There is truly something magical about summer. The smell of hamburgers on the grill, the taste of freshly squeezed lemonade, the feeling of cool refreshing water on a hot day. I could live in summer forever.
As a child the anticipation of summer was overwhelming. I remember not being able to sleep the night before the last day of school! I have fond memories from my childhood about hanging out at the neighborhood pool, playing flashlight tag and exploring my world by bike. There was something refreshing about having nothing to do. It was freeing.
Summer was a time when I could explore the creative side of myself because I wasn't tied down by homework or sports practice. But now that I'm a mom, I have a slightly different perspective. As my daughter's preschool year has been winding down I started to feel panic inside. "What are we going to do every single day this summer?"
I'm a stay-at-home mom and although I chose this life, I was used to having things on our calendar. The fear of change has been creeping into my mind. During the school year, our days are often structured by my daughter's preschool schedule and other toddler activities. A month ago, our summer calendar was blank.
Though I loved the freedom of unstructured days as a teenager, I was starting to dread this exact thing as a mom. So I decided to make a plan.
I drafted a daily schedule for our family. It may seem a little excessive, but I actually wrote it out. I added things like independent play time from 8 am to 9 am and family time from 6 pm to 7 pm. We printed the schedule and shared it with our children. I also created a list of some easy summer activities so if I heard "Mommy! I'm bored!" I had a plan for what we could do. This immediately calmed my fears.
I've learned through the years as a stay-at-home mom that if we have too much freedom in our schedule we don't function well. My kids enjoy structure. I enjoy structure. My daughter often asks "What are we going to do tomorrow?" I think she asks so she can look forward to something with excitement.
I guess it's true: Humans are creatures of habit. We like consistency and knowing what to expect—even kids. So while scheduling our summer relieved some of my fears, it also made me realize that there's a con to scheduling your life out.
I don't want my kids to miss out on the spontaneity of life. The freedom and magic I felt as a child with nothing to do. It's exhilarating. Dare I say it's even a necessary part of childhood. And I don't want to rob my kids of these same experiences.
In today's world, we are always so busy. Our to-do lists seem to never end and we rarely find the time to just sit and relax. When was the last time you did nothing? I know for myself, I sometimes have to remind myself it is okay to take a break. That its okay to just sit and think about nothing!
Sure we can't go on like that for days, but we need to allow some flexibility into our summer overall. I want my children to have the same fond memories I have about summers as a kid. I want them to explore new places, try new foods and experience true spontaneity.
But, a totally unplanned summer is not realistic for us. (Hence my schedule. )
As a new parent, I quickly learned things rarely went as a I had planned. Parenting required much more patience, flexibility and creative thinking than I first anticipated. We can use these same tools when planning our children's summers. We don't have to always make the right decisions and plan the perfect things. Sometimes the best things in life are unplanned.
If my kids want to stay outside and run through the sprinkler until bedtime, why not? I don't want to be so rigid that I miss out on these precious moments with my children. Plan, prepare—but also be flexible. I think that's my new summer mantra.
Children are naturally carefree. What if we as adults embraced this? How different would our summers be if we left room for some magic, too?