In the 7 years that Alinn@ and I have had summers with kids, this year has easily been the most successful. And by successful, I mean that we’re not driving each other crazy.
She’s worked in schools and I’m the stay-at-home so we have a lot of together time during the summer. Many moms have told me that it must be awesome to have two parents at home for 6 weeks straight. More help, more eyes, more hands, etc.. And it is… for the first couple of days.
The biggest trick/hurdle to being a stay-at-home, I’ve found, is finding a regular pattern/rhythm/routine for the days. Before I had one with kids, the days felt endless. I’d play with them for what seemed like an eternity, look up at the clock, and realize that only 5 minutes had elapsed. What would I do with them for the remaining 9 1/2 hours until Alinn@ came home from work? Child psychs and parenting books also say that kids thrive in the context of routines. Without them, they don’t know what to expect, feel out of control, and as a result act out. This has been true in my house.
Enter summer vacation. The routines go out the window. The kids go crazy.
And Alinn@ being the capable parent that she is, she has her own way of doing things and handling the kids. It drove me crazy. And me being crazy would make her crazy. There was a whole of crazy during the months of June and July.
This year though was different.
Taking what we’ve been learning these last 6 months, we decided to establish a weekly rhythm, a predictable pattern for our summer so that we could not go crazy (live sustainably) and invite others to live like an extended family with us.
At the start of the summer, we all gathered around a piece of butcher paper and talked about what we wanted to do this summer. I organized them into categories. And then we assigned each category a day of the week. Every Monday we worked on a home project, which included making jam and building a pea trellis. Tuesday was Movie Day. On Wednesdays, we walked to the library. On Thursdays, we went on day trips. And on Fridays we invited friends to come and play.
It gave the kids structure.
It gave me enough flexibility because most of the activities didn’t take the entire day. I could still do other things.
The structure gave us the ready-made ability to invite others to join us. Friends came with us to see movies. We went on day trips with others. We saw the same people at the library. And it was easy to coordinate because we were already planning on doing those things.
And we didn’t go crazy. There were still the usual meltdowns that happen with having little kids around. It wasn’t a summer miracle. But it was our best summer yet.