Taking the pressure out of summer

School’s out in about a month and that means we’ll have a little more than two months of summer stretching before us — a blank calendar without too many possibilities.

It’s not just that there isn’t elementary school or preschool to keep us busy. There also isn’t our weekly ballet class and taekwondo class. There are many, many empty hours to fill, so it’s understandable that a lot of families rush to fill them up.

It used to be us, too, because we thought that’s just what you were supposed to do. Except my husband does shift work that keeps him out of the house most evenings, so the schlepping around to activities was left to me. (Along with working from home, of course.)

The first summer of soccer wasn’t too bad, since it was only one night a week. I swatted at the bugs and chased our daughter while our son played. It was when we got into T-ball territory — two nights a week — that I felt my sanity start to wither.

I was co-assistant coaching (that’s a mouthful) and trading off wrangling the little sisters. While it was cute to watch our son play, it was frustrating dragging two children to a dusty field when they both just wanted to stay home.

Last summer, I decided I didn’t want us to do T-ball or soccer and neither of the kids noticed or cared. They went to day camp some mornings while I worked and afternoons were spent at home or at a park.

But while the evenings were sport-free, they weren’t commitment-free. I’d bought a family membership to a local outdoor pool with the idea that we’d meet up with friends for nightly swims. Surely it would be better than the kids and I being home alone every evening, I thought optimistically. But since it made sense to go enough to justify the cost of the pass, I felt pressured to go on evenings when I really didn’t feel like swimming.

I didn’t count on the fact that we’d never seem to see our friends there much, as they’d either go later or on different nights entirely. It was mostly just me and the two kids, alone in a pool of strangers, wondering if anyone we knew was going to show up.

I wasn’t aware the water would be quite so cold or that I’d be shivering while raindrops splattered into the pool. I hated that my hair would get splashed and soaked every night from kids cannonballing with abandon. I disliked the slimy floors in the changing room and the squabbles about whose turn it was to decide between the shallow end and the deep end.

Oh, and there was that one memorable evening when my daughter’s floaty sprung a leak, she went under and I was up all night Googling “dry drowning” and worriedly listening to her cough.

This summer, I have a new plan — and it involves no plans at all. Other than a session of swimming lessons that will take eight days to cover a full term’s worth of instruction, we’re keeping things loose.

My husband’s schedule will be bouncing all over the place, so either he’ll hang out with the kids during the mornings or I’ll send them to half-day camps so I can get some work done. There will be afternoons I’ll need to work, too, and maybe they’ll break out the video games or watch a movie. It won’t be the end of the world.

But there will also be afternoons when we’ll go to the pool or just hang out in the yard with friends and eat freezies. We’ll spend a lot of time hiking through the park down to the playground with the dog in tow. We’ll see movies. We’ll plan little day trips. We’ll make art projects and read books, and everyone will have a bit of quiet time each afternoon. We’ll go for ice cream cones and throw rocks in the pond behind the dairy bar.

In the evenings there will be no sports, no memberships and no commitments that drag us out of the house in the evenings when we’re already tired from a full day. Just unscheduled time to do whatever the three (or four) of us feel like doing. We might go ride bikes in the school parking lot, or take the dog for a walk or build a bonfire and relax in the backyard. We might be sick of the sun and play endless games of UNO inside. The point is that we get to choose.

This kind of summer isn’t for everyone, of course. But for us — a family with a mom who freelances, a dad who works erratic shift work hours and two kids who deserve happy parents — this is what we think will work for us.

Slowly but surely, we’re getting the hang of how we like to “do” summer.

xo

So what do you think?

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