Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Our Way

It's funny how at a certain point in time along the mothering journey, one just accepts the way they are and finds what works for them.  No comparisons, or panic, or feeling left behind or out of the loop.  It took me years to get there, and lots of experimentation and failure and acceptance of who I am and what works for my family.  I know right now there are lots of moms looking on Pinterest for elaborate job charts and summer bucket lists and what have you. (Ugh, that Pinterest-love/hate.)  To do or not to do summer camps/library clubs/nothing/tech turn-offs/family trips/play-dates/no play-dates etc.  So many choices we have to filter through!

We moms, as our children age, have to be fluid and flexible.  But we MUST be kind to ourselves-sometimes, even often, we must do what works to keep us calm and settled and not burned-out by July 15th.


1. Be aware of babies and toddlers schedules and do not feel guilty keeping those schedules.  Some babies and toddlers are very flexible and snap back easily from disruption, and others MUST have that nap every day at exactly this or that time.  Some toddlers (kids!) can withstand a late bedtime, some can't.  I have one child who wakes up at the crack of dawn every day, I swear he would if he went to bed even at 3 a.m.  He can't "catch up" on his sleep.  It's ok to plan days around this and keep a tight schedule even though it's summer.

2. Chores.  There are so many elaborate systems of allowances and chores.  Elaborate and overwhelming and maybe they work for some people, but try as I might, they did not for me.  They just created one more thing to keep track of, to remember, to argue about with kids.  I don't pay for anything but cutting the lawn, and every day I write on a piece of notebook paper a few simple jobs. My mom did this for all of us my whole childhood.  We woke up, ate breakfast, did jobs and then were free to run.  No stickers or rewards or financials.

3. Technology. It's easier for me to just turn it all off.  Yes, there can be a withdrawal from TV.  (The littler kids don't have other tech, the older kids are busy enough with work (this is the key to teens in the summer!).  I have put up reminders on the TV about not turning it on, or asking first.  Once they hear no enough, they give up, we just have to be strong and outlast.  That doesn't mean on a rainy day I just might say yes to a movie, or a favorite show or sporting event, that just means I've learned I don't want it used as a constant fall back to boredom or the way we start our day out.

4. Play dates with little ones were hard and unnecessary unless there are neighborhood-no-drive playing. This gets so much easier when they are older-before that siblings are enough.  Also playdates are supposed to make my life easier because the friend is really easy, respectful, resourceful and not hyper so I choose carefully.


I do know it's hard to keep little ones home and older ones busy.  This is where Lego projects or elaborate craft projects or books or some sort of "goal" or fun fall back activity comes in for us when those "but I'm so bored" comments start. (My kids and the neighbor kids built an entire dog house out of wood scraps last summer!)  It is worth it's weight in gold to invest in anything like this.

5. Food and laundry=priorities.  Food prep (simple meals) and a plan for dinner and a load or two of laundry every day.


6. Low expectations. No cute bucket lists for me.  I tried one year and it felt like another to-do list.  I refuse to be held accountable for anything we didn't do, which might just be nothing, who knows? But for me, it's so much better to throw a surprise in than feel like we all disappointed ourselves.

7. Routine.  Setting a lose routine for summer days help enormously.  Ours is up, breakfast, whatever school work I've assigned (which is another post and very simple things like a page of a Summer Bridge, or whatever we've decided together for the summer, and then jobs).  I try to plan week by week what is going on and where we need to be when, if we go anywhere.

7. Self care.  Summer is full throttle for me and long long days.  Some summers were full on survival mode for me and they were hard!  What would have helped?  A little exercise, a healthier eating plan, even hiring someone to clean or just feeling less guilty about take-out.  Creating some way to feel a little more control of days where schedules changed constantly especially with teens and I felt like I was caught in the storm instead of the EYE of the storm where everything swirled around me and I remained still.  I needed to set more boundaries all the way around. To do that, we have to have time to exercise or meditate, or sit by ourselves, or read, or get up really early to get a hard start and a plan-anything.  Even a teeny tiny bit helps.  It also helps to write this reminder and hang it inside my bathroom cabinet so I don't get so caught up that I forget the essentials.

And sometimes we just have to know and accept that we are in a hard stage and it will get better.
The recognition that mothering, especially a large family, or new baby, takes a lot of energy, and brain space,and can be stressful, is so important.  Taking non-swimmers to the pool is stressful-we are "on" 100% of the time. Going from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. (or later) is stressful.  Doing it yourself with no outside help is stressful. Going on a family vacation can be stressful. The goal is to make it as non-stressful as possible depending on OUR own stress meter, no one else's.

It is up to us to learn about ourselves and our children and set the way we want our days and weeks to look accordingly.


I say probably once a day "I love summer!", and I really mean it.  I am so grateful I get to be home and not in a yucky office,  I love what summer means to me-ice cream and pools, and books and green grass and easy meals and bike rides and more ice cream.  I have the fondest memories of my summers growing up and we seriously did "nothing" but play every day with neighbors, and ride bikes on our gravel road and swim wherever we could find a pool and drink from the faucet and eat tons of hotdogs and corn on the cob and read so many library books for three months straight.  It was the best ever.

23 comments :

  1. I love this so much! My kids are 18 and 20 now but this was how we did summer when they were younger, and it was perfect. Thank you for being a voice of reason, Sarah!

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  2. I really like your post, Sarah. There are so many moms who schedule the summer or make huge bucket lists. I have felt the pressure to do this in the past and it always adds more stress to summer. One summer, my daughter looked at me and said, "I just want no stress this summer." That says it all. Now, I let each child (I have 2) sign up for one or two camp weeks (morning camp for 1 week for a sport) and then we join a pool and try to go often. I love not having too much of a schedule. It is heaven!

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  3. That's what our plan is this summer also-Andrew is doing a couple morning only camps with school friends and Patrick is doing one with his BF in July. Swim team because we love it and gets them up early (and it's so much easier without a baby!) and then pool or just home.

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  4. I'd be interested in the simple jobs you assign your kids (teens) to do each day. Right now my 16-year old son only has one (because of school) -- letting the ducks out and feeding them. And, of course, once a week, recycling and trash. Ideas for summer?

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    1. Mine are that simple also, and/or what needs to be done. If they are working a huge long day, they don't get jobs at home. It's always put clothes away from laundry room and make bed. Today Andrew dusted the house and Matt took in garbage cans and watered our tomato plants. Whatever I feel like I can't get to that day, or that will make our house nice and clean.

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    2. Great. You've already gave me some ideas. I hate to say it, but during school, we don't make beds except on weekends. It's tough enough getting a teen up and out of the house at 6:30 am!!

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    3. I make beds during school also! :)

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  5. Last summer I made a "bored jar." If they complained about being bored they had a choice, they could quickly find an activity (I posted a big long list of ideas on the fridge early on in the summer), or they could choose a chore out of the "bored jar." After a couple days of having to do an extra chore every time they said they were bored, I started finding them staring at the idea list with no complaints. Two of them learned to sew, they all learned to cook somethings, they made lots of art projects, read tons of books, and played on the jungle gym in the backyard. It was a system that required very little of me, and I didn't have to entertain them or feel responsible for coming up with ideas right when they declared they were bored. They could pick from the list or the jar, and learned pretty quickly to keep themselves content. I am dying for this summer to start. I am so done packing lunches, checking folders, and going over homework!

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  6. Love this! I feel like I have finally let go of the need to entertain them constantly and not feel guilty about it! We joined the pool and they have lots of neighborhood kids to play with. We have a 3 week trip to CA in July to visit family and I feel like that is plenty of entertainment!:)

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  7. Thank you for this! I have 5 kids ages 2-11 and this helps me so much! You are such a great role model for me and I appreciate your down to earth and honest insights. Here's to a great summer:)

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  8. Love love love this approach to summer!

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  9. Awesome. Right with you. We have nothing planned for the summer but a couple of scout camps and a new baby. :-) One thing I like to do is find a book or two to read aloud in the afternoons for some down time. It's been a nice tradition. My kids are crazy about computer games, and I am very reluctant about screen time, so our compromise is they can each have 20 minutes per day after they do their "first things first" (reading, practicing, cleaning their rooms, chores). I don't love it but that is all their screen time and once they've had it they stop asking. Also it gets them up and doing (without my nagging) which I appreciate. But most of their time is playing together inside or outside. I feel like so much of our time together during the school year was taken up by homework that I really avoid "have-tos" during the summer and try to keep it as open and relaxed as possible. "No, you can't do online summer school, even if you want to. You are MINE during the summer and school can have you back in the fall."

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  10. I love this list, but tell me really (because it surprised me) do you really have someone clean. Not judging. Just surprised!

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  11. No-I have had a cleaning lady come about 6 times In the last 15 years-because my mother gifted me with it after a baby, or I wanted to experiment with how much it would help. The truth is I don't like it-it's a control thing maybe or maybe just having strangers in my house, or having to be out of the way or gone when they are here it never "took" with me, or I felt guilty or wasteful spending the money. Sometimes looking back I think I should have given it more of a chance? There is something too about a sense of accomplishment for me in cleaning that I like-but there were times with fussy babies where I think I shouldn't have tried to do it all and made myself a little frantic/exhausted trying.

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  12. This was just what I needed to read. I am pregnant with my fifth (unexpectedly) and was worried about this summer not being able to do as much being big with my kids but they will be fine. Had in mind a loose routine of eat breakfast, go outside and exercise/play first thing before it gets hot, do a few jobs and work on a few things I don't have time to care about during the school year (horrendous handwriting). And thank goodness for a pool pass. I appreciate your perspective on motherhood and have tried to remember it during this pregnancy. Accepting I'm in a hard stage and it will pass, and not apologizing to other people for having a large family.

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  13. Loved this post and reading the comments. Sounds like a lot of moms are embracing a more relaxed approach to summer. I used to get excited when I'd spot a color coded summer bucket list but not any more, it feels very contrived and limiting.

    That said, it is hard for me to completely kick back and veg. This summer my kids are big enough to set goals and work towards them. Not as a specific list but as a general idea (improve drum playing skills, learn to code simple web pages). Plus, of course, a stack of books to read. For the chores, I do the same as you, Sarah-- I write a list of things that need to be done and each kid picks what they prefer. They are not paid for doing the chores.

    Have a wonderful summer!

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  14. Really love this post. Thanks for taking the time to write it. Would love to hear more about your simple meal plans! This is where I am failing miserably and we end up just eating junk all day.

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  15. I love this. Thank you. I live in an area where everyone has so many camps, lessons, and vacations scheduled and it's hard to feel like I'm the only one not signing my girls up for everything. School just ended two days ago right after a family fiasco that has changed all my summer plans, on top of that feeling of not enough. I needed the reminders to do what works for us, that siblings are enough, and that I need to squeeze in self care. Hope you have a good summer!

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  16. The school year is so structured with sports, school, homework, and deadlines. Summertime is a chance to let loose and bask in the freedom of getting up later, relaxing and sometimes just doing nothing! For my family it's always been a time to get away up into the woods, pack picnic lunches to take on hikes, go to movies, go to the pool and well just have fun!

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  17. I've read your blog for years, and I don't really comment, but I wanted to just say thank you for keeping your blog going. Your simple style and steadfast focus on what's most important is SO refreshing. I love to see how you handle things--in a down-to-earth-I'm-still-human way. THANK you for being real!

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  18. I love your comment about a few jobs on notebook paper with no rewards. I am a mom of a 3 and 1 yr old and still worried about pinterest and am I doing enough the right way, etc. Its so refreshing to read this post.

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  19. I absolutely love this approach to summer! We are taking it easy this summer too! My kids are at the age where they just want to run around and enjoy their friends! That works for me!!

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