Here’s what I plan to do to cope
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.