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Planning a Perfect Summer

Updated on June 27, 2012
A new annual tradition:  fun in the sun on the first day of summer at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
A new annual tradition: fun in the sun on the first day of summer at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. | Source

It's the first day of summer - now what?

It seems just like yesterday when we attended back-to-school night and bought our school supplies for the year. Now the craziness of the last few weeks of school is over and summer is officially here. The kids are ready for a break. But did anyone ask Mama?

I am speaking from the perspective of a stay-at-home mother of three boys, ages 8, 6 and 3. Part of me is more than happy to break from the routine of early mornings, homework and book reports. But part of me, I admit, is adjusting to having the kids at home and searching for a new balance that will keep everyone happy. For eleven weeks!

Ending one thing and beginning another usually brings a period of change with it. And depending on how you feel about change, easing your way into summer can either seem like a chore or a blessing.

The weeks or even months leading up to the last day of school are usually so incredibly busy that it is difficult to think beyond just meeting the deadlines. There is the Spring Concert, Open House, Field Day, and End-of-Year parties, just to name a few. Multiplied by three kids, three teachers, and even two different schools, it often felt like I was on a treadmill.

And then, in a matter of 24 hours, the madness stops. It is quiet and the calendar is wide open. At first it feels funny, like I am missing something important going on. Then the relief sets in of knowing summer is here, a time meant for slowing down and re-energizing. Until I hear the kids calling from downstairs: "Mama, what are we doing today?"

Nothing like a verbal reminder from your kids that the party must go on. So I am not entirely unprepared - I know better by now. With a few tricks in my back pocket, I take a deep breath and suggest we spend the day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The cheers coming from my three boys are almost deafening.

Kids of this generation are by and large not used to spontaneous and unsupervised play. We have conditioned them to be accepting of a routine that leads them directly from school to after school activities, whether sports, playdates or enrichment classes. It's all perfectly arranged for them, and requires little to no creativity. It's really no wonder why the kids are always wondering what the plan is.

However, summer break is, by nature, a very disjointed time of year. Friends come and go on vacations, camps are in session, and relatives are more eager to come see you. And just maybe you manage to block out a chunk of time for a little family vacation. So whether you like it or not, it does help to plan your summer with a little forethought and input from the rest of the family. Even Papa should be encouraged to chime in.

Even if the kids are not aware, I seem to do my planning very methodically every year. And with every turn, I become a bit more skilled at laying the foundation for a 'perfect summer'.

Here are a few guidelines we follow:

  • The kids and I sit down together and make a list of all the things we would like to do this summer (any ideas are fair game: from going to the movies, to having a picnic, bowling, camping, archery, among many more). If ever there is a day when we struggle to get going, the list is a handy tool.
  • We plan a fun outing for the first day of summer, and by that I mean, the first weekday after school gets out. When everyone is back to work and I find myself at home with all three kids, it is nice to have a place calling our name, too.
  • The first week out of school is always spent at home. It is a great time to decompress and play it by ear. Camp is an activity we save for later.
  • The two older kids are allowed to each choose between 2 and 4 weeks of camp total for the summer. Once we narrow in on their top choices and figure out availability, I try to schedule camps so that we alternate with a week at home and a week at camp. Pacing ourselves is key.
  • Sleepovers are a perfect summer time activity and a wonderful incentive for teamwork when everyone seems to be in the mood for fighting rather than cooperating. My kids, and even myself, need to get used to spending more quality time together over the summer months.
  • This year, I decided to join a local pool. Swimming is both a fun and tiring idea for my active boys. And it can be used as a filler when all else sounds 'too boring'.
  • Every summer, we make a point of participating in our library's summer reading program. This year, even grown-ups can participate and be good role models. A few good summertime reads are a perfect way to spend quality time together, and encourage the kids to each take a half hour to an hour of quiet time in their rooms.
  • We plan a family trip for the month of August. By then, we are all usually itching for a change, and most of the camps are done anyways.

On days when I wish I could just get dressed and go to work, I remember that I am at home with the kids because of a choice I made. And it is a choice that I would not trade for the world. Come late August, I know I will be in a place where adjusting to the back-to-school routine will seem just a little less appealing all over again.

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