I feel a certain pressure to keep up with my kids’ friend groups. The summer activity and camp planning conversations started in March amongst most of my mom-peers. I listened as they debated the pros and cons of all the camps, clinics, and summer leagues — narrowing down their lists before setting alerts on their phone to ensure timely and efficient signups.
For some, signing their kids up for all the things is a necessary way to procure childcare, as their daycare programs are closed for the summer. But others might just want to maintain some daily structure, increase socialization, not miss out. Then there are the people who fear their 8-year-old needs to practice their soccer skills to stay competitive for soccer this fall. But this year I was tired and I only signed my kids up for a couple of things. And guess what? We all survived!
In today’s parenting social environment, where hustle culture is rampant and FOMO can be guilt-ridden, limiting your kids’ schedules can feel extremely hard.
First, I worried that they would miss out on social interactions with friends that would get them thrown out of a friend circle or make them lose touch with their peers. Then I panicked that they would fall behind with certain activities or sports if they took a break and all of their peers kept with the grind. Or they would spend the entire summer glued to their screens.
So this time, as we rolled into summer fully spent from the hyper-exhaustive, over-curated, under-rested year of it all. I decided to press pause on all of it for the summer and to kick it old school by enrolling my two oldest boys into just a few days of camp.
I will admit, at first I was a little overwhelmed. Four kids at home full time is a lot, and without a concrete plan it felt chaotic. But to my surprise, we settled into our own enrollment-free plan pretty quickly.
My older sons found their way to the local park, met up with friends, or swam in our pool with their siblings. I banned YouTube and reduced their screen time — I really pulled the Bandaid off. And the younger two girls (2 and 5 years old) mostly played with me. We swam, walked around the block, played Barbies, looked for bugs, painted, and did Play-Doh. There were moments of boredom and definitely bouts of frustration and conflict for everyone. But ultimately it was good. Structure and planned activities and schedules can be super helpful and beneficial for families, but so can a little break from it all.
And despite my fears, my kids are good. Their friend groups have stayed intact despite not spending a ton of pre-scheduled time together. And guess what? I don’t think any monumental impact was made one way or another on their sports and activity performance despite not doing all the camps and summer leagues. I mean honestly, might they have become a little more proficient with more hours of consistent practice? Of course.
But at 8 and 10 years old, I just refuse to feel like that is important, or relevant even. Much is going to change for them in the next few years with growth spurts, puberty, and interests. So because I don’t believe there is too much to be determined about future success at this stage, I feel like basking in a more leisurely childhood summer is most important of all.
I did, however, have some moments of madness where I personally wondered if packing their schedules would have increased my own mental health. But I worked through it. And ultimately, the small moments of success — the lazy mornings eating waffles on the living room floor and the late dinners out by the pool — made it all worth it. And hopefully now, after some time away from all the hustle and screens, we will feel rested to do it all again come September. At least that’s the plan.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.