time with our children.
So while our kids, giddy beyond belief that they have their “freedom,” we parents find that summer can kinda (forgive me)
Yup. There it is. But the guilt at thinking it, saying it, admitting it, all comes from a good place. That place being the sun-drenched beach of loving our kids and wanting to enjoy them.
So summer break is tough. Even for kids. They don’t know what to do with themselves and the apparent void of time set before them. We as their parents wonder how to fill the time, too. How can we make the most of (and make memories) the gift of time together? Well, here’s what I’m going to try this year:
- Something that may or may not resemble a schedule. Kids like routine. Have you ever noticed your kids good behavior plummets on free-for-all weekends? I sure have. So I’m going to infuse a little structure into summertime mornings with the promise of plenty of time to go berserk with friends in the afternoons. On the docket? Reading. Board games. Some of those things on the lists teachers send home, entitled “Things you can do with your kids this summer.” Limited screen time (so Mom can slip in a short workout…).
- The “I’m Bored” Jar. Aka “Russian Roulette” for kids. A neighbor of ours did this last summer. She wrote activities down on slips of paper and placed them in a jar, with the activities ranging from, “go out for ice cream” or “clean your room.” Every time one of her kids uttered the dreaded, “I’m bored!!!” they had to draw a slip of paper out of the jar and do what it said. It could be a cool surprise for everyone. It could be no fun. But it can help pass the time.
- Actually read the newspaper. And discover new kid-friendly things to do about town and head out.
- Compromise! I like to jog. My kids like to shoot hoops. The track at our local gym circles the basketball courts. I run, they play. And of course this could involve a visit to the gym’s swimming pool or splash pad afterward….
What are you doing with your kids this summer? Post your comments below and help fellow parents and their kids have a safe AND sane sunny season!