It’s Summer Time! Are We Having Fun Yet?

My kids have been out of school for a month now. My stack of parenting magazines is covered with titles like, “Summer Fun!” or some variation of that sentiment. Is it just me, or are those titles mocking us moms? Sometimes the idea of summer fun seems nothing more than a half-baked dream I had before kids when my head was full of unrealistic expectations. In reality, my summer doesn’t always feel fun. With 4 kids all relearning how to get along, it can feel like a lot of work.

 

I admire the mothers of largish families who tell me how much fun having a large brood is, but I often wonder how I’ve missed the boat here. For me, adding more children has translated to increased pressure. After laundry, cleaning, phone calls, bills, finding time to write, picking up all day, and a hundred other tasks, I often feel like any joy has been squeezed right out of me. Throw in a dozen tantrums and some tween sassiness and I’m done. I’m not saying there aren’t hilarious moments, there totally are and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but there are also increasing demands and responsibilities. When I get stressed, fun feels like the first thing to fly out the window.

So the question I asked myself before this summer began was, “How can I better balance work and play without losing my mind?” Since we added another child to our crew over the winter (Lord if you’re listening, we are good now thanks!), I knew having a plan in place for fun would be even more essential this summer. So here are a few guidelines I came up with to keep my work/play meter in check:

  1. Care Less. With 4 kids in the house generating dishes, laundry, and mountains of stuff, summer is a great time to care less what my house looks like. Messes are temporary and memories of merriment are forever.
  2. Take Breaks. Without school to give me a daily breather (my hats off to homeschooling mamas everywhere) I need to make an effort to take breaks in the evening or on weekends. I might do something crazy like grab a Starbucks and sit in silence or wander aimlessly around Target.  
  3. Be Silly. Even if my natural inclination isn’t silliness, I make an effort every day to act a little immature. My favorite silly behaviors include dancing, joking around, and finding little ways to make my kids smile. Of course, some awesome moms will take this to the next level like the pinterest picture I recently saw where stairs were turned into a slide using cardboard. I think I’ll pass. That would end badly in my house.
  4. Slow Down. During summers the older kids have reading time each afternoon. One day on a whim, I decided that instead of trying to get things done while my little one was sleeping and they were reading, I would sit down for 30 minutes and read too. It was refreshing and I’ve been doing it ever since.
  5. Enlist Help. Many high school kids are looking for babysitting jobs during the summer. I have a weekly play date with my older girls while my younger ones are home playing with a sitter. It’s a win-win.
  6. Release Control. I sometimes have a misguided desire to be Wonder Mom, so this summer I’m giving some of my workload away. Turns out, my kids are a lot more capable than I imagined. They’ve learned to help me cook, handle their own laundry, and they’ve been drafted into my army of deep cleaners armed with nothing but a box of baby wipes. It may not get done perfectly, but they are learning to be part of a team in the process. 
  7. Add Structure. Having fun with kids often requires planning on my part. I write down some things to do throughout the week. Whether it is a surprise outing to a favorite place or something as simple as playing a game, I make a plan and stick to it no matter what work is piling up around me.

Last summer, we announced that we were going to spend the morning on a family bike ride. After what felt like 5 hours of whining, preparation, and hassle we finally hit the road. When at last we arrived, it was a glorious ride that everyone enjoyed. An older gentleman passed by our biking clan, smiled and said, “You’re doing great mom! The family that bikes together stays together!” His encouraging words were a gift. It was worth the effort to play that day. It always is. The projects can be put on hold, the work will still be waiting in the wings come fall, but today it is summer. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” This summer, I’m doing my best to stay cheerful and not let my bones dry up in the heat.

How about you? How does your family have fun in the summer?

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10 thoughts on “It’s Summer Time! Are We Having Fun Yet?

  1. Terrific advice Lindsay! Applaud you for announcing that messes are temporary, and it’s okay to care less. Our house would be a wreck by the end of every day and Steve would ask nicely, “what have you been doing all day” and excitedly we’d tell him post office – demolition derby – WWF (wrestling) – pokemon battles… I wanted the boys to grow up remembering the fun we had, every day was an adventure!

    Be at peace moms with messes, us older moms will tell you it’s much preferred. Lindsay is correct it’s temporary and when you’re older and your house is all neat and tidy, you’ll wish to God for a house full of kiddos to mess it up.

    MERRIMENT > MESSES! (you should put it on a t-shirt, I’d buy one).

    Thanks for sharing Lindsay, ALWAYS love reading everything you write!!
    Lots of love for all the young moms out there, I pray for you every day!

    • Cathie, I loved hearing about your days with your boys! You’re a great mom and I’m sure they both have wonderful childhood memories. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, wisdom, and prayers. It’s not always easy, but it’s so helpful to hear from moms who have moved on to another season that the “messes” of today are indeed temporary. And can I add, I really miss having you as a neighbor. I hope you’re enjoying a wonderful Seattle summer!

  2. My husband and I just had this conversation a few weeks ago. How things were spiraling down and getting so chaotic it seemed. I was dreading summer and felt there was no way I could handle all the kids this summer and work. We came up with a new plan -a new mantra so to speak for the family. We called it TIDBIT. Turn It Down, Build In Team. We are trying to focus more on the tidbits of life. Turning down the ramped up nature of our kids, the ramped up nature of our lives, and our own desires to get everything done just so. We were forcing life. We were forcing fun and rushing through it in the meantime. I just take breaths now and think “turn it down” when I get ramped up and aggravated at my kids. When they throw fits or beg and whine, I remind them that we “turn it down” and settle down. And for the building in team part – we work hard to talk with respect and help each other in every way can through chores and support and forgiveness. I am yelling less and teaching more it seems. I am not so stressed from the day I have had so far that I don’t have patience to use those teaching moments for the better of the family.

    We sat down with all the kids and explained this new mantra to them. They seem to get it. They seem to love their more relaxed parents and the more relaxed days it has given us.

    Things aren’t great every day of course. But they are better. Maybe I just needed a motto for my summer. But it sounds a lot like what you were wrote about. Maybe we both stumbled on the same answer at the same time.

    • Jody, I love this! I especially love the fact that you came up with the acronym to remember it easily. I think the overall slower pace you mentioned is key. I too often wonder why I feel like I’m in such a hurry. Is life really a rush? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Encouraged me to ease up on the schedule & attempts to structure the days and remember to simply have fun! Thanks for being “real”.

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