By Melissa Ford
I always admired those moms who eagerly anticipated summer’s approach - researching, scheming, and scheduling activities; I wasn’t one of them.
One of my best-mom-friends got the ball rolling on the snowiest of days in February. Warmed by the crackling fire, she’d fashion long, handwritten inventories of summer activities for her and her children. Shifting into action mode around March, she’d clip, copy, highlight, and stuff folders with reviews, recommendations, dates, and times of must-do family activities. Come April, her plans were solidified. I’d listen, slack-jawed and eyes glazed, as she’d wax lyrical about crafts, museums, movies, backyard fun, festivals, ballgames, farmer’s markets, family vacations - ensuring her brood was kept busy throughout the dog days of summer!
Feeling slight twinges of embarrassment at my poor planning, I’d casually inquire as to how she managed to be so on top of her game? “Whatever possessed you?” I cried, pouring over her color-coded filing system. “I have to,” she’d snap, “because if I don’t jump on summer scheduling, I can’t stand how I feel!’
Turns out there were three things fueling her motivation: guilt, guilt, and guilt.
If she didn’t spend a lot of time with her kids in the summer, she’d feel guilty. If she didn’t expose them to everything Chicago had to offer, guilt would invade her days. And, if she didn’t plan their summer, she’d feel guilty about their boring lives! Secretly, I feared those long, humid months because while I might enjoy a day trip or two with my kids - I wasn’t planning on entertaining them all summer long. And, if kids don’t have things to do in the summer, then boredom (along with meltdowns, fights, and too much free time) comes calling, which can drive any mother crazy!
Guilt wasn’t my motivator - it was sheer panic!
Fortunately, I had my key connections: moms-with-older-kids. I learned the ropes early on from these savvy, resourceful women: schedule your kids’ days with lots of activities so when they return home - there is no boredom, only exhaustion. Now you might think, kids are over scheduled these days. I agree; they are, but I did my best (yes, there was some free time), taking into consideration my kids’ interests, personalities and passion for TV and video games.
Even to do this day, my daughter likes to complain, I mean reminisce, about her summers.
Six weeks of swim camp every summer (most kids signed up for two weeks) and months of field hockey at Lindberg (I like to remind her she swims like Dara Torres and handles a stick like Carina Benninga because of me). We managed to get through summer, due to the seasoned advice from my veteran-mother-friends, and I learned a trick or two myself, purposefully leaving the remaining two weeks of summer unplanned. Time for my kids to unwind, take it easy, hang-out, read, fight with each other, and get bored enough that school seemed enticing.
In strange ways, I miss those summers. Do you enroll your kids in camps? Take day-trips or spend time enjoying a good summer read? How do you spend your summers?