In Defense of Our Overscheduled Summer

BlogHer Original Post

I am almost certain that the creator of the phrase "lazy days of summer" was not part of my family. By family, I mean all branches of my family: the nuclear family I grew up in, my aunts' and uncles' families, and so on through our family tree. We are movers and shakers by nature, and so it makes sense that we will continue moving and shaking right through the (very hot) summer months.

This year is no different. I never start out to overschedule our summer. I look at the "summer break" with the same sort of awe and wonder that I did as a child. Three months of possibilities stretch out in front of me as I stare at the calendar. And then, inevitably, it just starts to fill itself up.

Nick PointsWe have our annual beach vacation with my parents. And our annual 10 day camping trip with extended family. And little weekend camping trips with just the people who live under our roof. There's an upcoming visit with my daughter's family (who, by the way, is just as busy as our household, proving my branches point). While our sons are still too young for many day camps, our oldest son has a safety camp coming up this week during the days. They'll finish up t-ball at the end of June, and to our credit, that's our only sport all summer. My husband and I are making an extended vacation out of BlogHer '11. And, after that, we'll have just one week of "nothing" before our oldest son starts Kindergarten on August 17. Note that this list of "stuff" doesn't even include trips to visit my parents for a few days, playing with friends at the park or pool, some river boating day-trips with my husband's father, summer events at the library, fishing, holiday picnics, concerts, Farmer's Market trips, or any of the other great things that summer brings.

I looked at our calendar in mid-May, right before the boys finished preschool, and I had a moment of panic. I started to berate myself for the non-stop "stuff" of our summer. I wondered if I had fallen into some trap, if I was failing my sons in some way by not giving them a lazy, relaxing, nothing-ness of a summer.

And then I got over it.

We're busy in the summer. We relax in January and February and most of March when the weather doesn't allow for much more than hot chocolate and a few trips down the hill on the sled. We don't go anywhere in the winter unless we have to. The summer makes for easier travel and a lot more options with that travel.

Do I wish we had some more down time? Honestly? No. I realize that my anxiety will most likely hit some stupid level mid-summer and I'll need to re-read this post. But I function best when we're busy. My sons do well with schedules, however vacation-version loose. And we all love having something else to look forward to at any given time. Plus, it's not like we don't have any downtime. We do kick back and let the waves lap at our toes when we're at the beach. We sit and sip summer tea when we're on our family camping trip. We float in the pool. And I'm more prone to stop working at the end of my work day -- instead of working "just a bit more" -- simply so I can get outside and enjoy the rest of the day with my family.

Besides, our family can't even really enjoy the sleeping in aspect that summer supposedly brings. Our oldest son wakes up at 7:00 every morning, no matter what time he went to bed or what the season happens to be. (Of note: I wish this was on aspect of a lazy summer that we did have!)

Our version of summer might not be a textbook definition of relaxing, but it's not wrong either. Just like those who do make relaxation and down time their number one priority in the summer, we're doing what works for our family. Or, as always, I hope it works for our family. So far, so good!

Of course, others have been thinking and writing about summer vacation/break issues as well. It's on a lot of moms' minds as of late!

Anne Fitten Glenn of Edgy Mama pointed out that summer break is difficult for the mom who happens to work from home! (Oh, yes, did I mention above that I'm only taking one week off from work as well? Oh dear.) I found myself nodding along as I read about her dilemmas.

I have the flexibility to write at home and, in short bursts, from beside the local pool, with minimal kid supervision required. I’ve chosen to do this work for a variety of reasons, but a primary one is flexibility. I can choose to spend a summer day with my children and then write late into the night in order to hit that next deadline. Turns out I’m not alone in making such a career choice.

Krissi at Lighting My Light talks about that "busy" aspect of summer (right before a beautiful tribute to her daughter who is heading away for her first week long camp for the first time).

Today is the very first day of Summer vacation. I keep waiting for the feeling of no responsibilities to settle in around me. So far that feeling has alluded me.

Probably because as much as I want to pretend that summer vacation is a time out from our busy schedule, our summer is quickly filling up.

Forever Folding Laundry posted a great list of things that they're doing this summer even though they're really planning on taking it easy. (I adore her list, along with the printable that she shared.)

We have a couple of vacations planned,
but other than that it's
slow mornings
and hot afternoons at home.

Which is just fine with me.

And to help us not waste a minute of vacation,
we've made another summer list.

Cheryl at Thinking About Home thinks that "summer break" is a misnomer. I smiled.

I have decided that "Summer Vacation" is a misnomer. Oh, it is summer alright. The outdoor thermometer assures me that it is summer even if the scientists do say that the summer solstice is a few weeks away. It's the "vacation" part that I am contending. It doesn't feel like vacation if you've been too busy to let the kids sleep in while you wile away the morning with coffee and blog surfing, or too busy to organize and put away your school things for the summer. Not that I want to be lazy all summer...but I'd like one lazy day to kick off the season. Maybe sometime in July...

So tell me: What do you do in the summer? Are you a relax and unwind type of family or are you a keep 'em moving one? What are your favorite plans for summer this year?

Family Section Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and photographer.

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