WASHINGTON, June 22, 2011 - When kids are free in the summer, it’s hard for moms to keep a schedule, keep kids busy and keep themselves sane. Add in things that just cost too much and the ever-present lure of TV, and it’s quite possible this summer could be a disaster before it even gets started. Or it could be awesome.
And the pitfalls are…
Wii/TV: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day. But they’re crazy. Because especially right at the beginning of the summer, letting kids watch TV seems fine. It’s such a relief not to have homework and projects and the stress of end of the year activities . And it’s super hot outside. And everyone is tired from sports practice. BUT IT SETS A PRECEDENT. It quickly becomes the norm - a bad norm (like Norm McDonald)*. You want to set a good norm, like the one from Cheers.
*Norm McDonald may be very nice. We don’t actually know him.
Junk Food: Here’s my problem – my kids are home all the time and I’m constantly feeding them . They eat like Hobbits. Here’s the schedule: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, snack, other snack, whining that they’re hungry, dinner, whining that they’re hungry again (but only after I say it’s time for bed). I start the summer feeding them organic produce from the farmer’s market. Two weeks and $500 later, I’m throwing bags of Costco microwave popcorn at them.
Late Nights: No. Just no. You have to keep to some sort of schedule or its becomes anarchy in 3 day old pajamas. You know what’s not helping with the kids not wanting to go to bed on time? THE SUN. Also, night-time? That MY TIME. It’s not like I love the nightlife and love to boogie. I just love that two hours a day where I am not on duty. If I let the kids stay up too late, yes – they will sleep in and that’s awesome but they will also be grouchy and whiny during what should be the best part of my day.
The time of day where I do lots of fun mommy stuff like pay bills and fold laundry and watch True Blood.
Expensive Camps: I believe in inexpensive camps. I even think there are some free camps. I love those. The alternative is selling a kidney to a Serbian doctor in a back alley in order to afford three weeks of lacrosse camp. No way. I’m saving that kidney for college. I do things like swim team. It’s an hour every day.
We also take lessons and do a couple of affordable week-long sports camps. It takes up enough time to give our days purpose but not so much time that we can’t slow down and chill out.
Boredom: I am of the opinion that boredom is good for kids. It forces them to amuse themselves, to come up with something to do. Some people call it “unstructured play” and talk about how it stimulates creative, independent thinking. I call it “go play outside and stop tearing up my house.”
Filthy House: Do you know why my house is dirty right now? BECAUSE WE ARE ALWAYS IN IT. It is almost impossible to get a house a clean with three kids in it and it’s totally impossible to keep it clean with us at home. This summer, I’m not aiming for clean, my goal is not embarrassing.
Backpack & Lunchbox *Treasures* we’ve forgotten about: Remember to clean out those backpacks now or you could find yourself asking “What’s that smell?” next week. It took me an hour and a half to sort through all the stuff in my kids’ backpacks yesterday. Those school bags were so stuffed with paper and notebooks and junk that they were practically round. My kids looked like popsicles trying to walk home from school. You know why it took so long? Because I did it in front of them.
I should’ve waited until they were asleep and the made a bonfire in the yard, because the recycling company is seriously not prepared for the oversized load I’m now trying to get rid of.
The real goal for the summer is to find a balance between structure and downtime. It’s important to let kids be kids and to let them enjoy themselves. It’s also important to provide enough enrichment and learning that they don’t devolve into feral, slack-jawed TV junkies. Also? Not going broke in the process.
It’s going to be a great summer!
Julianna Miner and Kristin Wilson Keppler write the daily humor blog Rants from Mommyland. They also write for The Huffington Post’s Comedy Page and Nickelodeon’sParentsConnect.com. Read more Maternal Ammunition in the Communities at the Washington Times.
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