Each year as the school year winds down I make the same goal: to let my kids be kids for the summer. Let them imagine and have down time. I have big plans to hang out, just the six of us, and go to the library and have our own kind of field trips. Each year I make a commitment that I’m not going to over-schedule the summer like I did the year before. Yep, every year that’s my goal. And without fail, every year I end up being frustrated. Because all of a sudden, once again, these kids are mysteriously signed up for everything under the sun.
It’s not only summer that offers tantalizing classes like swim team and various sports camps. During the school year there’s gymnastics, piano, tennis, cooking classes, acting classes, art classes and singing classes. You name it, there’s a class for it, and man oh man those classes are pretty darn tempting!
It’s not just the kids who are begging for them a lot of the time! It’s me thinking, “Oh this would be so great for so-and-so.” I struggle because sure, all those things could help my kids learn a lot. Who knows, maybe Elle will be an awesome volleyball player if I just sign her up for volleyball camp. She’s going to be so tall, maybe that’s her “calling” and she would miss out on it if I don’t let her go. Maybe we’ll uncover that Grace is a natural actress (put in practice by all her daily dramatics), if she only takes that acting class. And Max, he’s quite an artist, wouldn’t that art class give him some great confidence? And poor Claire, my fourth child who doesn’t get to do many lessons, I keep having this feeling that if we put her in a gymnastics class she really could take off…she seems to have inherited a little more of Dave’s coordination than mine which could really help her in the long run!
The list goes on and on. How do you find the balance between what to put your kids in, letting them experience the world, magnify their talents, figure out what they’re gifted in, and keeping them at your side, cherishing that time as long as you can and letting them have down time?
I think the real secret is to just slow down. Enough is really enough. Sometimes what kids really need most is unstructured time and space. My rule of thumb (when I’m not letting myself get carried away by all those tantalizing lessons), is that each child can have one music-based lesson and one physical lesson (sports, gymnastic, etc.) And sometimes I wonder why I even do that much. It’s great to expose our kids to all that we can. But really, there’s not much more that can give our kids confidence and encouragement than spending time with a mother who loves them.
QUESTION: How did you and your kids determine what you were going to do? What types of things did you end up doing? Share your secrets here!
CHALLENGE: Let your kids and your imagination take control over the summer.