13 September 2013

Summer postmortem: did your kids do too much? Not enough? Thoughts on course correction.

It's the end of my kids' first full week of school and it's wonderful to be back. The return of a relatively predictable schedule is calming for all of us, even as we chafe at the work and restriction on our time and energy.

I'm feeling a range of emotions which always takes me by surprise:

  • Excited. My kids are both enjoying "big man on campus" status this year. Daughter in 5th grade, son in 8th grade.
  • Whiny. About packing lunches. Note to self: my kids are MORE than old enough to make their own lunches.
  • Proud. Both kids made leaps in maturity this summer. Responsibility, independence and individuality.
  • Melancholy. I mourn the end of summer (in Portland, the end of bright sunlight). I miss the ease and flow of time. I miss open-ended time with my kids.
  • Relieved. I relish the return to routine and consistency. I may not exactly like it, but I feel better for it.
  • Anxious. I'm dogged by the feeling I'm forgetting something. We've got big family plans this Fall and Winter including my son's bar mitzvah and an international trip, both of which require significant planning and money. Both are milestone events and they're a little scary. (More on both in future posts.)
  • Refreshed. The beginning of the school year feels more like my new year than January 1. I'm looking forward with rekindled energy.

I'm also looking back on our summer and reflecting on how it went. I find myself asking: did we float in that elusive balance of activity and rest? Was the schedule too packed? Or, perhaps, too empty?

You won't be surprised to hear that our summer was pretty relaxed. I am a Minimalist Parent, after all. What might surprise you is that I don't think we did enough.

Colorado
My son takes in the Rocky Mountain vista at the Continental Divide in Colorado.

Oh, we did stuff: we traveled to visit family, we attended events and a music camp, we swam in the neighborhood pool. We also had wide oceans of no-plans surrounding each island of activity (something I wholeheartedly endorse).

But, for the first time, I could see that my kids were ready for something more. A bigger challenge; an infusion of different people; a new adventure perhaps.

It's not clear what that "more" could have been, and I don't regret its absense. But I'm sensing it's time for a course correction. Maybe sleepaway camp? Or a paid summer job?

There's time to consider it. I've made a note in my calendar to revisit these thoughts in early 2014.

As you look back on your summer, what worked and what didn't? What might you do differently next summer?

CloudMom experimented with "less" this summer and it worked out beautifully for her family. Watch her vlog for details.

Minimalist Parenting"Course correction beats perfection" is one of the keys of Minimalist Parenting -- a statement that applies as much to parenting in general as it does to summer planning.

Have you read Minimalist Parenting yet? If not, buy a copy now at Amazon or your local bookstore!

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I'm a huge fan of downtime and the value of letting the kids be bored. But finding the right balance is so hard. And if you mess up you end up with bored kids who (whine, fight, etc.).

Why do they not come with gauges? Seriously, somebody needs to invent that.

Well we lucked out - I think we had the perfect balance of activity this summer. Early on we came up with a master list of at least 20 uber-fun things we wanted to do (adventures, day trips, etc.) so we had at least one of those each week. It gave us a bit of rhythm without feeling over scheduled.

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