When the Kids are Home for the Summer
For the last two months there’s been a recurring bullet point on my to-do list, always transferred from one sheet to the other, never crossed off. It says: “Figure out child care for the summer!” My son’s pre-school ended the last week of May, my daughter’s elementary school three weeks later. While I have enrolled them in a few camps throughout the summer from Vacation Bible School to a week of crafts, none of them are full day and they certainly don’t fill the calendar.
Last summer I hired part time in-home childcare for the first time in my parenting life. Those occasional afternoons of assistance got me and my business through the summer months allowing me time for client calls and inbox clearing. This year I’m dragging my feet, emails of babysitters in my phone, that to-do item staring at me every day. The feeling of dread that accompanied the end of pre-school - I didn’t remember how to fill a five year old’s day! – has been replaced with a peace, a belief that we can schedule our days as we want without outside help and still keep it all together.
When I remember the summers from my childhood, they were certainly filled with camps from cheerleading to band to church camp, and we also traveled to a lake every other weekend for four days. However, I also remember beautifully unstructured days that started a bit too late, ended long after they should, with not much productive activity in between. During the school year, both my five and seven year old wake up at the same time seven days a week for school, activities, and church. By the time summer rolls around, watching a little extra television or playing a little too much Wii seems almost necessary.
Of course, I do still have to work part time, and I’d be neglecting my parenting duties if I didn’t try to keep my children’s brains from becoming atrophied during three months of nothingness. Not only will the occasional morning camp help to energize the kids and fill their day, but they’ll also be learning new skills. Beyond that, there are things I can do here at home to fill their day with something more than PBS and Wii. So far, I’ve been challenging them to try simple craft projects that they would typically work on at school. We’ve also spent quite a bit of time reading, a new stack of chapter books on my daughter’s book case.
My son is rediscovering favorite toys that were neglected during the school year, and my daughter’s Barbies are suddenly once again featured in her day. On weeks when they don’t have camp, I’m also looking forward to exploring local nature centers and tourist attractions with the kids, doing the things with them that a camp counselor or teacher might.
The bottom line for me is that come the fall, I will suddenly have two elementary school students. They will get on the bus at 8:45 each morning and arrive home at 4:00. As difficult as it is to balance work and time with the kids this summer, at least spending time with them is an option. I think I’ll just keep ignoring that item on my to-do list…