Step 1: Relax and don’t worry about making summer perfect for your kids.
We need to remember kids are kids. They, of all people, know how to have fun. These are the people that play with paper and boxes and have a thrilling time. On the flip side sometimes they don’t even know what will make them happy. My seven-year-old frequently goes from “This is the best day ever!” to “This is the worst day ever!” within the same day. (She has a flair for the dramatic, that one.)
I find myself wavering between the “1980s summer” school of thought and the “Pinterest summer” school of thought. Beginning in May, social media is inundated with summer ideas: what to do this summer, road trips to take, summer bucket lists, reading lists, craft ideas, fun in the sun ideas, fun out of the sun ideas, free things to do in your area, activities to splurge on this summer . . . and on and on.
There is nothing wrong with these lists, but let me tell you what I have discovered after 17 summers of being a mother. You have to do what works for your family, and your kids will be enjoy it. In fact, they will most likely remember their summers fondly. When I was growing up, my mom was a working mother. I know she hated that she was not able to stay home with us, especially during the summer. But you know what? I still have great summer memories. We always took trips to the beach, we got to go to Six Flags and White Water; I remember playing with friends, visiting my grandparents, and basically loving summer.
I have been a working mother, I still am. However, I am teacher now, so I get to stay at home with my children during the summer. (All. Summer. Long. All. The. Kids.) As much as I loved my 1980s summers, I can’t just push my kids out of the door and say, “See you at sunset.” (To clarify, when we stayed outside all day, it usually was my siblings and my neighbors and me running around between our yards on our cul-de-sac street and in the “woods” behind our houses. So we were probably not as free as we thought we were.)
So here’s where I start to veer into the “Pinterest summer” camp. As a teacher, I know it is so important for students to read and do some kind of work that exercises their brains over the summer. (My kids love this. My 13-year-old once said, “Ugh. She did it again! She makes everything about learning!”) So I do have some school related activities and chores for them to complete before screen time is allowed.
A balance between “It’s summer! Do whatever you want!” and “We need some order and structure in this house!” This is my goal for summertime.
So about that perfect summer. First of all, it doesn’t exist. Secondly, I think we should be more concerned with creating a good summer for ourselves first. I know this sounds incredibly selfish, but let me explain. I have learned if you spend the whole summer doing things you really don’t like just because you think it is something you should do – you will be miserable. I am not saying only do things you like and never take anyone else’s opinion into consideration, but you deserve to enjoy summer too. For example, I am not a crafty person, so I am not going to spend all summer planning crafty activities for the kids. Crafts and I just don’t mix. Me trying to be crafty just leads to frustration for all of us. However, my youngest loves crafts, so I signed her up for a week of art camp. We all win.
We should definitely get out of our comfort zones every once in a while, but if you have tried something and you hated it or you know it is just not one of your strengths take it off the list. In fact, take all these lists with a grain of salt. Do what you enjoy and what you know your family will enjoy. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but let go of the pressure to be perfect. We get enough of that during the school year, we definitely shouldn’t play the comparison game during the summer.
So don’t worry about making the summer perfect for your kids. Just spend time with them doing what you enjoy doing as a family. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Just be together and you will create lasting memories; that itself is pretty close to perfect.