Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Not the Summer We Had Planned

While it's hard to determine exactly when summer vacation started this year, I do know that it's begun. I also know that this summer won't look or feel as we expected it would, nor will it look or feel like any summer we've ever experienced or we'll likely experience ever again. 

That said, my annual "Welcome to Summer" post - the one in which I talk about what I'm looking forward to, what I'm not looking forward to, tips on surviving and thriving through summer with young kids at home, how we navigate the world of summer bucket lists, etc. - needed a makeover this year. I call it:

Not the Summer We Had Planned

Part One: Looking Forward To, Missing Out On, Dreading

What I'm looking forward to:
  • Reading books and watching movies.
  • Swimming with friends.
  • Trying new recipes.
  • Trying new restaurants (that offer carryout, curbside, or delivery).
  • Figuring out creative ways to participate in some of our favorite summer activities closer to home and in safer environments. 

What I'll miss:
  • Visiting our families in Wisconsin and Illinois. (We still don't know whether or not we'll make a trip north this summer.)
  • Leisurely browsing the public library, seeing movies in the theater, playing miniature golf, drinking lukewarm beer and eating salty popcorn at the Union, listening to live music, and shopping at farmers' markets.
  • Sending the kids to overnight camps.
  • Hallie getting to assist with younger dancer classes and camps.

What I could do without:
  • Mosquitoes.
  • The heat.

Some things never change. 😂

Part Two: How to Survive - and Thrive While Spending - Summer Vacation with Kids

A few years ago I wrote an article about how to survive - and thrive while spending - summer vacation with young children. Reviewing this list a few times throughout May, June, and July helped me create and (aid in my attempts to) maintain a household/family balance between structure and pandemonium, activity and boredom, together and alone, movement and rest, responsibility and freedom. In case it might help you do the same (taking into account how different life is in right now), I thought I'd share a portion of the article here.
  • Create a schedule. The summer schedule needn’t be as rigid as the school year schedule, but kids thrive when their days have at least some semblance of order to them. Approximate wake-up, bed, and meal times as well as regular lessons, classes, or camps will provide predictability, stability, and comfort.
  • Create a calendar. Like the summer schedule, the summer calendar can be looser than the school year calendar. But creating a physical calendar on which each day’s plans have been noted is worth the time…and will prevent you having to field 100+ “what are we doing today?” questions before you’ve finished your first cup of coffee.
  • Block off down time. After adding swimming lessons, art classes, and sports camps to the calendar, take note of where you have blocks of free time and designate them as just that – free time. Reserve a couple of mornings, afternoons, or even days each week for spontaneous fun: family day trips, outings to the movie theatre or swimming pool, or even just staying home and letting the kids run wild in the backyard.
  • Give them jobs. When the kids spend more time at home, they should have more responsibilities at home. Perhaps they take on an extra chore or two, or if they’re a little older, they can care for younger siblings or help out with meal planning and preparation.
  • Keep them on track academically. Do your future self a favor and make sure your kids stay on track academically with some kind of bridge book and daily quiet reading time. When fall rolls around and you’re back to helping with homework and projects, you’ll be glad your kids won’t need to relearn anything from the previous year. And quiet reading time is good for everyone’s sanity.
  • Bend the rules. On occasion, throw those schedules and calendars and responsibilities out the window. Skip the chores and head to the beach. Bail on the academic work and watch cartoons. Ditch dinner at the kitchen table and have an outdoor picnic or a picnic on the living room rug.
  • Take time for yourself. Whether a quiet morning at the coffee shop, lunch with friends, or even a weekend away, periodically step away from the kids and spend some time alone or with those in your life who rejuvenate and energize you. Mama Bears can’t keep everyone and everything else running smoothly if they haven’t first shown themselves a little love.

Nothing about this list is perfect, complete, or workable for everyone (nothing every is when it comes to kids…), but having a basic plan in place is a great way to kick off the summer.

Part Three: Making Memories

Throughout the last eight or nine summers we have tried multiple variations of summer bucket lists, activity calendars, school fun guides, screen time guides, chore charts, and job jars. Some went reasonably well. Some were colossal failures.

Eventually I opted out of summer bucket lists because they made me feel stressed and anxious. I tossed activity calendars because they didn't always coordinate well with our other plans for the day. I trashed school fun guides because the kids' frustration outweighed their academic progress. And I did away with chore charts and job jars because I couldn't consistently sync the jobs on the chart or in the jar with the jobs that actually needed tackling around the house.

With each passing year our "systems" became less and less complicated and restrictive, which makes sense given my kids' ages. But I still wanted a way to document our summer so that when the first day of school rolled around we could look back on the previous three months and appreciate the fun we'd had. So last summer I borrowed an idea from Emily Ley (the founder of the Emily Ley Simplified Planner and the Simplified brand): a summer memory list.

"Do the fun thing. Write the fun thing down. Pressure off."

I could not love this plan more. I hope that at end of August we can look back at our summer memory lists and fondly reminisce, rather than looking back at our summer bucket list and worrying about all the opportunities on which we missed out.

Part Four: Here's to Summer

1. Summer baskets were fun, but we missed our friends - Mandi,
Kaylee, and Kara, with whom we started this tradition - so much.
2. When you're not actually going to school buildings, your mom
has to set up the banner and baskets while you're out for a bike
ride/run. Which explains the sweat and shirtless attire.

Last day of school 2019.

Last day of school 2020.
What happened here?!

Happy summer, friends!

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