As a kid there is nothing better than summer vacation–late nights, late mornings, no homework, more junk food, more TV and endless play time. At least that is how I remember it in the 70s when I was growing up. And while I never sensed that my mom was going out of her mind at the time, she had to have had her moments. As I “work” through another summer with my boys, here are my four survival tips for summer that I learned from my mom!
#1. Great Summer Care is Not Easy to Find
My mom opened a craft store when I was in 2nd grade called Crafter’s Inn, which launched her “working career”. From that point on my mom always worked, which was not that typical of the other moms in my tiny town. So every summer my mom would hire a summer babysitter to come and “entertain” us each day. This was a town of 1,700 in the Midwest, which meant there were no camps, kid and me activities, or summer sports. It was you, the babysitter and your back yard and maybe the town pool. I distinctly remember my mom paying $1.10/hour so you can imagine she wasn’t hiring a “professional”. As I look back there was a revolving door of babysitters over the years–so many that I can’t even remember their names. I’m pretty sure most of them were short lived because I was a horrible tattle-teller. One had a party where they raided my parents “top shelf” and fed us all the Pop Rocks we wanted to stay quiet–I took the Pop Rocks, but I did not stay quiet! One was incredibly messy and not very attentive and a month after she was gone my mom found a cookie sheet in the cabinet that had a half cooked frozen pizza on it–nice! Needless to say, I’m still very skittish about hiring babysitters.
#2. You Don’t Have to Travel Far to Have a Good Time
When we returned from our honeymoon we were raving about Yosemite to our friends that had two small children and told them that they HAD to take the girls there. Their response–our girls are perfectly happy taking a trip out to the shed in the backyard, why do we need to travel 3,000 miles. At the time that seemed cruel–but that was before we had children. In my entire childhood we went one place each year for vacation–Okoboji, Iowa. My entire extended family vacationed together–everyone does that right!?! In my memory, and even today, it was the best place to go on vacation. There were multiple lakes with paddle boats, fishing, lake raft and giant bum burning metal slide that dumped you into very shallow water, a swimming pool, all my aunts’ cooking, amusement park, etc. It was exactly 60 miles away from home, but as we loaded up almost all of our belongings (we all looked like the Beverly Hillbillies pulling in) and headed up it seemed like it was the longest trip ever. Today we spend so much time and effort finding new locations to take the kids on vacation–usually far flung from home and in the end, if asked, they will remember the simplest and easiest trips of the year as their favorites. And truth be told, my boys would spend every vacation they have in Iowa–it’s in their blood!
#3. Let Them Find Their Own Fun
When Pinterest took off a few years ago everyone, including me, was pinning “Summer Bucket Lists” that included to die for activities like roasting marshmallows in a homemade solar oven and visiting every playground within a 100 mile radius. I fell prey to these lists and would go through them with the boys and mark things off as we did them–drive in movie…check, roasting marshmallows (sans solar oven)…check, etc. But then it started to taunt me from the side of the refrigerator and make me feel like we weren’t “living” enough in the summer. Two weeks before school started we still had more than 1/2 of the items on our “must do 100 things of the Summer” list. On the way home from swimming on a Saturday at the end of the Summer I told Zain that we were stopping at the Farmer’s Market. He said he didn’t want to go and I said that we had to.
Because it’s on our list!
That was my “ah-ha” moment on the bucket list. Chuck it! Growing up we went outside in the morning and only came back when we were hungry or at latest, when the street lights came on. Our imagination and our neighborhood friends is all we had. There were no screens and certainly no bucket lists back then and all I can remember is absolute Summer bliss! I also think that my mom “sent” us outside to keep her own sanity. Smart cookie!
#4. Never Under Estimate What Needs to Get Done
By the time I was 10 my mom had relocated her store two towns away. By now she had a partner and employees and could have created a schedule with flexibility to be home more throughout the summer, but she didn’t. She had had enough (as had we) with the babysitters. So my mom paid me nothing to babysit my brother. Each day she would leave us a list of chores that had to be done before we could ride our bicycles to our new “babysitter”–the town pool. We would all then meet up at the end of the day for dinner and we would go back outside to play. My mom didn’t bring work home in the traditional way–perhaps a macrame plant hanger that needed to be complete or silk flowers that needed to be assembled, but for the most part work was work and home was home (the same went for my dad) and she realized that she had to be at work to get the work done. I work from home, which I wouldn’t change for the world, but each year I convince myself that I don’t work as much in the summer…it’s slow in the summer…I don’t need full day coverage in the summer. But I have learned over the years, that I need just as much support in the summer as I do during the school year. And so far, I’ve not had any nightmare babysitters with pizzas found stuck to the cookie sheets. Thank goodness!