As summer gears down and the back-to-school commercials start appearing, I have to ask myself, what else do I have to cross off my family’s summer to-do list? Did we experience enough of the local attractions we never have a chance to see while the kids are in school?
As a parent to three young boys, I have come to realize summer is no longer the relaxing, joyful season I experienced as a kid. I feel the pressure to create a new adventure every day. And all those Facebook and Instagram posts of everyone else’s summer outings and craft projects don’t help either. The best laid plans of unscheduled down time turn into me wondering if my kiddos are going to have the stamina for the petting zoo after spending the morning making homemade ice cream. It’s all so exhausting!
I miss summer being the season to recharge, reflect and get ready for another vigorous school year. Where did that joyful summer freedom go?
I hate to admit it, but I miss the routine of school and carpools. I get a little excited thinking about the kids back in school and having some time for myself – shutting the door for an uninterrupted 10-minute shower would be heaven right about now.
I’m worried my kids will sense my non-routine anxiety, coupled with the stress of filling up their day-to-day summer schedule. I wonder how I became a creature of routine, and why is this routine more comforting than the freedom of lazy, unstructured summer days?
The sad thing is I really do love summer. My own mother instilled the feelings of summer joy when I was growing up. As a teacher, she was so excited on our last day of school – finally having us home with her and ready to hit the road to adventure. My summer angst makes me wonder if my own mother struggled with the lack of routine and pressure to find a balance in our schedule.
So as I’m considering these last days of summer before we jump back into our fall routine, I’m trying hard to hold on to that joy a child feels to be out of school. I’m letting my kids stay up a little later, because for this short period of time they don’t have anything to do in the morning. I’m looking over my to-do list and reminding myself that my kids will simply remember the TIME we spent as a family, not the activity that got us there.
Soon enough, I will be taking my boys back-to-school shopping. We will buy the notebooks, pens and glue, stock up on new clothes and shoes, and get haircuts in anticipation of those school photos. I still remember prepping for the school year as a kid and the sleepless night before the first day. The anxiety and excitement of meeting a new teacher, new friends and tackling the homework a new year brings. I was ready to take on the new school year with my joyful summer memories in the bank. I want to bank those for my kids too, not just cross to-dos off my list.
My favorite quote gets me through a lot of parenting challenges and keeps things in perspective. I’m citing it a lot these days, as I remind myself to let go of the pressure to fill the days with outings and activities. That school routine I long for will be here soon enough. Right now, I just need to take a deep breath and embrace the childish joy of summer.
“They’re only little once. Grant me the wisdom to guide them down the path that their feet should take. For I know that they can never turn back and walk those paths with me again. Give me the wisdom to guide their feet so that someday they’ll be able to walk alone.”
Washington FAMILY Magazine