Just one more day of school for my kids before they start their summer break. One more day of second grade, of morning lunch packing, of devotions and prayer by the front door, of racing the school bus. One more day of errands by myself, a quiet mid-day meal, hours in my home puttering, writing, reading, cleaning, plotting my next business move or calling a friend to catch up. One more day and then it’s summer.
I love summer.
This is the time of year when mother’s see each other around the neighborhood and at the end-of-school-year events and we ask each other “Ready for summer?” because it’s the thing to ask and then we respond with some variation of “I think so!” or “I hope so!” or “Nope!” followed by a hearty laugh that says we both know the real crazy is about to begin. Preparing for summer is a big event.
For some it’s a stressful event, trying to fill every hour, thinking our kids need entertainment and stimulation and socializing and fun. After a school year full of daily activities it seems our kids couldn’t possibly be content with a summer of nothing. In the past I have worried about finding just the right balance of enough structure with enough free time. I did okay, felt all right, but never thought I got it just right.
But this year I feel different about it. This year I feel less inhibited, less worried, less pressured to provide the perfect summer—the right summer. This summer here’s my vision: space to rest, space to imagine; space for quiet. Here’s what I mean.
Space to Rest
My kids need rest. They need down time. Our culture does not encourage or support rest. Even when we allow for it we restrict it and box it in—Billy can play for 30 minutes, but then we need to leave so I can get things done. I don’t think adults are well suited to the pressure we put on ourselves to constantly produce and achieve, but I think children are especially ill-suited to this frenzied push to “make use” of time, as though the only appropriate way to spend time is to have some product to show for it at the end. This summer I want my kids to rest, to relax. To find themselves in the moment or to lose themselves and spend a day or two or more searching for what’s missing. I want them to walk barefoot to no particular destination, ride their bikes, and invite neighborhood friends to water balloon fights or fort building in the yard. I have no illusions of providing my kids with a 1970s summer; I simply don’t think rest has to be a thing of the past. I want my kids to have a 2016 summer full of quiet mornings, non-agendas, and room to stretch out on the grass with a book. We’ve been a busy family this school year—now I want my kids to rest.
Space to Imagine
It delights me to no end to watch my kids invent things. Toys are nearly obsolete in our home, only because cardboard boxes, pieces of plastic, ribbons and string, and tape are all so full of potential. Legos are a hit around here too, but I’m thankful the instruction manuals have been tossed and my kids spend their Lego time building structures of their own devising. Not long ago my kids showed off a whole village they had created, with playgrounds and school science labs and homes and a snowplow to hit the roads when the weather turned bad. Tonight a jail was added to the town collection, ostensibly to deal with any sassy Lego people who get the wrong idea. I have no issue with structure and I think it’s important that kids learn to follow instruction, but I know there’s plenty of opportunity for that in school and frankly in our daily lives with household chores and day to day interactions. I don’t ever want my kids to lose the desire or the motivation to invent and create, and summer is the perfect time for their imaginations to soar to new heights.
Space for Quiet
The world is a noisy place. I remember as a kid wondering how my mom could possibly enjoy riding in the car with the radio off. She would turn the power off and declare “I just need some quiet.” I didn’t get it then, but I get it now. Sometimes we just need to stop the background chatter, the notifications, the music, the commentary, the noise—and give ourselves space for quiet. While I liked listening to the radio in the car, I also enjoyed a lot of quiet in my childhood. I wrote stories and poetry. I spent hours braiding my hair and teaching myself to raise each eyebrow independently. How ridiculous it seems, to have spent so much time on these frivolous things. Yet I look back on those quiet hours and know that that’s when I went inside, got to know my own thoughts, and formed my own opinions. I was slowly and beautifully becoming me. About a year ago I asked my kids to tell me about something they felt proud of because they got to control it and it was their very own. My beautiful Amelia answered: “My own thoughts. I like my thoughts because they’re mine and nobody can tell me not to think them.” Her profound answer has stuck with me, and I pray it always sticks with her. This summer I want my kids to have the quiet they need to hear their own thoughts and know their own minds.
I am feeling very content in this time of anticipating summer. We do have some family plans—a week of VBS, a week of day camp, an extended visit with distant family. I don’t write this to suggest that each day will be a carefree romp in fields of wildflowers (though we do have some lovely wildflowers around here—I’m sure we’ll do a little romping). But my hope is that the pace and cadence of this summer is slow and easy, full of meaningful connections and lots and lots of dirt between toes and under fingernails.
May your summer be similarly satisfying, whatever it is your vision entails. And if you need help creating that vision, give me a call or send me an email. Coaching is a great way to get you on track to your perfect summer.