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I recently read an article that said you only get 18 summers with your kid(s). That’s it. 18 short summers. 18 fleeting summers for bbqs, perfect pool weather (especially if you live in the Midwest), catching fireflies, sleeping in, playing barefoot in the grass, melting popsicles, bike rides, family vacations, 4th of July, etc. Only 18 summers of carefree childhood and then our kids move  

out andstart their own life adventures. When I thought of how 18 summers will fly by, it literally put a lump in my throat. I felt like I was starting to mourn days that haven’t yet passed. It feels too short, maybe even abrupt. And I get a little panicked that in 18 short summers I have to cram in as much love, experiences, and fun for my daughter so that she will have positive memories that will last her a lifetime… even after I am gone.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say some of those days just feel long.

To break it down, 18 summers is approximately 1,512 days. And sure 1,512 days of any one feeling or task is an over exaggeration, but when you’re in the moment, it can certainly feel overwhelming.

1,512 days of trying to plan engaging, educational activities and filling the day with kids. 1,512 days of sunscreen… all over your kids, all over your house, all over the car, and the couch, and the stroller, and the carpet. 1,512 days of hearing or witnessing your child’s boredom. 1,512 days of sand/dirt being dragged in from the sandbox or the beach or walking in and out of the house with bare feet. 1,512 days of yelling for someone to “shut the damn door or flies will get in.” 1,512 days of bedtime routines that have become exponentially harder because of the sunlight pouring into their bedrooms or damn daylight savings. 1,512 days of planning for a vacay, packing for a vacay, or recuperating from a vacay. 1,512 days of carpools and calendars and bouncing from day camps. 1,512 days of moms secretly counting down the days until school starts again. 1,512 days of feeling like super-mom or the worst mom ever. 1,512 super long f-ing days.

The hypocrisy is deafening. I get it.  Mourning over 18 short summers not yet passed, and agonizing over 1,512 long dreaded days to come. I totally understand. And to that I say, “you’re not alone.”

So how can you make your summer vacations feel more like a summer break and less like parenting with different scenery?  More importantly, how can you get through the 1,512 days without supreme mom-guilt? It might be the blink leading the blind, but here are some suggestions!

Don’t Over Schedule

As queen of over scheduling and trying to cram as much in as possible during the week, this is definitely a tip that I have a hard time following. Last year, I implemented a once a month “rest” weekend that involved no travel, no pre-planned activities, no events. Just time with our immediate family. Barring the random birthday party that pops up, we did a pretty good job of adhering to the rest weekend, which allowed us all to just decompress and enjoy one another. This year, I upped the ante and added a weekly rest day (after we got home from work). No playdates, no extra curricular activities that we have to run to, no errands. Just family dinner, family time, and a little bit of downtime.

Keep a routine… but allow some flexibility

My daughter does best when on a routine, and who am I kidding, I do best when we are all on a routine. But those long summer days and activities can throw a routine out of whack. It’s a balance between missing out on one more hour of fun, worrying about the inevitable meltdown that is going to happen, and providing structure. For those who thrive on structure (like me), I would advise trying out an 40/40/20 rule of flexibility. 40% for structured routine. 40% semi-structured free play/activity. 20% all flexibility. This means for our typical weekday (5:00 – 8:30) our time is broken down to almost an hour and a half for dinner and a 30 min bedtime routine. In between those times is almost almost another hour and a half for semi-structured play, which for us means, together time interacting with games, walking to the park, or even rock climbing (my daughter’s newfound hobby). The last 20-30 minutes, we allow flexibility with whatever life throws at us… or even some zoned-out tv time. The important thing is to make it your time and make it work for your family.

Give yourself a break.

Literally. Find time for yourself. Whether it is an hour every morning with a cup of coffee and the news, an hour every night watching The Handmaid’s Tale, or a monthly massage. Find time for yourself. And not time by yourself doing household chores or grocery shopping. Find time for yourself doing what you love (or at least like). There are always things we should be doing or could be doing, but learning to find those rare moments of doing things as simple pleasures by ourselves is an absolute requirement to soothe the soul… without a bunch of other souls hanging off you demanding things or asking questions. Seriously. Be it yoga, or a glass of wine, or a long bath. Treat yourself and your sanity. You SO deserve this.

Schedule in “we” time

Finding time to reconnect with others is just as important as time for yourself. “We” time can include time with friends, time with your significant other, time with your parents, or after-work time with co-workers. Enjoying the company of others not only gives your little break, but many times you can find support and camaraderie amongst your peers and friends. It’s the break we need to give ourselves to laugh, share, bond, cry, or even vent. Find time time during the day when kids are at camp, a weekend brunch, a work happy hour, date night, etc. This doesn’t have to be done weekly, but couple times a month can surely do the mind and heart good.

 

The seasons peel by so quickly, summers come, and before we have had time to squeeze in just one more thing, summers go. So for now, I take it one beautiful sunny day at a time. I will cut myself (and my daughter) a little bit of slack during those times that 18 summers feels more like 1,512 days and I will try to soak up all the laughter, memories, and of course… the mess on the floor.

 

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