This blog is for all you moms who are gazing at a long hot summer with a little bit of worry and a whole lot of dread--
I want to say this with all the love and understanding of a mom who remembers how challenging being the cruise director for kids can be--
Don’t Waste The Gift Of This Summer.
Really. The time you have with your kids is short. I realize it doesn’t feel short in the middle of it, but it is. Every summer you have with them, they are one year older than the summer before. Do the math-- you only have a few of these precious, unique pockets of time left. Pretty soon they’ll be old enough to not want to be with you!
Don’t waste the gift of them WANTING to spend time with you.
I sat with a group of young moms a few weeks ago and listened to their complaints about summer’s imminent approach. And just being honest here, there wasn’t a lot of joy about the prospect.
And I get it. Kids are a lot. A lot of work. A lot of mess. A lot of negotiating. A lot of complaints. A lot of bickering and fighting, getting hurt or sick, not going to bed or getting up early (or a special few who do both). They’re a lot. You’re not imagining that fact.
But they’re also a lot of potential, uniqueness, fun, entertainment, and joy. And if you’re a Christian mom, they’re your MOST important ministry and disciples.
How Do I Know?
I have seven kids. Five are grown and gone. Two are perched on the edge of the nest, testing their wings. My youngest is 17 and has reached the self-sufficiency that means she can feed herself, entertain herself, and, if I let her, sleep until noon. I AM on the other side of long days of bored kids and a messy house..
And weirdly enough- I miss it. I didn’t think I would, but I do. And I don’t regret a moment of those lovely, lazy days. But I do regret not taking the time to:
Lay in the yard and gaze at the stars
Read together more
Having time to talk with just one at a time, finding out their special dreams and desire
I don’t even remember:
If my house was clean or not (I have a general memory of it being decent- as in the health department would probably not show up and shut us down. So there’s some hope- our memories can be kind to us.)
A single movie or TV show I watched
How much I slept or didn’t sleep (maybe that plays into the kind memory.)
How many peanut butter sandwiches I made
How many loads of laundry I washed or how long it took to get them folded and put away.
Somehow, we came out of those years in clean clothes and not starving so I count that as a success. But those messy, loud, crazy years are gone. And I miss them.
Here’s a Few Ideas
But I don’t just want to tell you to appreciate these days and then leave you with no tools to do so. So here are a few ideas that might make your summer a little easier and allow you to look forward to the short months ahead. Be kind to your fellow mamas and leave your great ideas in the comments so others can use them too.
Set a goal for the summer.
All the companies have mission statements. Write one for your summer. If you have a big goal it allows a direction. Here’s a few suggestions to get you started, but write one that fits your family. If your kids would cooperate, have a family meeting and get them in on the writing. There’s more buy-in when they’re a part of the process:
Making memories and being outside
Serving each other instead of ourselves
Having fun together
Surprising each other with acts of service
Notice these are goals for the family. You aren’t the only one who has work to do. Get your kids on your team and work as a unit toward something.
Determine What Is Your Biggest Dread and Have A Plan For That
What is your worst problem or biggest road block to all being home together?
If your kids eat at school, it can feel daunting to feed them every meal, every day. Here’s a few suggestions:
Write up a breakfast plan and follow it every week, such as:
Tuesday: instant oatmeal
Friday: instant oatmeal
If your kids are over 5, they can do four out of the five of these by themselves. You only cook one morning a week. Use a similar approach to lunch. Teaching them to feed and CLEAN UP for themselves counts as a life skill. You get a mom badge and everyone eats at the same time. Win!
Bored Kids at Home:
Make a plan! Take some time and do some research on what museums have free summer days. Find parks you’ve never gone to before and make a list of what you want to visit. Then make a plan.
Plans are important. Kids thrive under structure. It provides security and rhythm. And moms thrive under not waking up to each day with the dread of worrying about how in the world you are going to get through another day.
But do make sure you PLAN days of nothing. A few lazy summer days are part of mental health.
Here’s an example. Just fill in with your own ideas or activities.
Monday: Project Day (more below)
Tuesday: Picnic and Activity Day (summer bonus: buying chicken nuggets and taking them to the park counts as a picnic. But another idea is have your kids pack the picnic basket. It might be advisable to eat a snack before you go, just in case they only take cheetos. But no matter what, do eat whatever they take and praise their efforts.) Do something outside the house, but all together.
Wednesday: Friends-- either they get to go to a friend’s house or they can have one over.
Thursday: Service Day (more below)
Friday: Clean up day. They choose an activity.
Have a family project for the summer. Build something. Garden. Make gifts for needy people or kids in the hospital. Paint the house.
To have more buy-in (or whatever buy-in looks like for a kid) brainstorm together about something you could make together. It helps if he or she actually cares about the subject. You could make a bike ramp or grow herbs or build bird houses or build a raised bed or ….. It doesn’t need to be a permanant structure. Just something to work on together.
HUGE DISCLAIMER: Kids + power tools = bad idea! Just saying. Major. Parental. Involvement.
Kids are notorious for thinking your ideas are lame and boring. Here’s a secret from the other side: they might complain the WHOLE time you are doing something, but as adults they will talk with fondness about the great time they had when you took them _____ and did _____. Honestly-- it’s weird. But take my word for it -- it happens.
Having said that, getting them to plan something automatically means they’ll be interested.
If your kids are older, give them a budget and let them plan the day (you do hold veto power as a parent. Make that point clear from the beginning.) But not only will they gain an appreciation of how blasted expensive everything is, they will be doing math! And not even know it. (Oh, the evil machinations of a mom.) They have to include all the siblings and account for entrance fees and food. Let them figure out a way to stretch $40.00 to the max.
One problem with summer activities, is the heat. Summer = hot. One trick I would use when the complaints crescendoed: I told everybody to tell me how hot it was for 30 seconds. Say it over and over. Complain. 30 seconds. Then at the end of that barrage of whining, I’d say, “Alright, we all now know its hot. You’ve told me and I agree. You don’t need to tell me again today because I know. Don’t tell me again.” Then I’d cut them off at any point later in the day, because, remember? We already know its hot and we’re not talking about it anymore.
The more kids focus on themselves, the more miserable they become, and the more miserable they are to live with. (We moms are actually the same. It’s part of the human condition.)
Like having a summer project, you could also have a summer service activity. Go to a nursing home once a week. Write letters for soldiers. Ask your local foster ministry what would be helpful for the kids. Make stuff for others. Raise money for people. Do anything that helps the kids see past the end of their own nose.
I suggest after the service project is started you find some accountability, because resistance is SURE to show up. Have a friend you have to report to, or maybe Dad can ask each week about how it went. Put a post on Instagram each Wednesday, or whatever day you choose.
Remember- starting is the easy part. It’s continuing and completing that is hard, and also where the magic happens.
Have a few simple chores that each kids does every week. I’m personally big on NOT paying them for regular chores, because as part of the family we love and serve each other. But I would have extra chores or projects written up. Put a pay amount by each project and if they chose to do them, I’d pay for that.
Kids at home all day are messy. One thing we started was a Ten Minute Cleanup. Set the time timer and race around the house putting things away. Training is required with this: I was big “Don’t move the mess! Put it away!” girl. Moving their shoes from the floor of the living room to the floor of their bedroom is only marginally helpful. Put them in the closet!
We also did an Age Pickup. Pick up and PUT AWAY as many things as you are old. If you have enough kids, that adds up really quick!
Treasure the Summer
Here’s my one last word, if you made it this far, or if you skipped down to the end.
These days fly by and never return. Your kids will be older for the rest of their lives. You only have one summer with each child at 5 years old. At 6. At 10. At 15.
Then they’re grown. They’re gone.
Don’t waste the few precious months of summer that you have with them. Build every memory that you can. Laugh at the silly jokes. Eat the runny eggs. Get hot and sweaty and mosquito bitten together.
It’s not all pretty. But the value you can build into these fleeting days can’t be bought. Take advantage of the gift of summer with your kids.
Share any ideas for successful summer below.