Childless friends, grandparents, siblings, and even husbands might say, what can be rough about summer? How about relatives who have no kids, older kids, or just different kids, who plan a vacation without your own younger kids’ bedtime in mind. Bags packed and unpacked, sometimes daily. Camps and vacations that last a week, or sometimes even a weekend — not like the regular rhythm of the school year. Beach days where your job is “runner” if you have a toddler, or life guard if your kids are older, but you certainly are not sitting and reading a book. And you never imagined the beach would give you gray hairs! And of course, the food — please don’t get me started on the topic of hot dogs!
I have learned to love my summers… but only after a few rough ones, where at the end of July, I started ordering backpacks and fall clothes thinking maybe that would make school begin and give me my life back!
But something has shifted for me, and I am in a place where I really look forward to summer. I have crafted summers that are a refreshing combo of dedicated work time and full on kids time. Mixed in with some me time and some date moments. And for the past 3 years, I have found myself dreading the end of summer!
All that said, everything I offer you below on the shifts I have made should be looked at as a practice. After all, there are a lot of uncontrollable circumstances that come with a family! I fully admit that on Monday when my kids were home for their first day of summer break, the thought went through my head a few times that I have it all wrong, and maybe I should just send them to camp everday! But then there were Tuesday and Wednesday, which were pure bliss!
So here are 4 of my tricks that have helped me fully enjoy summer with my family…
1. We set summer goals.
- We sit down as a family and map out some of the things we want to do together and individually over the summer. As always, I look for balance, so I created a worksheet that balances rainy day things with sunny day things, individual things with family things, social events with quieter time.
- The list lives on the fridge. If I am working, and my 10 year old thinks he is bored, he can visit the list and see that one of his goals is to make a book, and can escape to do that. If we wake up and we thought it was going to be a beach day, but it is raining, we already have many possibilities to choose from.
- We also include rituals that we want to implement, like allowance, pickling, and canning, which are easier to become habit when we are relaxed. And come September we are relaxed, satisfied, and have fresh jam for the winter.
2. I let go of too much scheduling. I have three kids, but even with two, a babysitter is much higher value than a camp. Why?
- Not having to get us all out of the house in the morning buys me all kinds of freedom. I get to go to yoga or on a run at 6:00am because I don’t have to be back to pack lunches and have everyone out the door by 7:30.
- It allows me to work a few very full days and have a whole day at the beach at least once during the week.
- Most importantly, it lets my kids just decompress and be kids after a full year of learning and a stricter schedule. I feel like they get time to actually integrate what they learn! When we do schedule things, we make sure there is downtime on either side!
3. I make extra time for food. There are so many ways we can foster healthy family eating in the summer:
- There are farmers markets everywhere, so I can easily shop local and eat in season, and the kids can pick out produce and meet farmers. We can also visit farms to pick our own berries or tomatoes.
- I can cook with the kids in a more relaxed manner — this morning I made muffins with my son, which isn’t possible on a school day. And we enjoy family dinners that don’t always come together as easily during the school year: the days are longer and bedtime can be more relaxed, so we wait for papa more often.
- We make healthy smoothies and popsicles, and lots of pudding. I feel like there are more meals in the summer (though there aren’t!), but on the flip side, that gives us more opportunities to eat well!
4. I make time for friends. There is something that happens during the school year where I see enough people at school, at birthday parties, and for work, and I crave alone time. But the summer months can be kind of isolating! So as part of our intentions, we make a list of dinners we want to have and friends we want to see – both as a family, and individually. Sometimes summer events happen by default: work events, family reunions, the place you have visited since childhood. But what would happen if mixed in with those social events you made time for the friends who are in your position and lift you up? (Or at least are willing to listen to you about rashes and poop gracefully!)
I have created 3 summer planning worksheets for you to download here — one to create as a family, one for you (and papa can do one of these too), and one for each kid over seven. Directly following I share two of our family’s sheets.