In our DREAMS, we see summer as one blissful pool party after another, everyone is in flip-flops and bathing suits all day, and the living is easy-breezy. There are fewer responsibilities on the calendar, there will be less stress, and there will be TIME – for friends, for fun, even for some romantic dates under moonlit palms, and of course a family vacation where the memories will live forever through the perfect photo album we are going to create from the pictures we take...
vs. Summer Reality
But,the REALITY is ...THAT summer rarely happens.
July 15. Summer is half over. Mothers across the country say, “Where has the time gone? We haven’t done anything, the kids are making me crazy. This isn’t what I thought this summer would be!”
August 15. Summer is over, school starts on Monday, and Mothers across the country – whether their kids go to private, public, or homeschool, are saying, “THANK GOODNESS SCHOOL IS STARTING. We will get back to our ROUTINE.”
And nothing brings out bad parenting faster than snarky kids with entitlement issue whining about being bored during an August heat wave!
- Rather than focusing on what you want to DO, focus on WHO you want to be with.
- In place of “accomplishments,” seek deeper bonding between your family and with friends – even new relationships with some.
- Rather than focusing your energy to participate in activities, use your energy to engage with others.
- Rather than spending money to amuse & entertain the kids, Spend yourself to enjoy the kids, your friends, your husband. When something is free, you will feel more relaxed about enjoying it for just as long as your kids do. You can always come back to see more later, do more later, enjoy each other's company more later.
- Rather than trying to Get Away, try to enjoy where you are.
- Keep a calendar and schedule to facilitate relationships, not simply tick off "to-do's"
Yes - you will still "do things" - but the goal isn't how much "fun" you can have - it is simply to be present. The fun will show up, I promise. Make the THINGS you do simple, and count the TIME and PEOPLE you do them with as precious!
When we focus on RELATIONSHIPS and people ...we can find a purposeful summer.
PRAY ABOUT IT! Pray about your children, your husband, your friends, your extended family. How can you serve them? How can you improve your relationships with them and bond through shared memories?
1) RELATIONSHIP building with your husband & children – strengthen the bonds within your family. In Deuteronomy 6 we are taught that teaching of God’s ways happens when we are walking along, when we are sitting at home, when we lie down together, and when we get up. Teaching our children can only spring out of RELATIONSHIP. If we never walk together, talking along the way...when does that happen? If we never sit together at home...when does that happen? If we never lay around and talk...when? Frankly, our children will value what we say MORE when they value our relationship with them more.
What about the relationship with our husband? It is enough to remember that our relationship is to reflect glory to God. Marriage is a PICTURE of Christ & his bride. With so many hours spent apart, due to work and other commitments, it's hard to remember to be intentional about our time together. Summer is a great change-of-pace time to fix that!
2) RELATIONSHIP building with friends and extended family – serving them, loving them, being very PRESENT with them. How can we be the family of God if we don’t know each other? How do we “bear one another’s burdens” – as scripture plainly instructs – if I don’t know that you HAVE any burdens? If we aren’t real with one another. And how do we get to that place? TIME.
Additionally – we want to build relationships with neighbors, with cousins, with family we don’t see enough – maybe even local grandparents or aunts & uncles. Building relationships also provides our family with service opportunities. Lawn mowing for eldery relatives, a visit and a song in nursing homes, taking flowers and spending a few moments with shut-ins from church - NOTHING combats entitlement and self-centeredness like serving someone else’s needs.
3) Summer is a great time to dig a little deeper in scripture, or to keep a 60 day prayer journal, or to run through a personal bible study....to Call time out in order be purposeful in your relationship with God . It’s a great time to do a “different” sort of family worship too – do a hymn study, if you have a pianist, and learn some of the great old hymns of the faith and their backstories – or Look through “Global Prayer Digest” for articles on different countries and their needs – look them up on a map or globe, read through the guide, and pray for each one. Prioritize time with God. Prioritize His Word. Prioritize Worship. Prioritize Prayer.
This quote, from an article I read recently, expresses so much of what is important about our relationships:
“Grace opens a lot of doors.
When people sense I’m not going to hurt them, that I won’t slash them with the sword of the Spirit, they are relieved to have someone look into the lonely, dark rooms of their hearts with them. When we don’t rush them and don’t try to squeeze God’s Word in edgewise, Jesus has room to work wonders.
Again, what we bring that is most Christlike is grace. Grace is the credential that lets us park close to people’s hearts.” - Lee Eclov, The Heart of a Shepherd
Don't get me wrong, we ride life like a roller-coaster around here, but I came to realize through all those "quiet life" verses that when it starts to feel scary and out of control instead of breathtaking and exhilerating, it is time to grab a new perspective.
What should characterize my life? Peace, contentment, order. What should characterize my interactions with others? Love, and knowing them enough to share in their lives. I am called to service, I am called to love, I am called to be a PART of the body.
Better start building those relationships. :D
Here is a plan to revolutionize your approach:
1) Bring everybody in on the plan. Make a summer bucket list. Make a calendar. This list of "things" are now not your GOAL - they are your SNEAKY SECRET WEAPONS. They are your TOOLS. They are simply the means by which you are going to get to spend time with your kids, or your husband, or your friends or extended family - whoever you invite to join you. Ask everyone for their "Want-tos" for summer. AIm for "Free" !!
2) Make sure to keep some routine in your days. The chore chart stays (in fact, this is a great time to teach NEW chores, or polish up your expectations on the old ones by working WITH your kids!)
Rise & Shine time & Bedtime can certainly be modified, but keep some sort of requirement to make certain the kids (and you) get plenty of sleep. If they are crabby, then you'll be crabby. If you are all crabby, nobody is going to want to go to the beach with you...
I also instituted a "quiet time" every afternoon. Anyone young enough to nap, did. Everyone else read (or listened to books on CD), quietly in their room. <3 Ah, sweet silence. It recharges us all! The trips to the library were especially designed to furnish lots of great books for this daily respite!
3) Keep your calendar out where everyone can see, but write in pencil (and make sure your kids understand flexibility is the name of the game here!
ps...our husbands will tend to say, "Oh, whatever YOU want to do..." Do a little research. What WOULD he really like to do? Is there an auto museum nearby, like The Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar? It is free - plan to take the family AND the camera! Or maybe he would like to help you visit a new park each weekend, and create a park-ranking for all the great parks in the area!
Make your hospitality easy , low-key and low-prep. Just start. ENJOY yourself!! Invite a family over, and ask them to bring the salad! BBQ burgers, use paper plates, have a water pitcher with iced water to drink. Don't bake something special. It does NOT need to be Pinterest-worthy!! Don't buy stuff, don't make stuff, just enjoy the company!! Yes, it is lovely to make your guests feel special - but the most special thing to share with them is yourself. As you get more comfortable, as your kids get older, as life's seasons change, you can add special touches if you'd like. Just remember, the most important thing is the relationships you are building!
Introverts - if this is scary for you, that's ok. Start by asking another family out to a picnic. Invite a family to spend the afternoon at the beach with you. I promise. Using your house as an outreach point is like a secret weapon - it shows you are open and welcoming in a very tangible way. Try it, you'll like it!
Extroverts - quick, get some dates on the calendar. Remember to invite new people, not the same wonderful crowd you love. You extroverts are inspiring, because you understand how it strengthens a relationship to have people in to your home. It is vulnerable. It is opening your life to your guests. It is honoring them through the invitation, and God through obedience.
In your area, start by checking www.kidsbowlfree.com and www.kidsskatefree.com and also search "free kids movies summer" to see if theaters near you have a slate of weekly movie showings for kids - free! - and search "free museum days near me" to find museums with free admission days. :D
Funny thing? Spouses aren't really much different. Enjoy time with them. Do somethig, anything, or nothing. Sit and hold hands.
- Let’s talk about Book/CDs. THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING EVER. Each of my two year olds got a VERY SIMPLE CD player. Now they can have quiet time....quietly!!! (Library, make own books on CD). Best of all? Using a simple free software program like Audacity (for windows), grandparents can record themselves reading books, burn it to a CD, and send it to your sweet babe in a ziploc with the book. Bingo!! Afternoon quiet-time just got a lot happier!
- Croquet sets are remarkably sturdy & fun, will last FOREVER.
- Make a washoos game. The instructions are at : http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-A-Three-Hole-Washers-Board-Game/ and this is tons of fun. Lawn games in general are great to have set up when you have people over, or go camping, or just have a family challenge night. Check Pinterest for d-i-y lawn games, lots of easy stuff to make that you can keep for years).
- Volleyball net & ball will double as badminton setup, and even fairly little kids can play that if you set the net really low! My kids loved playing badminton pretty early. They didn't keep score, but just counted how many times they could bat the "birdie" back and forth without it dropping - hey, look! Non-competitive, cooperative play! :D
- Kiddie pool. If you have a spot in the yard, this will actually SAVE you money! 😃 I have also bought a little plastic pool and filled it with sand to make a summer-time sandbox for sand play for the little guys. They love it. Try to find a spot under a tree...that sand gets HOT.
I hope you find something that blesses your summer!