And So, Summer Begins

Well it’s official, summer’s here. Tuesday was this fabulous, warm, low humidity great start and we spent nearly the whole day at the local pond beach interrupted only for a brief period (during the height of severe sun-exposure) for a mid-day nap.

Having a five-year old with boundless energy and a two-year old that still naps in his bed everyday can be tricky. But this year I was going for balance and I think I may have struck it: that perfect balance between scheduled activities, breaks for mom and completely unplanned time, free to go off on whims and follies to our hearts’ desires

(gracious, it’s only taken five years to get it right)!

Last year I planned almost nothing, no camps, no classes, no regular downtime. What we did plan was two fairly big trips–one to Montana at the beginning of the summer and one to Canada for fishing at the end–so in between I thought we’d make ourselves carefree and available. BAD DECISION!

The logic was there, and so were my best mommy-planning-skills, after all, we have family in Maine and the Berkshires, so it seemed like a smart move. But the family in the Berkshires were busy launching a new business leaving very little free time for spontaneous visits. And the whole month of June was rainy and blech, leaving little desire to go up to Maine where it was rainier and blechier. Nothing seemed to go right. By the end of it all, I was ready to enroll myself in school just so I could get a break.

But this year it’s going to be different.

I have to pedal way back to January, when, around these parts of Metro Boston, people start thinking about summer camps and making plans. And even though I fancy myself a bit of a Julie McCoy, in the depths of a New England winter, I can barely set the timer to brew my coffee for the next day let alone plan my summer in advance.

In the un-named, fancy suburb next door, if you don’t have your kid enrolled in camps by March 1, you better queue up the summer rental listings and head out-of-town (which most of them do anyway). Somehow, by the grace of God, and with some logical input from my DH, I managed to sit down with our calendar and plan our summer. And it doesn’t involve renting a house anywhere.

Perhaps one of the reasons it’s taken me five years to get it right is that the options open to the under five crowd are somewhat limited. Most things seem to start at five, a few at four and a VERY few at three. That said, my 2yo will be doing very little while my 5yo will be doing A LOT. Here’s what it looks like:

June first week: end of school; second week: free; third week: morning swim classes at the local pond (rain or shine; so far we’ve had one of each); fourth week: morning swim classes followed by afternoon farm camp (from 1-4).

July first week: Maine; second week: morning soccer camp + two mornings of “Toddler Camp;” third week: free; fourth week: nature camp in Maine with grandparents + two mornings of Toddler Camp.

August first week: free; second week: fishing in Canada; third week: VT with friends; fourth week: school starts!

And in between we’ve scheduled a number of weekend plans that also include DH (and the Berkshires).

This may sound like a lot to some of you but for me (and my children who thrive on knowing what the day’s plan is) this feels just right. I love that we have swaths of time with a destination in store and yet many periods open for playdates, berry picking, beach excursions and zoo outings. I love that there will be weeks when I can get writing done, work on deadlines and be an active member of the committees I serve on and then other weeks when my singular attention will be my kids. To me, this feels right, feels invigorating, feels like balance.

So even though summer just started yesterday, somehow I feel like I’ve been living in it for months already. Maybe by the end of it, I’ll really be ready for Fall…who knows, maybe sooner!

What do your summer plans look like? What’s the right balance for you? Any tricks you’ve learned over the years?

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ann
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 08:05:38

    I applaud your carefully chosen mix of planned + spontaneous activities! This is my 1st summer with a 6 year old-my bf’s daughter (and his mother!) Are coming to stay w/ us in baltimore for 5 wks. We’ve enrolled her in a science camp for 3 of those weeks, and have fun family+friends stuff planned for weekends, like: going to the O’s game, attending a roller derby match, going on a kids pirate cruise, etc. The things that will fill in the blanks are all those things that don’t need advance tickets: the zoo and museums (free in DC!), the playground + park, the pool,etc. Wish me luck! I’m gonna need it!


    • growingmuses
      Jun 23, 2011 @ 08:38:59

      Ann, thanks for your applause. Sounds like you’re already experiencing the carefully chosen mix of dealing with a young kid (and please tell me that you mean your bf’s mother and not the kid’s! No sig-o should ever have to house the ex…EVER). Sounds like Camp Priftis is where we’d all like to be. What a great array of activities! Age 5+ opens a world of exploration and inquisition. No doubt you’ll get a good dose of it all and I think you’ll do great! Just remember, sometimes simple explanations are all a kid is asking for, not a carefully crafted art critique or Einstein’s theory of relativity…K.I.S.S.


  2. slightlywonky
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 08:18:06

    What a great post! I’m so happy that this summer feels like a good balance for you. I’m feeling that we don’t have enough free weekends for playdates this summer, but maybe that’s because I don’t like to be over scheduled. For example, we’re not free the next three weekends. So, I can’t plan a playdate until…mid July? Seems crazy to me, but that’s just how it goes, I guess.


    • growingmuses
      Jun 23, 2011 @ 08:43:10

      well, not to point out the obvious, but you are a sole proprietor now and your schedule is really up to you. The only one you have to report to, really, is yourself (OK, and maybe also an above-average three-year-old). Why not take a random Wednesday or Monday and plan some playdates or do some whimsical things? I never plan playdates on weekends, that’s always family time for us but I realize not for the working world. Flexibility really seems to be the modus operandi of these early years.


  3. Christie
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 08:33:50

    I like to think of myself as an organized person when it comes to my kids…however I haven’t quite embraced the January planning of summertime activities for my kids. Now on day 2 of rain I am wondering if I made a mistake to leave my summer almost completely open???


    For me the best part of an unplanned summer is watching the relationship of my 3 year old and 5 year old continue to take shape. This is such a special time for them to spend together and their adverntures seem to be endless! Here’s to jumping in puddles today & collecting worms!


    • growingmuses
      Jun 23, 2011 @ 08:54:13

      Christie, I hear ya! It’s hard enough planning my vegetable garden when there’s snow on the ground let alone summer activities! I admire that your kids are developing a deeper relationship, as I type this reply, my kids are playing a game of Dictator and Subject…guess who’s in charge? For me and my own sanity, finding age-appropriate activities seems like a good idea but I hope I’m not denying them the opportunity to have a deeper relationship with one another. It’s so hard to know! Certainly jumping in puddles and collecting worms should be a big part of every childhood, enjoy!


  4. DH
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 23:26:23

    Wow, great post! Now I have a place I can go online to help me remember where you and the kids will be (or not be) during the summer. [BTW – isn’t our daughter going to a local drama workshop in August?…]

    Summers are definitely a tricky balance when the kids are a young age. Nap times, age-appropriate options, coordinating road-trips or weekend visits with friends & relatives can get to be overwhelming real quick. I agree…The last few years were frustrating to try to plan, as kids activities were more limited and even those that were available seemed to conflict with afternoon naps.

    We did try a local summer camp (outdoors all day, with swimming/sports/crafts/etc) but she seemed absolutely miserable, and instead of enjoying the pool like the water-rat she is…sat on the edge of the pool, dipping her toes, and complaining about whistles/loud noises/too many people. In hindsight, it was probably too overwhelming for her at the time – but we’ve never even thought about whether she might find it fun, now that she’s going into kindergarten… FINALLY!!!!! – This summer definitely feels like a great balance.

    That said, independent of whether any summer is well or poorly balanced, I think it’s important to keep the perspective that the opportunity to plan 2-3 months for summer is, in large part, the very reason I work the hours I do, and why we make other choices and sacrifices. That flexibility to do what seems like fun or is most enriching for the kids, and to enjoy it with them…is perhaps something families with 2 working parents long for.


    • growingmuses
      Jun 24, 2011 @ 15:41:38

      Well stated and observed Luv. And yes, you’re right, I forgot about a morning drama workshop the third week in August…oops! The kids and I are very blessed to have this time together and the ability not to be over-programmed. I will try to remember this during those times this summer when we have several days of bad weather and I complain about being stuck indoors. I also very much believe that kids need to learn how to manage boredom/downtime as much as they need to manage programmed time; I worry that by keeping this generation constantly entertained and engaged, we deprive them of their innate ability to be resourceful, creative and independent.


  5. Caitlin
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 09:12:58

    Amen to the DH. I do have to say that I was a little sad reading this and thinking about OUR summer, which is so much about piecing together childcare instead of balancing free time and structured enrichment.
    I love the way you guys are doing it and E & P are so lucky to have you both. I want to come up and spend the summer with you!


    • growingmuses
      Jun 24, 2011 @ 15:59:36

      Caitlin, through your comments, you have, on more than one occasion, really helped hold a mirror up for me. First in my homeschooling dilemma and now with this. There are frequent occasions when I get frustrated with being a stay-at-home mom and think I want to be back in the work-world. I miss the collegiality, the proper functioning of my brain and the ability to get a performance review every 6-12 months…all things I currently miss out on. I know if I were working, whether P/T or F/T, I’d miss this more though. Their childhood is so brief, they depend on us for such a short time, they enjoy our company and look up to us so ephemerally that I don’t want to rush it, dismiss it or over-program it. Already at 5, our daughter is capable of so many more independent tasks and activities. There are large periods of time—while at drop off playdates, classes or camp/school—where the best window I have on her activities is through her own reports back to me. I DO feel thankful for this time and hope we will all look back on it fondly in years to come (it will certainly provide many daydream diversions for me when I sit at a desk again in the near future)
      And By the way…we would LOVE if you’d come up and spend the summer with us, better yet, let’s all go to Quechee!


  6. Tiff
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 10:04:35

    I don’t have children of my own yet, but this summer I’ve spent a lot of time with my nieces and nephews summer and I love them like they’re my own. Still, their list of demands for the summer was extravagant. We went to see The Zookeeper starring Kevin James, which we loved, and so they added a visit to the jungle to their list. Luckily I could take them to Zoo New England which was much easier, and the location where the actual movie was filmed. Their mom found this great giveaway for two free kids passes to the zoo. It was great. I’d definitely recommend it for a fun family day out.


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