Two summers ago, boy, I had it made. I planned theme days for our kids, in hopes that I would survive a summer at home with a newborn and two big kids. We dressed up like fishermen and built a boat out of a large cardboard box. We looked at bugs through a magnifying glass and ate worms and dirt (oreos, pudding and gummy worms) and learned about beetles online.
We had a schedule of school worksheets in the morning, a few minutes of chores each day, a fun snack (that of course went along with our theme for the week), afternoon water activities and scheduled quiet time. I was the Pinterest mom that actually DID the ideas that I thought about doing.
It was glorious.
And then last summer hit.
Somehow, April crept up on me, then it was May, then school was out and… deer-in-the-headlights/ choice-words wanted to come out of my mouth. How is it summer already? And what in the world am I going to do with these children that I own, ALL SUMMER?!
So, you know what I did? I winged it.
I played the “just stay 20 minutes ahead of your child” schedule game.
They’re napping? What am I going to do when they wake up?
They’re about to get out of bed in the morning? Shoot, what’s for breakfast?
They’re swimming outside? What am I going to do when they get tired of that?
I lived 20 minutes ahead of them. Some moms thrive in this spontaneous-ness. Me? I 20-minuted my way through summer and got to the end of it and went, “Well, boo. What did we do all summer?”
We wasted our summer away 20 minutes at a time.
Now, I’m sure we had fun, and ate a snow-cone or two and swam and made a craft of some kind, but what did we REALLY do?
We couldn’t remember. Nothing memorable enough for the scrapbook or Instagram, anyway.
So this year, I’m realizing, I need to find “Something-Between-Pinterest-Mom-and-Nothing-Mom.” Listen, I’m not making homemade birthday cake sprinkles for my daughter’s birthday here, but I at least need to plan ahead for something.
Two summers ago, when I planned, it took a while. It took research on theme days, and national holidays (National Oreo day, anyone?) and going to the Dollar Tree to get cheapo supplies, but the few hours I spent planning our summer were SO valuable to my sanity, and the enjoyment of summer for my kids. When I got desperate, or our usual plans got shuffled and we were stuck at home for a full day, I had an arsenal of activities in my back pocket…
(*Darn, zoo is closed for remodel*)
“Hey kids, guess what today is? Rainbow Day!”
And we ironed crayon shavings between wax paper, ate rainbow striped popsicles that stained our tongues, and put food coloring in shaving cream and swirled it around in a huge mess.
The other thing that I found was, when I dedicated even 30 minutes to providing an engaging activity for my kids in the morning, and a fun snack in the afternoon, they were more likely to play happily on their own in the in-between time. They weren’t hanging on me all day asking “What can I do?” Just a few minutes of intentional play, that’s all it took.
So it’s May now, and I’m already behind, but I know that I won’t let this summer be wasted. I’ll make a list of fun activities and the supplies they require. I’ve already made a list of skills I want my kids to learn (tying shoes, etc.), and we’ll practice each week (knowing flexibility is the key). I’ll give up 30 minutes of “my” time to play with them, because I know I’ll get my own time later. And more importantly, I know the investment of sitting criss-cross-applesauce with them on the floor to play in an imaginary world of Paw Patrol figurines is worth it.
It’s not wasted.