Summer. What fond memories that brings. Long lazy days. The beach. Relaxation. Friends. That’s the children version of summer. As a parent it becomes a different sort of feeling…fear of what to do with the darlings for 24 hours a day. Oh the pressure! I’m not up to the pressure of “best summer ever”. How about a recipe for one beautiful summer day?
1 generous cup of dirt and/or sunshine
A sprinkling of music
A heaping spoonful of creativity
Shredded, pureed, boiled to 135 degrees hard work and service
A dash of rational flexibility
1-20 good books
1/4 cup of screen rules
Bedtime as needed
Optional: duct tape, pipe cleaners, or goop
Even if it’s just to stare at the clouds or go get the mail, nature is amazing. It is healing and it’s powerful. It refreshes and rejuvenates. Memories are made in nature. Grow a garden, or just one plant. Go for a walk. Get to the skate park. Go for a bike ride. Walk around the block. Explore different parks. Just get outside every day. The sun is magical…and hot, so handle with care. And dirt is…dirty. Sorry about that.
Don’t wait for your children to be all plugged in or taking over the stereo. Take this summer as an opportunity to sprinkle upon your darlings all of your fabulous and frightful musical favorites. Then, dance like your teenager’s embarrassment is a renewable energy source. This is the most critical ingredient in summer mood. Do not neglect music!
Now is your chance to have a big stretch of time to create! Buy a huge canvas, make some play dough, learn how to knit, make brownies or bread or jewelry. Have a family art show. Write music, learn an instrument or get out the sidewalk chalk. No rules, no assignments…just all of the joy without the deadline.
The one simple key to make a summer day memorable and turn attitudes around? Hard work and service. Nothing works the same. There are no substitutes available. That bread you just made? Give away. That seventh picture your child painted–mail it to a missionary or a friend. Find a grandma to adopt. Find a children’s hospital with a need. Weed or help clean a local park. Just do one little thing. Put a cooler in your car with cold water bottles and hand them out to policemen directing traffic, or beggars or whomever looks hot. If all else fails, smile at everyone you see like it’s a game to see how many smiles you can get in return. Do that family project you’ve been neglecting. You may be tempted to not include this because of the difficulty involved. I assure you it is a completely necessary ingredient.
Sometimes in our attempt at perfection, or even fun, we get a little overenthusiastic. If you ever feel that you need Captain Von Trapp’s whistle or possibly a drill sergeant’s discipline-inspiring powers…consider flexibility. Sometimes the best part of the summer is the part you didn’t plan or schedule or produce a detailed minute by minute program for.
To last an entire summer go for rhythms. We wake up, then do x before breakfast, y before lunch and z before dinner. A little structure gives children an idea of what to expect without making mom crazy. A little structure gets things done and allows for play. A little structure is easier to be flexible with when spontaneous moments of fun present themselves. A watched pot will boil eventually, and an overly planned day may be fun at some moment…but you may be too stressed
Books, as needed. Don’t let the variable quantity confuse you into thinking that the quality of the book is not critical. The book will flavor the summer. One good classic may provide the delicate hint of thought you are looking for better than 30 “we finished the summer reading program” brain candy quick reads.
I know it’s tempting to skip this step. Your children may beg. Resist. Don’t throw away the screen rules. We all have rules during the school year about how much screen time is appropriate. Relax them a little, but don’t throw them out. There is so much to do and learn and be and do. It’s very easier to throw away hours at a time into the black hole that is the internet. They will never really remember fondly that one summer in which they sat with their eyes glazed over for weeks on end.
Last, but certainly not least… Although this recipe is recommended for one day, summer doesn’t work that way. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. So please. Don’t throw out bedtime completely. It’s a great temptation. We want to stay up late and watch movies. We hope our bunchkins will sleep in. We want to relax. Don’t sacrifice the happiness of rested people for week after week, of summer excuses. Give on bedtime a bit, but don’t throw it out. Relax bedtime an hour, and we wake up at at a reasonable time. It keeps people generally happy and functional, while still allowing for parties and movies and fun. Morning will already be more relaxing because we don’t have to get the children somewhere specific by any set time. Wake them up and relax with them to make for happier children.
Optional ingredients: When all else fails…there will be a day or days this summer when everyone has cabin fever, it’s too hot, there isn’t anything to do, and little fights start to creep up. If your day isn’t shaping up like you’d like consider these options: duct tape, pipe cleaners, water or goop…or anything else you can think up.
Bake (like you have a choice).
We don’t recommend poking a fork in your summer day to check if it is well done. Don’t measure too early. Instead, take multiple pictures and enjoy it as it is. If your husband gets grumpy at your constant attempts to check for doneness, put down the camera and take someone’s hand instead. Expect the day to be uneven. Consider it a success if you can find that beautiful moment that grabs your attention and amazes you.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.