Yeah, yeah, there are parenting 'rules' most of us live by — but what about on summer vacation? Is it actually OK to let a few rules slide until September? Short answer: yes. Here's why.
Summertime doesn’t just mean longer days, no school and boatloads of sunscreen. Along with the rising temperatures often comes a relaxation of house/parenting/life "rules." And no, that's not something to feel guilty about as a parent; rather, it's something to celebrate.
Consider the summer your much-needed break from the day-to-day restrictions we put in place for so much of the year. That open space can allow you and your kids a little breathing room to play, have fun and explore. Think back to your happiest moments of summer as a kid: Was it a time to test boundaries and see how much you could do on your own?
So what if your brood isn’t eating three square meals a day or going to bed squeaky clean each night? The joy you’ll get from letting go will make it all worth it. Here are the rules it’s OK to break — just for summer.
"Bathe every day"
Sure, maybe your kids usually come home from school or play with that “little kid stink” that necessitates a good scrubbing. In my house, our twins take a shower every evening with rare exceptions. But in summertime, go ahead: Relax the bathing rules a little bit. After all, your little one probably got rinsed right after that dip in the pool, right? And even if a little sand gets in the sheets, it’s all good — remember, they're just going to get dirty again tomorrow.
"Stick to a bedtime routine"
Keeping kids on a sleep schedule makes perfect sense, especially during the school year when those much-needed z’s can mean the difference between academic success and falling asleep at their desks. But in summer, when there’s no need to wake up with the sun, getting kids to bed on the late side is totally fine. Although they won’t get their full night’s sleep, the fun experiences they’ll stay up for — a trip, barbecue or concert in the park — make it worth it.
"Ice cream only once a week"
Limiting sweet treats is smart, of course. We all want our kids to have a healthy diet, right? But in summer, ice cream can become a part of daily life — after all, it really is the perfect thing to cool off with and enjoy as a family. Plus, you can always switch it up sometimes with fruit pops or frozen yogurt. Chances are your little one will still think it’s an awesome treat.
"No going around pants-less"
When it’s just too hot out, the clothes are going to start coming off, and that’s A-OK. And really, is there anything more adorable than the sight of a little kid running through a sprinkler in their undies? And yes, parents are allowed to break the pants "rule" too.
"Don’t overstay your welcome"
When my kids are invited on playdates, we try not to turn them into epic stays. But during those lazy summer days, we're happy to let playdates go on for hours — or all day and into the evening as long as the parents don’t mind. With no real agenda, just hanging out can create some of the best summer memories. So let summer be the excuse to overstay (and play and play and play).
"Don’t track mud through the house"
During the rest of the year, it’s normal to be ultra on top of keeping a clean house. But in the summer, when wet towels, flip-flops and feet coated with questionable substances are constantly tracking in and out the door, ease up on the house rules already. Although you may have a little more dirt to contend with, simply relaxing about it can go a long way toward worrying less — and freeing up more time to enjoy with your little ones.
"Wait one hour after eating to swim"
This rule, which we were all probably told when we were kids, is actually not true. I mean, have you ever seen a kid eat lunch and double over because of a dip in the pool? Let them eat grilled cheese and do Marco Polo — think of it as living on the edge!
Of course, we’re not advocating for your child to do anything truly unsafe. But summertime wouldn’t be the same without a few skinned knees, trees climbed and a bit of adventurous exploring. And hey, Gever Tulley, author of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), says you should even let your kids play with fire (within reason).
"Don't skip your nap"
We know that parents who are lucky enough to still have nap time want to keep their kids on a schedule — after all, nobody wants a cranky baby or toddler. But when there’s the opportunity to really experience summer, I say skip the nap and go out on that boat, meet friends for a picnic lunch or just stay one more hour at the pool. One skipped nap will not do irrevocable damage.
"Stay away from screens"
Of course, it would be sad if your child spent the whole summer glued to an iPad or TV, but instead of totally nixing screen time, what about switching up the screens? In the summer, there are outdoor movies galore, and in some towns, you’ll even find a drive-in. When screen time becomes communal time, it can be a rewarding, enriching experience that you and your little one will remember for many summers to come.
Summer is definitely a time to let rules slide, and with that comes the opportunity for new adventures and discoveries (and hey, maybe even a little grown-up fun too).