summer parenting

Back when Daniel and Anya were really little (which wasn't so long ago, actually), I used to roll my eyes at parents who complained about summer vacation. What in the world would they do with their kids All Day Long now that school was out?? Big freaking deal, I wanted to say. Or, Welcome to my world. And, I bet your kids sleep past 5am, too, don't they?

I kind of get it now. Sort of.

I mean, as kids get a little older, the independence they have can be freeing. Mine are ages 6 and 8. For my own personality and parenting style, things are generally going much better for me than a few years ago when they wouldn't nap or eat anything normal and I was bored stupid and no one ever slept through the night.

At the same time, they are old enough to be more social. Daniel, especially, is at an age where spending time with your friends is preferable to hanging out with your mom. They are both now also accustomed to being in school most hours of the day, where there is, generally speaking, more structure and routine than at home.

I have some firmly held personal philosophies about how kids spend their time, both from my own growing up years and my observations of children I've known from years of teaching music and being acquainted with the peers of my own kids.  I believe it's good for kids to have plenty of unstructured time to work out their own problems and find their own interests. I believe it's good for kids to be bored because it forces them to find their own creativity and independence. I believe kids need to spend a lot of time outside, and have a lot of time to read. I believe kids need to learn responsibility.

All of that looks really good on paper, but in practice, hoo boy is it hard. It would have been so easy for me to sign my kids up for camps and sports teams all summer long to keep them busy. Believe me, it was tempting, since that's what a lot of their friends do. (Side note: I am fully aware that parents of single-parent families and dual-earner households have no choice but to find camps and daycare for summer vacations. I have no intention of igniting a Mommy Wars conversation. No judgment here.) Instead, I've chosen to go with the bare minimum: swimming lessons (assuming they let us into the next session after getting kicked out of the first one, arg), piano, a couple weeks of summer enrichment classes with the school district, and borrowing lots and lots of books from the library for the summer reading program.

It's hard because they need to figure out what to do with their time. Daniel is reading Harry Potter (finally!!), and Anya wants to learn how to sew. I want to teach them how to cook. I'm making them carry all their own stuff around, which is more of an adjustment than you'd think, alas. I plan to do a few fun day trips to some state parks, and we're trying to meet up with their friends from school and the neighborhood as often as possible, since social time is more important than ever.

It's a new stage of parenting (aren't they all?) for me. I need to hand over more responsibility for everything from keeping track of daily piano practice minutes to finding the all-important stuffed animal at bedtime. It doesn't mean I'm less engaged. I'm just stepping back a little, and it's harder than I thought.


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