Remember when summer was vast, free, and unstructured? You’d have no school for 8-10 weeks, no homework, and absolutely no math? Remember when you’d have the opportunity to just wake up late, play outside until the porch light came on, and buy sweets from a mysterious man in a white van? Ahhh, the good ol’ days.
Those were just a few things we loved as a kid about the summertime. As a child, summer meant something. Something fun, something different, something freeing.
But as an adult? Summertime is simply going to work, sweaty.
Unless it’s 2020, of course. Because now, summertime means trying to get all that work done while still at home, while still sweaty, and also while chasing our kids around / feeding them / trying to act as a summer camp counselor all at once. Because now, you’re a parent in a pandemic. And all that most of us can manage to say about it is, What in the world?
Back when we graduated high school, we quickly realized that summer was a mirage of joy and endless entertainment that was only meant for people who had pimples and Huffy bikes.
Did you know that since 1956, 78% of adults report feeling stressed out about summer? Just kidding, I made up that stat. But it felt real, didn’t it? That’s because so many of us parents really do stress out about how on earth we’ll make it through the non-school part of the year. Which, in 2020, has been pretty much all of it.
For parents, summer brings pressure. Pressure to take vacations, to spend money on camps (if they’re open) and kids activities (even if camps are also open), to get into “beach body” shape, and to complete around three DIY home projects, all before school starts.
When I was 10 years old, my mom dropped my three brothers and me off at my grandmother’s house in Shreveport, Louisiana. The house was a tiny three-bedroom, one-bathroom home, where if you cooked anything in the oven, the entire place felt like you were melting on the sun. We couldn’t go in the backyard because there were fire ants. We couldn’t go in the front yard because of wasps. We couldn’t go anywhere. So, for four weeks, my brothers and I stayed in the house, with no friends, with a window-unit AC that was mostly decoration, and three local TV channels that helped us stay up-to-date with our grandmother’s “stories.”
Yep, we were in quarantine before it was cool. And let me tell you, it was one of the best summers of my childhood. The imagination, the homemade desserts, and the drama of All My Children left nothing to be desired, for any of us kids.
Here’s the thing: We as the parents can make things much more complicated than they really are for our kids. If we just give them some fruit snacks, a few episodes of their favorite show, and some water guns, they’re having an amazing summer already. It’s only us adults who feel this pressure — internal, external, or both — and the feeling that the summer we’ve created isn’t enough. No, we have to finish that backsplash. We have to send the kids away to the fanciest camps. We have to plan the big, dream family vacation.
Spoiler: No, we don’t.
Summer, much like quarantine, has become yet another season in which we pressure ourselves to complete every single thing on our to-do list, be an event coordinator for our kids, and attain little to no rest for ourselves. And doesn’t that sound like…the worst summer ever?
We are in the middle of a global pandemic. If this summer isn’t the one where you finally, finally reshape your overworked-American view of these warm months with the kids home from school, I don’t know if you ever will.
A question that has been very helpful for me over the years is: What do I need? Those four words are powerful because when answered, they can really help us mold our plans into clear direction. By honestly answering what you really need, you can dismiss all of the fluff that marketers and social media try to tell you that you need to do/complete/buy, for the summer or for your entire life.
This summer, what do you need? Do you need your kids to learn how to swim? Do you need to finish renovating your basement? Do you need your child to improve their reading skills? Do you need your teen to get a summer job? Do you need to kick your feet up and binge-watch Netflix until 3 o’clock in the morning sometimes? (Please don’t tell me I am alone on this one.)
Whatever it is, it’s doable if you need it. And thats especially true if you have precise goals. Here’s how I pull off mine.
Write the goals down for EVERYONE in the family to see.
A Harvard Business study showed that people who write their goals down are 3x more likely to accomplish them. So, put them on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, or on the forehead of your eldest kid.
“See it big, and keep it simple.”
This quote comes from American author Wilfred Peterson, and it rings very true regarding how we really want our summers to be. Big fun, simple logistics. So, if you want your kids to play outside more, then maybe drop $50 on a random assembly of outdoor toys that they can play with independently. Big toys, simple strategy.
Just ask the kids.
Again, many times, our plans for our kids are way more elaborate than what they need. So grab a seat at the dining room table, and see what’s on their minds. Do they want to practice their free-throw this summer? Learn how you make Dad’s Famous Pancakes? Chill out and read comic books? More than likely, what your kids actually want — and need — to do with their summer is going to be so much simpler than you think.
Need some chill family time this summer? Try one of these kid-friendly movies parents love, too.