Why is summer so stressful with kids?

Why is summer so stressful with kids?

Here’s what I plan to do to cope

Summer can be tough but so are you!
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Summer vacation is within sight on my calendar here in New England, and I’m doing my usual, disorganized, panicked-planning thing. I’m putting camps on a credit card, trying to strike a balance between overscheduling and being stuck at home with four bored children who do nothing but argue.

It seems that every year, when spring rolls around I start telling myself the same story: This summer will be different! They don’t need to go to camp or take classes, they need downtime! Spend less money and more time on your kids!

But when late spring arrives, I can’t seem to shake the image of my children gone rogue: Toys litter the yard, half-empty glasses of lemonade invade every surface, kids whine for snacks every 30 minutes.

I’m not that good at being home all summer with my kids, OK?

But though I like to strategically schedule camps and other fun activities, I am pretty committed to not overdoing it. While being home with nothing to do is my idea of a disaster, I have to remember that my kids like it! They may enjoy being with peers and trying new things at camp, but being home with unstructured time is something they crave. It’s also what I did during the majority of my childhood summers, and I remember the bliss of playing in the neighborhood with nowhere to be.

Like I said, strategy is the key here. Here are some of the principles I use in planning our 7 to 8 weeks of summer vacation. (Recognizing that not everyone can let their kids lounge at home a lot, this post is admittedly more helpful for parents who either stay home, or work from home and have flexible schedules.)

1. Start with downtime.

I’m kind of breaking this rule this year for reasons a little outside my control, but in general, I believe in letting the first couple of weeks of summer be quiet ones. I try not to plan on summer camp, and make room for school debriefing.

2. Prioritize

Take stock of each child and what his or her needs are. For example, I currently have a rising kindergartner who none of us is especially excited to be stuck at home with all summer. He has ENDLESS energy, he is loud, he never sleeps during the day. While I adore him and think he is a wonderful person, a majority of the camp budget will be directed at him. I know he will thrive on the constant action. The rest of us can stay home during his camp weeks and read books in peace.

3. Stagger

Put one child in a camp at a time for part of the summer. Enjoy the extra downtime with your other child or children, and the relative quiet that comes from having one less voice in the mix.

4. Space

I’ve noticed that, as much as I like a quiet house while kids are at camp or other activities, driving to and from these things gets to be exhausting. I try to have down weeks between camps, for this reason and also because I notice my kids enjoy camp more this way.

5. Stack

Camp is definitely pricey and young kids can’t often go, but if you are able, try to pick a week when all of your kids are in camp. I have grand plans of doing this someday, when all of my kids are camp age, and taking time to organize closets, go to lunch with my husband, or hit the beach. Will I ever get there? I don’t know, but it’s important to have a reach goal!

6. Plan outings

Summer is a great time to tackle the things on your bucket list you never seem to get to with the kids. With my mom newly retired, and no babies in tow, I plan to do some serious day-tripping to regional attractions or just some of my favorite childhood summertime haunts.

I am convinced there is no way to avoid hitting that late-summer wall when you’re the parent of a bunch of kids, but hopefully some carefully placed camp, outings and sports (anyone have a gymnastics kid tethered to a gym?!) you can keep that at bay for as long as possible.

And who knows, maybe this will be the first summer as a mom I didn’t want to end.

The best beach on Cape Cod …

The best beach on Cape Cod …

Old Silver Beach sunsets are killer.

I spent my childhood summers on Cape Cod, but because my grandparents had a beach house in the Upper Cape town of Mashpee, I didn’t get to know many other beaches until the last few years when the house was sold and my husband and I were forced into weekly rentals.

It still stings, but the obvious blessing is I finally got off my beach chair and saw some other parts of this beautiful region of Massachusetts, including stumbling upon the best beach on Cape Cod when I was 34 years old, with my husband and three kids in tow. The first time we visited Old Silver Beach in West Falmouth, I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing!

Old Silver Beach in Falmouth is one of those beaches that most Massachusetts natives know about, even if they never visit. I was in that category when we were renting a classic Cape-style house in East Falmouth, next to my native Mashpee.

Falmouth is a very popular Upper Cape beach town that is usually mobbed in the summer, especially on weekends and in neighborhoods like Woods Hole and Falmouth Heights. There are huge stretches of coastal roads with beautiful beaches , but West Falmouth, home to Old Silver Beach (AKA, the best one) is different. It has a bit of a coastal Maine vibe, with cliffside estates overlooking the ocean beaches below, and Old Silver is really the focal point on that side of town.

Located next to the Sea Crest Beach Hotel, the public side of Old Silver Beach always looks a bit ethereal to me. There’s a glow over the water, and I think it feels a bit like California with its brown rock ledges that descend into the water from the coastal road. Yes, Maine, California, — I am all over the map but that just supports my assertion that Old Silver Beach has it all.

Aside from aesthetics, Old Silver Beach is ideal for people of all ages. The water is shallow for a very long time so that you could walk a hundred yards into the water and it might just be up to your thighs. There are sandbars that take little ones by surprise. If you want to swim, though, you can find deep enough water as you wade toward the jetty, closer to the private beach in front of the neighboring resort. Adults will appreciate the matchless sunsets over Buzzard’s Bay. Parents (and all people who like being alive) will appreciate the fact that Great White Sharks don’t seem to congregate around Upper Cape waters in Falmouth as they do around the lower Cape beaches, especially in recent years when the Cape has become a Great White Shark worldwide hub. There are places on the Cape I don’t let my kids swim, but Old Silver definitely isn’t one of them.

Toddler friendly too!

In season, you will have to pay to park but it’s well worth it. Here, though, I’ll suggest a later-in-the-day trip, if you don’t mind skipping the sunniest hours of the afternoon. After 5 p.m., parking is free. You don’t have to worry much about the sun (great for parents like me who get tired of applying sunblock) and the crowds are smaller. We’ve done sunset trips to Old Silver and ordered pizza while there, spent a good three hours and watched the sun go down. It really is a great way to enjoy the beach. Sadly, bathroom and shower facilities are closed by the late afternoon, but there are many local eateries so while you’re ordering dinner, be sure to use a restroom!