by Kelly Cleeve
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Originally Published: August 2019
It feels like yesterday when the final school bell rang and kids pushed each other, trying to get to the door and on with their summer holidays. When they exited the school that day, it felt like summer would stretch on forever—to their parents, too, eyes wide in panic as they saw the swarm of manic children racing towards them. “Summer time is here. Oh jeez.”
Now it’s half over.
As the season proceeds, many parents are checking their intentions, their “This summer will be different” promises: “I will be the smiling, energetic, loving parent whose children giggle as they run through the sprinkler as I am making organic strawberry pie to feed my darling family. I will keep my patience and entertain my children. They will be having so much fun that they won’t even remember that they have an iPad. This summer is going to be great.”
Inevitably, and despite our best intentions, two weeks into summer our kids are bickering and begging to watch TV, while we, looking haggard and exhausted, desperately try to devise some brilliant plan to entertain the masses again.
I’ve been there. I get it.
A few years ago, I read that we are only blessed with 18 summers with our children, before they drift away from us. If your children are young, you may not feel the pressure of this statement. Yet. You may be drowning in playdough, playgrounds and swim diapers as you try to pin your children down long enough to slather a decent amount of sunscreen on them. Eighteen summers may seem like a lot to you, at this moment.
My oldest son is a teenager, now, beginning to venture into the world without me. There are many days when he chooses to skateboard with his friends or ride his bike to the 7-11 instead of hanging out at the pool with mom. I miss him, but that’s okay because he’s living his best life. He still loves our family trip to the lake and sincerely looks forward to them. When we are there, his connection to the family is strong and I am grateful. I soak up these moments because I know that they won’t last forever. Each passing summer, he will be less available to me. He will have to get a job. He may become wrapped up in the arms of his first love. Our summers are numbered, and I feel it.
So, while your children are small and they still want to play with you, here are a few ways to help you enjoy these lazy, crazy last summer days.
1. Be outside in nature.
Kids of all ages thrive when they are outdoors. There is so much to explore on a beach shoreline or in a forest. They can climb and balance, testing their physical limits. They can pick up sticks and sea shells, getting to know different textures. They can discover new and interesting creatures and learn about plant life. They can get dirty and be loud, letting their imaginations run free. And, best of all, the fresh air will be invigorating for you, while simultaneously expending your child’s energy, tiring them out.
2. Try something new together.
Some of my favourite days have been when my children and I have stepped out of routine and experienced a new adventure together. This has been especially enjoyable as my children have gotten older, for it forms a bond when we are all learning something new for the first time. Perhaps go on a hike that you have not walked before, venture to a climbing gym, take an art class. While parents always enjoy watching their child experience something new, it’s also very cool for kids to see their mom or dad acting like a fish out of water! It inspires many moments of connection and hilarious conversation.
3. Make a bucket list.
It’s always surprising to look at the calendar and discover that the last week of August has arrived and that we have not done many of the things we said we would. Responsibility and distraction tend to pull us away, quietly eating one day at a time. My kids and I have developed the habit of making a wish list during the first week of summer. Then, on each Monday that follows, we choose one activity to experience to have that week. As the summer progresses, we get immense satisfaction from checking our adventures off the list. It’s not too late to write your own August wish list.
4. Let them be bored.
I may have given you the impression that all Super Moms schedule each day to the fullest. How exhausting! That hectic pace would be impossible to keep and is sure to result in grouchy, tired children and parents. I love to balance my summer days, spending many mornings drinking coffee in my pajamas while my children play. However, as I try to indulge in summer reading, my children inevitably complain about boredom. That’s okay. It’s good for them. Boredom is the mother of invention, of creativity. When left to their own devices, it’s wonderful to see what children come up with, in terms of entertainment. Parents shouldn’t be the sole source of all things fun. Children need time that is unsupervised and unstructured. It’s actually good for their development.
5. Keep a consistent bed time.
Staying up late, once in a while, is part of the joy of summer. I can remember playing outside, as a child, watching the sun fade and being thrilled to stay up past my bed time. But, it was a treat, a special occasion, not a regular occurrence. Children function best when kept to a routine. They need sleep, in terms of brain development, body rest and recovery and general happy disposition. Bed time arguments are kept to a minimum when children know what is expected and morning routines are much easier with well rested, content kids. Putting your children to bed on time also allows you time to recharge and practice self-care. Use that time to read a book, enjoy a glass of wine or do whatever it is that lifts your heart and allows you to continue being a happy, present parent the next day.
Enjoy the rest of the summer with your children. In truth, it’s tough to treasure every moment, but I hope that you look back on these days with fondness and nostalgia. It’s still summer time. Have fun!
Kelly Cleeve is a passionate educator with 14 years experience. She is a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, a wife and a mother of 2 beautiful boys.
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