Summertime, and the living is easy — Not!
by Beth K. Vogt
Summer vacation scares me.
As the days on the calendar slip by, am I the only mom who feels a “Here-comes-the-end-of-the-school-year-what-am-I-gonna-do” panic?
Don’t get me wrong. I love having my 10-year-old home with me. But I worry about, er, wonder what I’m going to do with her for the next thirteen weeks. The next — gasp! — 91 days.
Vacation isn’t really about lazy summer days. It’s not even about keeping your kids so busy they crawl into bed and drop into the deep sleep of sunburned, overcommitted and exhausted children.
When you strip away the idealistic trappings of the days between “School’s out” and “Who’s my teacher this year?” vacation collides with expectations: yours and theirs. They dream of Disneyland. The family budget dictates a “stay-cation.” Their friends are packing for Hawaii or Australia or anywhere but home — and you’re not. They prefer to sleep in late, but your job or their camp schedules demand they “rise and shine” just like they did for school. Hey, who asked to learn archery or attend to rocket camp, anyway?
And then there’s the balance between doing too much versus doing too little. It’s tricky walking the tightrope between the laments of “I’m bored!” versus “I just want to play with my friends for one day before I have to go back to school!”
How do you stare down the looming gap of time — and make it blink first?
Discuss plans as a family. Ask your kids, “What would you like to do?” Explain beforehand that they probably won’t get to do everything. Daydream as a family and then ask, “What are your top two want-tos?”
See what your friends are up to. Last summer, my friend Sonia told me about a great creative writing class her daughter Meg (my daughter’s BFF) was going to take. So we signed up both girls and shared carpooling. Voilá — there was instant fun for both girls and less driving for the moms.
Aim for balance. Look at the big picture. Nine weeks of non-stop activity equals misery for you and your kids. And if you do nothing for nine weeks, the take-it-easy days will become their own not-so-special type of misery. Aim for a mixture of activity and relaxation.
Choose one thing. You probably can’t accomplish everything your kids want to do. Ninety-one days isn’t forever. But is there one thing they’ve begged to try for the past couple of years? Can you finally say yes? My daughter has asked for guitar lessons for two years. Two years. I decided this wasn’t a phase and signed her up for lessons. But she also knows she has to practice. Not because I said so, but because her teacher said so.
As you make your plans, realize that summer vacation isn’t about enduring time with your children. Think of the next 91 days as an investment in your family. As Italian playwright Dario Fo said, “Know how to live the time that is given you.”
Beth K. Vogt is the author of Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35, and is the editor of Connections magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bethvogt.