I used to love summer. It meant free outdoor movies and dancing at the Boston Harbor Hotel, late nights with friends and neighbors, and spontaneous outings to outdoor places just for fun. With small children, summer meant a more flexible schedule for my husband, nicer weather, softball games and swimming at our local pool.
This year is the first year that it’s seemed like more of a challenge than a gift. With three girls who are used to be being in school all week long, we struggle with long sister-hours. While I will make considerably fewer school lunches during the summer months, we long for a bit more structure and purpose to the day. We try to put off our screen time until late in the afternoon and slowly by summer’s end, we can only last until noon.
This year, I’m also working more than I ever have while having kids. Now, in addition to keeping them from punching and yelling at each other, we’re going to have balance some semblance of a work schedule on top of it all. To those of you who are already handling that balance (and have for years) my hat is off to you, because I feel a little knot in the pit of my stomach when I think about how I have not yet sat down and planned the summer weeks – and it’s already started.
What makes this transition even harder is the expectation and anticipation that remains in my brain from earlier years – that summer is a time of rest, fun, leisure. It’s finally a time we can walk outside without checking to make sure we have several extra layers of clothes, just in case. And when we do walk outside we smell flowers, rain showers, chlorine and sunscreen. But summer now brings a more harried schedule rather than rest. In my world, that means parents attempting to schedule around camp hours and babysitters, and family vacations. By the end of August, many of us will breathe a collective sigh of relief (the same breathed by teachers just a few months before), and march our kiddos back to school.
This year, because it’s presenting new challenges for us, we’re going to need to work harder to gain the respite we need. That means resting (and sleeping) when we need to, and enjoying the lazy days reading on the couch when we have them. That means working (actually working) when we set the time aside to do so. That means being flexible with our attitudes and gracious towards others when things aren’t quite as clean cut as we’d like them to be. And because it’s a step away from our usual schedules, it can be an opportunity for us to create new daily habits and revive old ones, like reading the Bible and praying.
This year, we will definitely spend entire afternoons or mornings at the library, reading and re-reading our favorite books (recommendations below). We will regularly visit our local swimming pool (Foss Park, Somerville) and less-regularly take the train in to Boston for a Frog Pond visit. We discovered last year that the swan boats aren’t actually that pricey! We will also spend a good portion of our time walking and biking around Somerville (since driving around here is nuts).
I actually don’t know if I used to love summer. Our memories are notoriously unreliable. But this summer I hope to redeem the time, to root ourselves in the Word, and enjoy the gifts of work and play wherever we can.
Do you like to read? I think the following recommendations are good for all children – ages 0-99!
Randy’s Dandy Lionsand Kermit the Hermit by Bill Peet
Mercy Watsonand Bink and Golly by Kate DiCamillo
Frog and Toadby Arnold Lobel
Quest, Returnand Journey, all wordless picture books by Aaron Becker
The Magic Treehouse Series
Late elementary/middle school:
The Saturdays(and the entire Melendy Quartet) by Elizabeth Enright
North or Be Eaten (and the rest of the Wingfeather Saga) by Andrew Peterson
The Penderwicksby Jeanne Birdsall
Betsy, Tacy and Tibby Maud Hart Lovelace
A Series of Unfortunate Eventsby Lemony Snicket
Frindleby Andrew Clements
The Chronicles of Narnia (because C.S. Lewis.)