In our school district, summer break started in the middle of the afternoon on Friday, May 24th. Students were released a planned two hours early on the final day, as if to say, “We don’t want to do those last two hours; they’re all yours.” I’m a person who loves routine and a schedule, so the beginning of summer is tough for me. As much as I love all of my kids being home, there’s a relief in getting two of them on the bus in the morning knowing my responsibility just went from four to two. We’re busy during the school year, but it’s pretty predictable. Summer is a schedule-less, wonderful, tiring, fun, party with four loud kids who are always with me. Add the fact that they’re used to “built in” time alone with me or Ryan, and they always seem to be vying for our attention.
Last Saturday, all six of us were driving when we saw a huge turtle on the walking path near our house. Ryan pulled into a neighborhood so we could drive back to the other entrance to get a second look of the amazing turtle. As we navigated the unfamiliar neighborhood, we saw two shoeless, teenage girls running from their house toward the street. The cynical side of me wondered what mischief they were into. Some prank or something. Then, I saw they were each clutching dollar bills. The faint sound of the ice cream truck tingled in the distance. Ryan said, “They’re running for ice cream!” These two adorable, “non-mischief making” teens taught me a thing or two that day.
First, I don’t know when the excitement of the simple things of summer will fade. Some people remain childlike their whole lives, but not everyone. In a year or two, those girls may hear the familiar song of the truck and say, “It’s not worth it to run out there.” Or, “We have some ice cream in the freezer.” For me, it’s a great reminder for times when we’re leaving the pool and it’s chilly and the kids are begging me to stay a few minutes to play on the playground. I should just say, “yes”. So what if it’s boring? At some point, we’ll leave the pool and they won’t ask to play on the playground and it’ll break my heart. The truth is, we never know how many years we have for things like this. We know when graduation will be, but things like this are just suddenly over without warning.
Second, I could use more of the spirit of the shoeless teens. Summer is fun, and I want to be the kind of mom who would run for the ice cream truck, put my feet in the fountain, dance at the wedding, invite the neighbors over for a bonfire. To do the things that make me feel like a kid again.
The tension is there though. It’s a fact that doing summer with four kids is exhausting. And routine is helpful. I can be fun, but also keep order. Kids need boundaries, so having a few rules about how we spend our day is good for them. Sure, it’s easier to just allow them to watch TV all day but I know it’s not good for them. And we’ll pay for it when they aren’t tired at bedtime. I want to have some plans, but not be over programmed. Do some activities, but not feel like I’m running ragged.
Last week was the first week of break and I’m so tired. Ryan did have a late work night and we were preparing for a birthday party, but I think, beyond that, I didn’t make much time for myself to just be quiet. To read my Bible, to do something creative, to write. And I’m not myself when I don’t make those things a priority.
I never want to be the kind of mom who complains about summer, or counts down the days until school starts. I know I only get 18 summers with the kids until they leave for college and I don’t want to waste one complaining. However, taking a quiet walk or a nap or locking myself into a room and doing some writing is important to me. Without it, I’ll slip into someone I’m not proud of.
So, how’s summer going? Better now. Now that I have a plan, it’s going just fine. If you see me, remind me to laugh, and dance, and say “yes”. And if I hear the ice cream truck, I may just run out there without even putting on my shoes.