Summer officially arrives in our house this week. School ends on Thursday. I have already had a few sessions with a paper bag in the quiet of the bathroom. I admit it. Summer makes me hyperventilate…and eat lots of chocolate… and hyperventilate…and eat more chocolate. I love my children dearly, but NINE weeks with them without a standard routine? Wait just a minute; I need to take some deep cleansing breaths.
So here is the problem. My guys do best with routine. It anchors them and keeps us humming along. Summer just defies routine. I know. I have been trying to establish one without luck for years and years. We start off summer with birthdays. Three of my children have a birthday within days of each other. Then their grandmother has a birthday. Birthdays wreak havoc on a schedule. Then we have vacation. Havoc on the road. Then two children head to church camp and the other two expect an interesting slate of activities to make up for the fact that they are stuck at home. Then oldest goes to soccer camp while other child comes home from church camp in an exhausted, ugly mood. Then begin band and soccer practices with crazy schedules that have me running here and there. Even better, these schedules may change on a daily basis depending on the whim of a coach or director.
Remember also, my guys don’t get along all that well under the best of circumstances. Add to it my insistence that the kids continue some learning over the summer so they don’t start the school year behind. Can you just feel my anxiety levels rise as I am writing? Hold on a minute while I self-medicate with chocolate chips.
Okay. So how will I get through the summer with most of my sanity intact? Here are a few tried and true strategies from the past.
The Early Morning Walk - Without having to worry about school buses to catch, I can get a walk in before my husband leaves for work. This gives me some precious time alone while working off some of the stress and side-effects of my chocolate self-medication.
A Good Reading List - When you spend lots of time breaking up squabbles and hauling kids around, you can feel your IQ sinking. I like to choose an author or interesting topic to read about each summer. This summer’s theme is shaping up to be about the saints. (I am really, really hoping some of their holiness will rub off through the pages and make me a more patient and kind mother.) It is also important to have one of your books with you at all times. It can come in handy if you have to barricade yourself in the bathroom to escape the squabbling or if the coach makes the kids do extra laps after practice supposedly ended.
Spontaneous Activities - You don’t want to reach the end of summer without some fun memories, so do things with your kids. But don’t plan them. I have found planning often leads to disappointment. It never ends up being as cool as you or the kids built it up to be. I once planned a wonderful, bucolic day at an orchard. I knew it was going to be GREAT. Only trouble is my kids picked two bushels of peaches in 45 seconds (an activity I thought would take an hour or so as we picked the ripest, best peaches). And then they refused to eat any of the peaches because they were fuzzy. So visit a museum, have a movie-and-snack day at home, take a day trip - just don’t plan in advance.
Free Learning Activities- In the past I have invested in workbooks and programs to keep learning going during the summer. It never paid off. This year we will have a weekly library outing, watch documentaries (borrowed from the library), cook (math and reading in a tasty disguise), read anything, and play free learning games on the computer.
Starting on Friday, I will put these strategies into action. I will remind myself that when all is said and done, nine weeks really do go by very fast. And I will stockpile chocolate.