Monday, June 1, 2015

How I Keep from Going Crazy all Summer (A Half-Assed Plan)

You count down the days. You may even have a paper chain or a calendar to cross off. You fill up water balloons and super-soakers to meet the bus. You plan a bar-b-cue at the neighborhood pool with popsicles and icees and it's like one big town-wide party for everyone with school-age kids.

No more poster board projects your kid remembers at 10:37p.m. the night before it's due! No more mountains of papers requiring your signature that you sign away hoping that none of them gave over the deed to your house! No more convoluted list of "90s day" and "sports day" and "wear blue for whale/earth/clean-water-for-all day" because, God forbid, your kid wears green (unless it's St. Patrick's Day and then your kid had BETTER wear green or he will get PINCHED. And, also, make sure your kid knows that pinching is sometimes called assault and if he does so you will be called to come get him from school.)  Hooray for SUMMER!

And then you're slammed upside the head with the reality that your kids no longer have an exhausting 8 hours of school to attend that will mellow them into normal(ish) people and you are solely responsible for finding SOMETHING, for Pete's sake, ANYthing to do all day long.

For two months. Two WHOLE months. That's the same amount of time you spent feeding the little buggers every 2 hours at the beginning of their lives and you knew at the time it would NEVER END and you would always be tired. And it did end, but you were right about the tired part.

How can summer be so much fun and also make you want to send your kids to boarding school?

As the daughter of teachers and, eventually, as a teacher myself, I have spent my entire life counting down the days to summer. By the time I quit teaching, I had school age children myself and so the counting has never stopped.

When summer finally came during my teaching years, I wanted to lie in bed until 10 and then do all the household projects that I never had time to do for the other 10 months of the year. And I did do that for the first several years.

But then I had kids and they kept waking up at 6:30 and expecting to be "fed" and asking "what are we going to do today?" That's when I realized that I had to actually come up with something to do today.

During school, kids don't have much free time and they are, therefore, obsessed with the "plan" for each day. I found myself rather exasperatedly yelling "the PLAN is to finish your laundry, make a grocery list, and pick up the dry cleaning! What do you people want from me?"

Clearly, they wanted a plan and I did not really want to make one all that much.

Which is unfortunate. There are the weeks when the kids have various day camps or we go on vacation for a couple of weeks and there will be some time spending the night at grandparent's houses, but the rest of the days are up to me and I need to make the all-important plan.

Here is where, if you want some really cute craft ideas or an adorable calendar, you should go to Pinterest. There are wonderful tutorials on all sorts of crafts and creative games. You will not find that here, because my plan is not like that. My plan is half-assed and it goes like this:

I make a check-list. Each kid has to complete their check-list every day. That's it. That's the whole plan.

Each kid's check-list has the following items:

  • School Time
  • Clean Something
  • Go Outside
  • Read Something
  • Creative Time
  • Help the Family Team
  • See Someone Else
  • Make Your Bed
  • Exercise

And I don't even tell them what the specific activities are. Bwa-ah-ah! It is evil parenting genius.

See, I don't like being told what to do even if I am the one making the assignment. So if I plan our weeks out hour by hour I am just as likely to rebel against our detailed plans as the children are. I don't like to be pinned down to one particularly activity or itinerary days and weeks ahead of time. I am fully aware of how immature that is, but so what, you're not the boss of me and I don't care what you think!

So I made a check list. If we go swimming with some friends at the YMCA pool we can check off Outside, See Someone, AND Exercise! If a kid can't think of anything to do they can clean something. I get to vasssilate between Benevolent Dictator and Best Mom Ever and the children stop asking me what we're doing next.

I say it's reading time--I'm the Benevolent Dictator!
We take a surprise trip to get frozen yogurt--Best Mom Ever!

Really, the children just want to know that there are some rules and some sense of direction when there is no school. I do actually buy workbooks for them to work through and make them do the work regularly enough that they know how and when to do them during School Time. I give them cleaning tasks they can accomplish without me--laundry, sweeping, dishes, etc.

Creative time means we spend some time making art or music of some sort. I have a craft box that I put on the kitchen table and tell them to go nuts. Or we have a dance party. It depends on whether or not I want to sweep the kitchen again.

I have found that if I try to implement too strict of a schedule that it falls apart because there are so many odd days--visits with friends or trips to see family or a late night out all mess up any plan I may have. My creativity also peters out as the summer wears on and our activities become a lot less exciting--what was Water Olympics in June becomes "getting hosed down before you're let inside the house" by the end of July.

So the checklists work for us--some structure, but a LOT of freedom. And if for some reason, I don't make them wipe down a bathroom, they are just happy they didn't have to clean (Benevolent Dictator strikes again).

Happy Summer!

Sally the Benevolent Dictator (aka Best Mom Ever)

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