My family is planning on having the most epic of summers, and by epic, I mean epically uneventful. It will be completely, totally, and 100% empty of just about any and all events that are planned for, scheduled, paid for, penciled in, packed for, and/or require us to be somewhere at a specific time and place. We’re checking out of summertime everything, and going massively Zen on all that bullshit.
Minimalism is the new trend anyway, and hey, we’re gonna be embracing the hell out of that mindset all the way from the last day of school in May until the first day of school in August.
Basically, we’re not doing shit this summer, and we’re gonna nail it.
I’ve felt this way for several summers now, ever since I started getting heart palpitations every year somewhere around late March when summer camp registrations (and their exorbitant fees) were suddenly due. The reality hit, and I knew I was staring down 12 long and lonely weeks of me having to entertain four sons whose energy level could rival that of our nation’s largest nuclear plant.
After 19 years of parenting, I have officially hit DEFCON 5 on the level of total summer parenting burnout. I’ve recently notified the fam of my official summertime mom resignation from vacation director, sports activity developer, craft creator, your all day personal room service meal provider, taxi service, and every other summer enrichment adventure I have been responsible for providing for almost two decades. In a word (or three), I am done.
Now the good news is, my children have all reached an age where they’re plenty old enough to not only decide for themselves how they want to fill their days, but they can also actually make it happen. There will be no daily scheduled charts ensuring they have had 30 minutes of reading, 30 minutes of chores, 30 minutes technology use, 30 minutes of outside play, have made or built something creative, and have helped another member of the family. (Is this what we have become? A checklist to make sure our kids are nice to each other?)
I’m also lucky enough to have teen drivers (aka built-in babysitters), and kids whom I feel more than comfortable leaving alone at home for hours on end. It took many years of building trust between all of us to get to this point (and of course, I still worry), but instead of bemoaning the fact all my little kid summers are over, I’m gonna be personally fist-pumping all the way to the beach by myself, and for once doing what we’re supposed to be doing during the summer — relaxing and recharging.
If they want to tag along, no problem, but like my mom did in the late ’70s, I’m bringing nothing to the beach but baby oil and a towel. A rubber-tired giant wagon that is piled 12-feet high with lunch, snacks, pool noodles, surfboards, shovels, pails, buckets, monogrammed stainless steel water bottles filled with kale smoothies, a pop-up tent, five chairs, and a 15-foot umbrella will not be happening.
And please don’t start with all the “But, but, your kids needs to continue to keep their brains stimulated the entire summer or else they go back to school already behind,” and “I’m sorry, but my child will be reading every single day and practicing his math tables, and we’ll be doing home science projects and engineering inventions because in our home we value education.” Mmmkay, well, so do I, but please take your educational pedagogy and shove it. I’ve raised a kid who is on scholarship at college, and yeah, he spent many a summer with his ass planted in front of Nickelodeon and the Playstation. And guess what? He is as happy as a pig in mud in college and has expressed to me his concern for dorm mates that are simply unable to relax. They don’t know how to decide for themselves how to fill their days, how to maintain an appropriate and healthy balance between work and play, and when to recognize that their bodies and minds need to just “be.”
And isn’t that what summers are really for? Moments of just “being?” Moments of breezy evenings spent listening to baseball games on the radio, of spontaneous trips out for ice cream, of consecutive days spent in our pajamas without fear of being late to something, and of boredom being the fuel to ignite our imaginations, motivating us to create, learn, read, and explore — not because a chart told us to, but because our minds told us to?
I have a feeling it’s those moments of nothingness and being that are the most memorable and life-embracing ones we can give our kids. And this summer? I plan on nailing them.