Summer is upon us, and there is a shift in the air. Dreams of sunshine on those long summer days, and carefree living are hopefully coming true. Or at least that is the expectation. I sensed the anticipation in my toddler’s mind, who never before understood the shift between the long school year, and summer freedom. Until recently when she asked, “Now that it is summer, is it time for stay-home days?” Who knew preschool was so taxing that a break was needed. I guess we all need a break from routine.
Suddenly I find myself sensing the same anticipation for summer that existed before entering the working world. Summer break felt like a given, a chance to take a break from reality. But when you are young, you do not realize how lucky you are. I keenly remember that first summer after college graduation, when I realized no break existed just because the days had turned long and the weather warm. The reality was my corporate job did not believe in any sort of observance of sunshine. Instead, they worked us new analysts around the clock. My excitement for summer has long been in hibernation. Yet, now I can relive that childhood excitement through the eyes of my daughter.
I picture carefree days in the neighborhood soaking up the rays, with copious amounts of sunscreen of course, not a care in the world. Long days spent at the pool or exploring one of the parks our city has to offer. Hands would be sticky from messy frozen treats and turns with the bubble wand. Why bubbles you ask? For no other reason than because who doesn’t love bubbles! In one daydream, I have simultaneously romanticized motherhood and summertime.
For the reality is that it is never that simple. Even if our family was intentional about clearing our schedule for the warm months, I fear making each day feel as carefree as it did as a child requires a bit of planning. As with most things in motherhood, forward thinking goes a long way towards helping things go smoothly. I’ve realized that I have confused our desire for carefree living with a desire to do nothing. While there is benefit in boredom, our family has a list of adventures we would like to take this summer. Yet, our weekends have filled with mundane chores or activities rather than being purposeful about how we spend our time. With June having come and gone, it is time to make the most of the remaining parts of summer.
To do so, I had to sit down with a traditional paper calendar. While my reliance on my smart phone borders on obsessive, I am old fashioned when it comes to scheduling. It is just so hard to get a full picture of the week or month without it clearly laid out in front of me. Week by week I copied the appointments from my phone to the calendar and saw how few precious, unscheduled moments remained. That is not to say that either child is enrolled in any extracurricular activities just yet. But between school, appointments, and family obligations, the days fill quickly!
So, a degree of prioritization must be applied to our plans. The family (mostly the grown-ups in our case) sat down to rank all the things we want to do this summer. From the simple like plant a garden to the elusive family vacation. Then we discussed them both in terms of interest and feasibility which are often inversely correlated! Doing so gave us a better idea of what was possible, allowing the rest of the summer to unwind with some direction.
That direction is easy to follow during the week as our eldest continues in her daycare adventures. Since I recently transitioned to being a SAHM to our youngest, the reality is that she does not have to go to school each day. The guilt of that weighs heavily, but one look at the school calendar from June to August confirmed our assumption that enrollment was in her best interest. There is no way that I could give her the same exposure with her baby sister in tow. So off to preschool, excuse me Pre-K, she goes, and back to a day filled with bottles and PT for the little one. A few “stay home” days thrown in the schedule allow for more time together. What I realize is that I need to shift the focus to quality of our time together rather than the quantity. The carefree fantasy we have for our family can be achieved in the evenings and on the weekend.
Success this summer comes in the form of long weekday evenings, where bedtimes are relaxed a bit to ensure the community pool gets enough attention. Maybe instead of trying the new popular restaurant in town, we have dinner delivered to the pool to maximize our time together. The perfect weekend is the combination of relaxing and exciting, where at least one item can be crossed off our summer bucket list when we adequately plan ahead. It is about adjusting expectations and growing more summer savvy with our time each year!