Thursday, August 28, 2014

Best. Summer. Ever.

When I was young, I used to go away for pretty much the whole summer, to Wellfleet, Cape Cod. This was possible only because of the fact that my father was a professor (with his summers off), and my mom was her own boss.  But to me, I thought this was normal. Didn't everyone take a vacation that lasted all summer long?

To me, summers have always meant relaxation.  Sun.  Water.  Swimming.  Ice cream.  Friends. Family.  Lazy days.

As I got older, summers shifted a bit.  Once I went to college, I cut down on the amount of time I spent on the Cape.  Eventually, I had summer jobs and internships.  Once I "grew up" and got a real job as a lawyer, apart from a weather shift, summers were pretty much indistinguishable from the rest of the year.  Which was kind of depressing.

When I became a stay at home mom, one of the things I was most excited about was having my summers "off."  My relaxing summers would be back (or so I thought).  We would travel and swim and eat ice cream and do all the things I did as a kid.  No more depositions or document reviews over the Fourth of July weekend.  I was free - FREE!

There were a few things I neglected to consider in this day dream of mine:

First, I have a husband, who works at a job outside the home.  And unfortunately, he doesn't get summers off.  So should I want to live a summer of vacation and leisure, I would have to do it without him.  With three kids, that wouldn't be easy.

Second, I forgot that my kids are a pain in the ass.  No more of a pain in the ass than any other kids, of course.  But they are kids.  They cry.  They tantrum.  They whine.  They wriggle and scream as I try to apply sunscreen.  They fight with each other.  They fight with me.  They run away from me. They swim away from me.   And when they do eat ice cream, it gets all over them and makes them sticky and dirty and hyper.

Lastly, I forgot that if I am "free" in the summer, so are my kids.  Aka, there is no structure, no schedule, NO SCHOOL!  When they wake up at 7am, they are all mine, ALL DAY.  And it's a long day.  A very long day.

After two or three of these "free" stay at home mom summers, I realized that summers aren't as relaxing and carefree as they once were.  But that doesn't mean they can't be awesome.  And through trial and error and some lessons learned, I managed to create the Best. Summer. Ever.

Here's how:

1)  ENROLL CHILDREN IN SUMMER CAMP:  This isn't a novel idea, obviously.  But who knew your kids had to be registered for summer camp as early as January???  This year I was on top of my game, and both boys got into the full day camp near our house that happens to have a great reputation.  Notwithstanding the fact that I had to log on to the website the minute (and I mean the minute) that registration opened last winter, and that the web site subsequently crashed from the demand, it was worth it.  The boys LOVED it, and for the three week session they attended they came home happy and tired.  It enabled me to have some lazy days and hang out with my baby without distraction.  Happy kids.  Happy mom.

Happy, tired Casey at camp.

2) WHEN KIDS ARE NOT IN SUMMER CAMP, GET OUT OF TOWN:  Perhaps not everyone will feel this way, but for me, a full day with a 9 month old, a 3 year old, and a 5 year old is daunting.  I mean a FULL day - as in, you wake up at 7am, and for the next 13 hours there is NO BREAK!  No school, no camps, no naps....  So how about take a vacation?  Sure, it doesn't solve your problem entirely - your children are still all yours, but at least you will be doing all this child minding in a desirable venue.  This summer, we traveled a ton - Cape Cod, Bethany Beach (twice), the Eastern Shore of Maryland, North Carolina, and New York, to name a few.  The excitement of a new place, and just being somewhere different was awesome for all of us.  We got used to living out of suitcases and the kids ate chicken fingers and french fries at least once a day.  And all this traveling doesn't have to break the bank, which leads me to my next point:

Suitcases can serve multiple purposes.

3) VACATION WITH, AND VISIT, FAMILY: We only took one trip this summer without extended family, and that was just over a weekend.  For all of the other trips, we either stayed with family, or rented a house/condo that we then shared with family.  This wasn't just a cost saving measure - it was also a necessity.  Although my husband is able to telecommute at times, there was no way my husband could gallivant across the eastern seaboard with us all summer long.  And I am not a strong enough woman, mother, person, entity, to brave doing all of these vacations and trips with my children alone.  So we spent time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, etc. - most of whom we don't see on a regular basis, so they are ready and willing to get down and dirty with the kids.  It's a win win, really.  I give them the gift of time with my precious children, and they give me the gift of childcare.

A whole bunch of babysitters family.

4) DITCH THE KIDS FOR A WEEKEND OR TWO IF YOU CAN: I had three kid-free weekends this summer.  THREE!  My cup runneth over!  One for a bachelorette party, one for a wedding, and one for a girl's weekend with friends from college.  All had been planned for months, and all were INCREDIBLE.

We are real grown ups sometimes.

5) GO SWIMMING.  AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE:  I know it can be a huge pain to get multiple kids ready for the pool or beach.  The prep seems to take just as long as the actual enjoyment.  But this summer I forced myself to summon the energy, because really, this is what summer is all about for me.  What is summer without water?  Any kind of water?

There's fresh water.

There's pool water.

And there's ocean water.

6) BREAK THE RULES:  I have been known to be a bit Type A.  Controlling.  Structured. Stringent.  All that fun stuff.  This summer, I really let a lot of it go, albeit temporarily.  I ate way too much.  I drank way too much.  I let the kids stay up too late and eat candy at 10am.  I left my hair dryer behind and rarely opened my make up bag.  I abandoned screen time limitations and blogging and my goal to get Braden reading fluently by the end of the summer.   Because really, we have the whole rest of the year to be responsible and on time and serious.  This summer I let it go a bit more than I usually do.  And do you know what?  It was fabulous.  I felt FREE.

This may or may not have been before 5pm.

There were definitely low points - tantrums and traffic and parasites.  And maybe it's just the fact that my kids are more independent (two of them, at least) or I am more seasoned or I am just getting a bit more laid back in my old age, but I was able to roll with the punches more this summer.  I didn't sweat the small stuff as much, and really, of all the hiccups, that's all it was.  Small stuff.

Dropped ice cream cones.  Sticky fingers.  Short term tears.

Now, the summer is officially ending - maybe not technically, but in spirit.  Braden and Casey both started school this week.  Our suitcases are back in storage in our basement.  I've brought out the scale again, as well as the hair dryer.  Our local pool will soon close.  I'll resume my regular blogging, and I just started teaching another online class.

Part of me is ready - to resume normal life, to get structure again, to detox my body.  But I am also mourning the end of our carefree summer days.

Until next year.....


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1 comment:

  1. Your summer sounds wonderful. In honor of freedom, put the scale away. You'll be healthy and beautiful without it.


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