Surviving A Simple Summer

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Let’s all be real for a moment, can we?

Because we’ve ALL been there. We’ve ALL sighed the words. “I can’t wait for summer break to be over!”

Summer. As a mom. Of littles. Can be hard.

I love summer. Every May, I have a literal summer countdown. My mind fills up with ideas for summer adventures. First, we’ll have a water balloon fight, then we’ll head to the splash pad or swimming pool. We’ll eat popsicles for lunch and we’ll skip baths because the smell of sunscreen is so divine. We’ll shoot fireworks every weekend and hit up all the bucket list spots in town. It’s going to be amazing.

On top of the dreamy list of adventures that play out in my head, I also seek relief from summer.

I crave the freedom of unset alarms and the reduction of schoolwork papers and craft projects coming home and sitting on my kitchen counter. I’m writing this in April and I’m already done with May. Our May is full. We’ve got end of the year parties, class musicals, little league playoffs, Sign-up Genius volunteer requests, Appreciation Brunches, end-of-the-year potlucks and Graduation Ceremonies.

Now don’t get me wrong…I thrive on all of those things. I love class parties and field days in matching shirts and artwork that sort-of resembles a butterfly made of tissue paper. But I love the break from it all too. I don’t believe that we were created to keep up with this pace of life that we’ve created for ourselves. We’re busy, we’re exhausted and we’re overwhelmed. We’re looking around and wondering how everyone else is keeping up. And if they can do it, then (we think) we should be able to do it too.

Yes, I am a major fan of having simple summers.

I’m also a fan of proactively rebelling against social media tempting me to need big expensive vacations and incredible experiences all summer long. I’m a fan of shutting out the shame that I wasn’t enough for my family. I’m a fan of simplifying expectations and seeking respite from the fast pace of our world.

So I asked my kids what they wanted to do this summer and they told me. They want to eat ice cream and go to the neighborhood swimming pool. They want to ride their bikes while also shooting water guns (is this a thing?), run in the sprinklers and watch Frozen. They want to eat fajitas and have playdates with a handful of their favorite friends, go to the lake and take a lot of pictures.

Their list was strikingly similar to my dreamy list above.

So it’s decided. A simple summer it is! But how exactly do we survive it? Because somewhere along the way, the dreaminess wears off, yes? The sunscreen doesn’t smell so divine, the popsicles leave a sticky mess with an inevitable ant invasion threatening the house, and the kids are suddenly less entertained by the deal we made to keep it simple. 

Come August, I don’t know anyone who’s still full steam ahead on summer break. The desire for free, unscheduled days has long been replaced with a craving for structure, routine and some “alone-time”. So how do we survive this dichotomy? How do we prevent this “running out of steam” effect that is so common for those of us surviving summer at home with our littles? How do we avoid wishing away our summers with our kids once the dreaminess wears off?

How can we provide AND survive a simple summer?

Here’s a few tips I’m pulling out of my bag of tricks and sharing with you, in case you’re like me, desiring a simple summer but wondering how to stay sane over the next 90 days of unstructured, free-days.

  1. Create some structure. With the simplicity you’re working to achieve, don’t throw out having a routine. Sign your kids up for a week of camp or a Vacation Bible School to break up the next 90 days of unstructured schedules and give you some “alone time”.  
  2. Come up with a bucket list. I don’t mean a bucket list that pressures you into forced fun just to cross the item off the list. Create a list of fun ideas at the beginning of the summer that you can grab an idea from when you’re feeling less creative and more desperate. I have a list with local (and mostly free) activities to do that always comes in handy on those days when we just need to get out of the house, but I can’t seem to come up with any ideas myself.
  3. Join a gym. Hear me out because I know this can feel like an investment up front. Not only does my YMCA provide childcare while I exercise, it also has designated days when I can DROP MY KIDS OFF and go run errands by myself…or just go back home and sit in a quiet house for an hour or two. The YMCA has an outdoor pool where the kids can swim. Or again… I can drop the kids in childcare and have some alone time at the pool. I repeat…ALONE TIME AT THE POOL.
  4. Institute quiet time at the very beginning of the summer. Set an hour or two every single afternoon, (we do it during the hottest time of the day) for them to retreat to their rooms and rest their bodies.
  5. Use curbside grocery pick up or grocery delivery. Because obviously…
  6. Create (or modify) a responsibility chart. Each kid should have everyday tasks to complete as well as new age-appropriate responsibilities to learn to contribute to the family.
  7. Remember to have fun. We try to do ONE fun thing every day of summer. It doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Go on a bike ride, eat dinner outside on the patio, turn on the sprinklers and go crazy, catch fireflies in the front yard. Friends, we only have a handful of summers with our kiddos before they move on. Make them count.

What are your ideas for surviving summer with littles?

Let us know your tips, tricks and strategies.

Me, I’m all about taking it slow. Laying down my need to entertain. Forgetting about social media comparisons. Seeing the world through the eyes of my kids. Finding contentment in the ordinary. That’s where you’ll find me this summer.

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