There has not been one time this summer when I’ve wished for school to be back in session. That’s not to say there haven’t been difficult times, times where kids are fighting, or times when I realize JUST HOW READY my five-year-old is to go to kindergarten and not be at home with me all the time. But two years ago I would not have been able to say that was the case. I was the mom who dreaded summer and had no idea what to do with the kids at home all the time. (Two years ago I was also hugely pregnant, which may have been another factor, but you know what I mean.)
Here is my Super Top Secret for enjoying summer as a stay-at-home parent: Know Your Kids and Ignore the “Shoulds”
When I truly do not enjoy parenting, it’s probably because I am wrapped up in the shoulds. Like, the Internet says we should have a lazy summer. It says in order for my kids to learn how to entertain themselves, I shouldn’t put them in camps, I shouldn’t provide activities, I shouldn’t do anything except lay on the couch and maybe do a load of laundry once in a while.
I have four kids. For some of them, that would work just fine. But here’s the thing: the Internet does not know my kids. I do.
My first child, I like to say fondly, was made for public school. She thrives on having a schedule all day, every day. When she is at home doing nothing, it results in fighting, anger, and remorse that I didn’t just sign her up for something. My second child, on the other hand, is much happier piddling around the house than he is when he has a rigid schedule. He can endlessly read, play with Legos, do Perler beads, and play on his tablet, and be thrilled about it.
My third child falls somewhere in between. Since he is exceptionally loud, it is in my interest to get him outside and into activities to save my sanity fairly often, because I have pretty extreme noise sensitivity. He may say he doesn’t want to go to camp, but once there he is quite happy and I am happy to have the peace for a few hours. My fourth child is a toddler, so activities aren’t really an option yet, but even with her I know she is happier outside than anywhere else.
Taking all of these things into account, I scheduled my oldest for something almost every week of the summer. A few of these weeks are just going to Grandma Camp and Nana Camp, where I outsource the entertaining to grandparents and she loves the one-on-one time. We have a few weeks of church camp and activities, some of which are just in the mornings, which works well for a balance of downtime and activities. We added a two-week, all-day camp in a passion of hers (theater) to fill in the gap.
It felt wrong. It felt like I should be forcing her to spend her days reading and lolling by a pool. But my child does not loll. When I can acknowledge that, and realize how much happier she is going to theater camp than spending time at home, both of us are content. My second child, on the other hand, we didn’t sign up for any extra camps. The third we did one week of four-hour camp.
There have been no complaints about how this is unfair, because truly, they are all happy with the arrangement. I’m happy because they’re happy. Fighting is minimized. We’re getting a balance of rest and fun, and I’m not dreading the long days, but I am sad about sending them back to school in a month!