I always feel torn this time of year. Part of me loves summer: the warm days, picnics, and the creating of childhood memories are all at my fingertips as the last school bell reverberates through the air. All of my children will be home. All four. I am excited to hear their voices all day, to more closely watch them tackle tasks, and to get some quality time with them. “Welcome home you beautiful children. Let us take hold of summer and bond.”
AND THEN there is this other fragment within me that is squirming with dread. “Oh my gosh, they’re coming! The school-agers are home!” I begin to cower, feeling like prey for predators looking to commit matriphagy (when organisms feed on their own mother).
Many mothers have felt the nibbling at their heels as moments of quiet become rare, they are asked to help with countless activities, and are playing referee between warring siblings. I do not want to dread this potentially sweet season with my children, who will soon be so lost in their own lives. Simple projects like making popsicles, baking, and coloring masterpieces fit for fridge-front galleries will soon be left in the dust of their adult-sized, teenage-filled shoes. So I arm myself. Here are four ways I emotionally prepare so self-preservation, tiredness, and apathy do not steal the memories midsummer night dreams are made of.
Identify the Why
What do we want summer to look like, and why do we want it that way? This is not a question about activities. This question is about the heart. If we get focused on what summer might cost us personally, we have already lost. BUT, if we find why we are willing to sacrifice some of our own comforts, and remind ourselves daily of the big picture, we are more likely to carry it out. Find a way to remind yourself of your why. Write a mission statement, break your why down to a single word and post it on your mirror, or set a reminder in your phone to pop up at the same time each day. For example:
I love my children. I cherish them. I am grateful for them. They will only be children for a short time, and I will do my best to build a foundation of love for them to launch from. Summer provides a unique opportunity to invest in their hearts, minds, and souls. A time to inject joy, training, and sacred moments into the stories of their lives. I will take advantage of this opportunity.
Create Your Summer Bucket List
What do we want to do? Sit down and listen to the desires of your children. Make a list of what seems reachable and reasonable, and post it on a wall. Is there something you always envisioned doing? Add it. A movie they really want to see? Write it down. How about camps? Schedule those in. These can be refresh time for mom. Maybe your child wants to go to Disney World, but that is not possible this year. Offer some local alternatives. Don’t go broke! Make the list budget friendly.
Finally, do not forget to take the list beyond activities. Ask ‘What do we want to learn?’ What do we need to learn? In my house, this summer, everyone is learning how to do their own laundry!!
Protect Your Mornings
Those first moments of the day are vital to the emotional well-being of the whole household. Know what you want them to look like. Are you dropping the kids off before you head to work? Are you all at home throughout the summer? Make sure they know the drill. Are there things that are required before screen time is allowed? Is there a certain time they are allowed to get up? What are the rules about breakfast?
A small decision saved me from much frustration over the last couple summers. I set my alarm to go off before the kids typically wake up. This doesn’t mean I always get up, but it helps me direct my annoyance away from the kids first thing. Instead, I am irked by the time, the alarm, or the sun. All things that can bear the weight of my irritation, as opposed to my children that I long to greet with joy.
Acknowledge that things will not be perfect. Focus on grace, gratitude, and growth. Adjust the things that are not working, make sure you get some moments alone to regroup, and cut yourself some slack. Savor this summer, it will not last forever.