Ahhh Summer. The countdown is on and I am so giddy. Maybe even more than my kids. The sun, swimming, parks, biking, camping trips, lakes, and the not-getting-ready-for school – I love it all. (My husband calls me solar-powered.)
Yet I know that many moms anticipate summer with a little more panic and a little less sheer joy. I get it. I don't live in a fantasy land where summertime is all sunshine and roses every minute. Having the school-agers home all day with the younger children definitely creates a different dynamic that gets challenging. Certainly, the fighting and bickering increases as the school-agers get bored with their siblings and just want their friends back. Sometimes summer fun can bring added financial stress that makes Mom tense. With more people at home needing us all day and less structure to occupy everyone, we Moms tend to loose our sanity more quickly than normal. Just yesterday my oldest child told me that I frequently seem too overwhelmed to be approachable for questions. Ouch. I'm so grateful she could say that to me and that she did so before summer.
Truth be told, after the events of the last hour in my home, during which I came unglued on my boys due to the unfortunate events of a very bad bike ride, I feel totally disqualified from writing about savoring summer moments; but I’m pressing on in hopes that my very real life is exactly why I should. We live in a real world with real messes, real fights, real sin, real kids, and real mood swings.
The realness of it all is precisely why we must save our sanity to help us savor our fleeting summer days. I just wrote last week about how it’s totally unrealistic to “love every minute.” But we can love summer overall without loving every second.
As hard as it sometimes is, this is our time, and time is not on our side. The summers with our kids home are few and numbered. My hope is that we can savor as many moments as possible.
In that hope, I offer 10 Sanity Savers for Savoring Summer:
`1. Peace & Quiet. The quickest way to ensure Mom-burnout before July 1 is to not create a little peace and quiet for yourself. We must create the space for peace and quiet. It will not come on it’s own. My days go way better when they start with fresh early morning air, exercise, and some solitude with my Bible. If you’re a runner or walker, maybe try it without music this summer. Our lives are so noisy – especially with all the kids home every day...quiet is good for the soul.
If you’re not a morning person, try creating some quiet space for yourselves while your kids have a little screen time. Or, build quiet time for you and your kids into each day. My boys have quiet time in their rooms for about an hour after lunch. They can choose to rest, look at books, or play...the important thing is simply having time alone and away from each other. They thrive on it. Peace and quiet is good for everyone, but we have to be intentional about making it happen.
2. Soul Food. Summer days put high demands on a Mom, and we can’t keep giving if we’re running on empty. God’s Word is nourishment for a hungry soul. Summer is a great time to start a Bible-reading plan, but don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting to read for 30 minutes a day...you’ll likely get discouraged. Even if you only make through 5-10 verses, Scripture will still impact your heart. If you’re new to reading the Bible, I suggest starting in one of the Gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
3. The Morning Routine. Last year I attempted a daily schedule and failed. I was too unorganized and “fly by the seat of my pants” to follow it, which really frustrated my organized “do it by the books” oldest child. This year, I’m just trying a shorter morning routine to help us make time for chores and quiet reading time, while also delaying the impending questions of “Moommmm, what can I do now?“, “Moooommm, can we watch TV yet?” and “MOOOOOMMMM, why are my siblings so annoying?” (Let’s face it, those questions will be posed a hundred times before lunch, but if we can offset them for an hour or two with some routine, it saves our sanity for later in the day.) I think our mornings will look like this:
7:30-8:00 – Breakfast (My kids are early birds.)
8:00-8:30 – Clean your room
8:30-9:00 – Quiet reading time
9:00-9:30 – Morning chores
9:30-10/10:30ish – One or two episodes of Netflix something
4. City Parks! We have so many great parks in the city, with a fairly impressive variety – rivers trails, splash parks, parks with huge climbing trees, parks near great bike paths, parks by ponds, parks with rock walls – and let’s face it, we’re paying for them with our taxes so we should really use them. (My kids’ list of their top ten favorite parks in the city will be posted soon!)
5. Picnics Made Easy. As Fancy Nancy says, everything tastes better when eating alfresco, but packing picnics need not be time-consuming. Frequently on a summer morning, as we are about to jump on our bikes, I'll just quickly grab a loaf of bread, a jar of PB, an apple or two, a knife, a bag of Doritos or goldfish, some water bottles, and off we go. Or, when we get tired of sandwiches, I grab a roll of summer sausage, a block of cheese, a box of crackers, and a knife. When we get to the park, the kids run off and play while I prepare lunch. (We also keep bottled water in the garage fridge, which helps me remember to take water everywhere I go and saves us from losing precious Ninja Turtle and Hello Kitty water bottles all over town).
6. The Pool Pass. This is the best summer investment ever. It might sting a little up front for a city pool pass, but if you have a few kids and go even just once per week, it pays for itself. Also, having the pool pass takes the pressure off of making every pool visit perfect. Without a pool pass, for me to take my kids to a city pool costs like $12-14 per time. When I did that, the pressure was on each time: YOU MUST HAVE FUN AND WE MUST STAY HERE FOR 2 FULL HOURS!!! But with a city pool pass it's like, "Oh, you're all cold after 45 minutes now that the sun is hidden? Sure we can leave. Whatever." Or "Oh, you want to go to the pool for the fifth time this week? Sure, let's go!" Totally worth it.
5. The Always-Ready Pool Bag. If you're going to commit to a pool pass, do yourself a favor and keep the pool bag packed. I have a large designated pool bag that stays on our entryway bench all summer with goldfish, fruit snacks, bottled water, sunscreen, bug spray, wipes, goggles, water rings, etc. It makes leaving for the pool so.much.easier. Likewise, the basket of beach towels stays in the laundry room, so the beach towels just cycle through being used, washed, dried, and back in the designated beach towel basket for the kids to grab the next day.
6. The State Park pass. Seriously...$25 for a whole state for a whole year! So fun. We get the Minnesota pass to enjoy the lakes all summer and the hikes all fall. For summer beach days, our favorites are Maplewood, Glendalough, and Itasca. From Fargo, Maplewood and Glendalough are easy day trips (We love both lakes, but Glendalough’s swimming beach is particularly gorgeous) . State Parks are well kept, have clean bathrooms, nice sandy beaches, usually fun hiking trails, and are a great way to get your kids into nature.
7. The Snack Schedule. One thing that wears on my sanity is having kids constantly standing in the pantry asking for oreos and Doritos at 9AM. Thus, the snack schedule. This is little nugget of brilliance from a girlfriend that I totally failed at last year. However, I am going to try it again to ensure that my kids eat more than just fruit snacks and popsicles. Snacks will be at 10am and 3pm, assigned in advance and written down on the snack calendar so that everyone knows that on Thursday at 10AM they will be eating cheese and crackers. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
8. Library Time. I’m all about the great outdoors, but everyone needs a break from the sun and heat at times. During the school year our kids use the library once a week…we can keep their love of reading piqued by continuing their weekly library opportunities. Both the public library and Barnes & Noble offer summer reading programs (which we've never participated in because I'm too unorganized...but we might this year!) Having new books to read will also help the morning quiet reading time be successful.
9. The Summer Survival Kit. Winter isn't the only season that requires preparation, and the summer survival kit is so much more fun! We can be prepared for whatever comes our way by keeping a backpack in the car with a spare swimsuit for each person, granola bars, a picnic blanket, some water bottles, sunscreen, bugspray, a bit of cash for the spontaneous ice cream stop, and a pair of old tennis shoes for each person just in case we come across an amazing hike while we're off the beaten path.
10. Boredom. I actually don't remember the last time I was bored, but I am working on allowing my kids time and space to be bored. This is hard for me, but I am getting better. Boredom is important; creativity flows from times of boredom. My nature is totally to be the activity coordinator at all times, and my husband reminds me to let my kids just be bored and do nothing sometimes ("Rebecca, you're making them tired. They just want to chill.") He's right. It's so good for kids. I am doing a disservice to my kids if I make it my goal every single day to entertain them all day every day.
It may seem like September looms far in the distance, but indeed it does not. We will blink and summer will be over. We simply must be intentional about our joy. Jesus said that "the thief has come to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come to bring you life, and life abundantly." We have an enemy wants to suck the joy out of our sweet summer days. But Jesus wants us to have abundant life – and although that is much bigger than this, I do believe that 'having life abundantly' during child-rearing years includes soaking up summer with our kids – laughter, playing, resting, sunbeams, picnics under shade trees. The joy and peace that we capture in those moments cannot be rivaled, traded, or lost. Let’s not miss it.
Let's save our sanity so we can savor our summers. Meet me at the pool!