As the final events of the school year wrap up and the backpacks are cleaned out after the last day of school, I feel bittersweet inside. I am always excited to spend more time with the kids at home, but there is always a piece of me that is slightly overwhelmed and wonders how in the world I am going to manage!
I know the house will be messier, snacks will be in constant demand, and there will be a myriad of activities and camps to drive to. Amidst all this excitement, I will still be responsible for cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, cooking meals, and shopping for groceries. Just the thought of it is exhausting.
With everything going on, I’ve struggled to not feel guilty when I am doing my housework. I feel like I am ignoring my children in order to get the work done I need to. Other times I feel frustrated because I give them attention but neglect essential household tasks. At one point I realized something needed to change. So I instituted a tradition that has since been the highlight of summer.
I decided that one day each week we would have a Mom Adventure—or a day where we would do something special. On our Mom Adventure days, I wouldn’t clean or run errands—I would only focus on my kids. Additionally, we made a rule that we wouldn’t bring friends along, so we could just focus on each other.
When the kids were younger, we would have silly little adventures such as painting with shaving cream in the backyard and eating ice cream on plates without spoons. One day we had a crazy hat day and did science experiments together.
Other adventures have been more extravagant, like listening to The Little House in the Big Woods on CD and then driving to the location of the original cabin. Perhaps one of my favorite weeks, we jumped in the car and drove to a nearby Amish community. There we met an amazing Amish family with children near the same age as mine. It was wonderful to learn to appreciate other cultures.
I will admit that our first few summers with this new tradition were easy– the kids were young and enjoyed simple things like going to the park together. However, as we have added more children and the older ones have grown, it has become more difficult to plan activities that interest everyone. This past summer, if I mentioned the park, I occasionally would see the older children roll their eyes!
So this past year we added the tradition that the kids each have a week where they get to help me plan. One son, who is an avid reader and loves to study animals, planned a scavenger hunt at the zoo. It helped us all learn important facts about animals, and the oldest kids enjoyed having a new challenge. My daughter that loves art helped plan a trip to a pottery painting place. Other adventures have been going to art museums or enjoying a leisurely afternoon by the lake.
For me the most rewarding part has been watching them do activities together like building a sand castle or climbing a tree. Their relationships as siblings have been strengthened through our Mom Adventures, and they have learned to appreciate each others’ interests.
Whether we have spent our time at a park or a pool, the result has been the same: each adventure provided me with an opportunity to look into my children’s eyes and remember why I love being their mother.
Author Anna Quindlen said, “The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make . . . I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less” (Loud and Clear , 10–11).
Through all of our Mom Adventures, I have found my way to “treasure the doing a little more.” Deliberately creating these adventures stops the swirling of the crazy world around me and allows me to focus on the twinkle in my children’s eyes, hear their soft giggles, and watch the breeze gently blowing their hair—and for a moment, I feel heaven all around me.
Without a doubt, by the time we start buying school supplies and packing backpacks for the new school year, I am crying inside—so sad that our Mom Adventures will have to wait for another year.
QUESTION: How do you find balance between your responsibilities and spending time with your children?
CHALLENGE: Plan something special for you and your children that will give you time to focus on each other and strengthen your relationships.
Sarah Monson, Editor.
Image from Shutterstock, with graphics by Julie Finlayson.