Because I am a speech-language pathologist working in the public schools here in Connecticut I have the summers off from work. It is probably the best perk of my career choice. Not only do I get a substantial vacation from work, but I get to put my working mother gear away for a couple of months and wear my stay-at-home mother gear (usually a bathing suit, coverup, flip flops, and sunglasses).
When my kids were younger I continued to work at least through the month of July. As an SLP, I was always offered the chance to provide therapy to the students who qualified for summer school and I willingly accepted the extra paychecks. My children were in daycare anyway and it made sense for our family financially. As they aged out of daycare, however, it made more sense for me to stay home for the entirety of the summer so I could spend time with the kids and make some memories.
Those first few summers at home I filled our calendar with sports camps and daytrips. We made summer bucket lists and were sure to dutifully check all of the items off. We were busy but I needed to break up the endless hours and I appreciated still having some structure and a schedule.
As we dragged ourselves into this summer, however, I began to imagine a different type of summer. At 13, 11, and 5 my girls are busy. During the school year we navigate two soccer seasons, basketball season, dance classes, piano lessons, voice lessons and choir rehearsals, Girl Scout meetings, and religious education classes. My older girls performed in the band at school and my oldest participated in the school play. As we barreled into May I found that almost every afternoon and evening had SOMETHING scheduled and we were so exhausted. As the deadline to sign up for summer camps and activities loomed I found myself putting it off. I kept thinking, “I’ll do it next week.” All of a sudden it was June and we still had no real activities planned for the summer…and I finally realized…that was okay.
This summer we are doing, well, not much. We really have nothing to do. Literally. And IT IS GLORIOUS. We wake up when we want to. We eat meals when we want to. We do WHATEVER WE WANT TO! Yes, I’m making sure they each devote some time each week to reading, math, and something that smells just a little educational. Yes, they are doing some chores around the house to earn money for our week away at the Cape and that has been lovely (for me). We did one week of morning soccer camp early on and they have one week of morning basketball camp later. That’s it. We have filled our days with time with friends, time at the pool and beach, trips to the library, walks to the park, and leisurely strolls around Target. I’ve been able to attack some home improvement projects since I have full days to get into something with nothing else to do. The kids are staying up late at night and waking up late in the mornings and I don’t care. I’ve read FOUR WHOLE BOOKS. The youngest has even napped on occasion.
I’ve found that we are more relaxed and less stressed for sure. The kids aren’t fighting as much and I’m not yelling. The house is cleaner, overall, and we are eating better. The kids are also learning to appreciate the art of relaxation. The first couple of weeks I heard a few “I’m bored”s and “There’s nothing to DO”s. As we passed the halfway point of summer, however, I haven’t heard this as much. They are pulling out old toys and board games. They’ve spent more time outside on their bikes, in the trampoline, or playing tag. They are also spending more time occupying themselves quietly in their rooms either reading, playing, or with some screen time. There was one rainy afternoon when my house was close to silent. Four busy, chatty, active women were able to spend some time quiet and content in each other’s company. So I’m going to call our summer of nothing a success.
I know we won’t be able to have many summers such as this one. Eventually the older girls will find summer jobs and a summer program or camp may come along that one of them may want to do. So we are going to embrace the rest of this summer and ease our way back into the school year relaxed, recharged, and maybe just a bit bored and ready for action.