A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp. —Raymond Duncan
In case you were wondering, I just might have an inside track on why this Mother’s Day thing lands in May. This made-up homage to matriarchs across the country is every Mom’s safety net for surviving this crazy month! End of school activities, assignments and field trips, music programs, award ceremonies, graduations, and even sport practices and games…managing each of these calendar fillers is no small task. And, sorry fellas, many times this falls on a Mother’s to do list. So it makes sense that Moms everywhere get this ONE day…filled with cards and sentiment, meals prepared in our honor, flowers and gifts. We are conveniently recognized and fussed over just before the ax drops–that’s right…I’m talking about SUMMER break!
Don’t get me wrong…school’s out! Thank goodness. I mean, I know the kids are happy…and I’m pretty excited, too. No longer will I be a slave to the alarm clock. I’m done packing lunches for the time being (the occasional picnic aside.) I don’t have to arrange appointments, pick-ups, drop-offs, meetings, haircuts, etc… according to the school calendar. We can linger over lunch and enjoy late dinners. Yes, it’s summer and that’s a good thing…at least it is on most days. Because in reality, summer is a lot of work . Hear me out…I love the idea of having the kids home with me. It’s our chance to hang out together, talk and reconnect, try new things and visit favorite places. But we’re less than a week in and I’m already starting to notice a few things:
First, I might be in control of this ship but my crew has pretty loud opinions about where I’m leading.
Second, we don’t necessary have the same idea of fun anymore. It wasn’t long ago when the local library provided a lot of our summer entertainment. I have one child (who shall remain nameless) who is balking at the notion that reading is fun. It goes something like this, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH READING I HAVE TO DO AT SCHOOL?” Followed by a look of exasperation and disbelief 😦
Third, hanging out in the backyard with bubbles and sidewalk chalk doesn’t cut it. Since when? I’m an adult and I STILL love bubbles and sidewalk chalk! But no, apparently this isn’t cool anymore. I’m learning that the only permissible backyard fun includes water balloons and half the neighborhood.
Fourth, boys and girls. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Sometimes it’s acceptable for boys and girls to hang out together. Other times suggesting such an idea will garner a look that turns you into stone. If somebody has the lowdown on this one…please let me know!
Fifth, here’s a newsflash…. Gone are the days when my children choose each other as their best playmate. Instead, every activity must involve FRIENDS! I know my kids are getting older (middle school and upper elementary,) but can’t they at least fake getting along with each other? And how about throwing this into the mix: My brother advised me just a few weeks ago that having people over at your own house is the BEST way to keep tabs on your kids and their friends. This win-win scenario (???) means that we get to be the “fun” house and maintain some kind of control over our kiddos and their activities. I’ll have to get back to you on that one….
In an attempt to make peace in our house, I’ve established a few Summer Rules. Gentle reminders that (honestly) are always in place, but managed to make their way onto the kitchen whiteboard for emphasis. Look, I have good kids…but let’s face it, we’re all works in progress. I heard a radio program the other day that suggested that parents should focus more on raising GOOD PEOPLE rather than SUCCESSFUL BRATS. Sign me up! I bought the t-shirt on the proud parent thing…wore it a few times and put it in a drawer. It’s not that I don’t think my kids are the greatest (I do), but these days I’m opting for a more realistic approach to my “momness.” More like a, “Yep, those are my kiddos–good and bad.” Indeed, we are in this for the long haul.
So here’s my plan for Summertime Sanity. It’s not rocket science and we all probably know these things, but sometimes putting them out there helps the cause. So here goes:
1. Pray, not just often, but more like ALL the time. I’m not really all that concerned with being the perfect parent, but I do want to honor God in my role as a mother. I believe He has blessed me with two precious children and I want to do all that I can to show them God’s love and grace through Jesus’ example.
2. Remember that it’s okay to say NO! Sometimes it seems easier to give in…especially after a long (long) day. It’s at this point that I try to remind myself that I ultimately know what’s best for them. For the most part, they know that asking repeatedly will not change my mind. When they were very young I would tell them that begging was absolutely unacceptable and it would equate to not only NO right now, but NO in the future as well.
3. Less is more. We don’t have to fill up every single second of summer with activities. Many parenting experts have warned us about the hazards of over-scheduling. I know for myself that it’s in these unscripted moments where I find my kids singing silly songs, making up games and otherwise just getting along (even if it’s only for five minutes.)
4. Look for the lessons. The more time you spend with your kids, the more opportunities you have to be the teacher. Some of my favorite moments with my kids have occurred in front of the TV, at the movies, or while listening to the radio. I like to ask them what they think the show/song is trying to say, what they know about the actor/artist, and I encourage them to put on their “God goggles” and find a spiritual message in whatever we’re watching/listening to. Sure, they sometimes cry “buzz kill,” but other times it sparks some pretty interesting conversation.
5. Love on them. Extra time together means extra hugs and kisses. Extra moments to sit next to or across from each other. Extra hair ruffling (for my son) and extra hand-holding (for my daughter.) Time is precious…do not let these moments pass you by.
I fully anticipate an eventful summer…one with both ups and downs. There will be ballgames, swim lessons, Vacation Bible School, youth group events, and small getaways. We’ll get along, not get along, all out fight and occasionally enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes I’ll say no, other times yes and we’ll all move on. I’m not interested in being a BFF, but instead I’m focusing on being M-O-M…plain and simple. I will anticipate the best and get over everything else. I can’t promise complete flexibility, but I will try hard not to be a total control freak. And when fall rolls around I fully believe that we will be able to point to shared highlights and lots of good memories.
Here’s to the best summer yet!!!