The good news is summer is fun. The bad news is the very things kids love about summer (the lack of structure, later bedtimes, and impromptu adventures) are the very things that can make parents crazy. I’ve developed some tips and tricks (read: coping mechanisms) for surviving these twelve weeks, and I thought I’d share.
1. I make the kids get in the car before me.
Loading feisty children into a car is enough to undo me. There’s something about being in the small, confined space of a car and hearing my kids bickering in stereo that makes me regret even owning a car. This point may seem obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me: You can’t hear them fussing and fighting if you’re not in the car with them. So, now I tell the kids to go get in the car and put on their seatbelts while I load my teacup into the dishwasher and grab my bag. It’s magical. Giving them a 2-minute head start changes everything. By the time I open my car door and climb in, they’ve worked through whatever needed working through, and I didn’t have to bear witness to it.
2. I’ve started getting up thirty minutes earlier.
I know, I know, we all need (and deserve) as much sleep as possible. But you know what’s even better than sleep? Thirty minutes of uninterrupted solitude. Thirty minutes to wake up before anyone asks for a snack, a ride, or a last-minute playdate. Getting up thirty minutes earlier has been a game-changer for me. It’s my quiet time and I do what I want to do, whether that’s meditating, reading, or writing hand-written notes to people (yes, I still do that). Yes, it’s tough to get up when I know I could keep sleeping, but I find those thirty minutes alone to be even more energizing than sleep. Sometimes I just sit on a chair in my family room and stare out the window in utter peace and quiet.
3. I talk about peaks and pits.
At the end of each day, my 7-year-old daughter and I discuss the “peaks and pits” – the highs and the lows – of our days. It’s a wonderful way to get information out of a child who’s prone to respond with a robotic “okay” every time you ask her how her day was. During our peaks-and-pits conversations, I’ve learned about all the boys who have crushes on Layla, her distaste for her summer math work, and her love for diving competitions in the pool with neighborhood friends. The best part is that she always asks me to go first, and analyzing my own day this way serves as a daily reminder of what really matters.
4. I pre-plan exercise time.
Yoga and meditation are important to me and my sanity, but it can be hard to make time for either when meetings and the kids’ activities crowd my calendar. I’m happy to say that I have a new technique that works like a charm. Since my world revolves around my calendar, and my calendar can get kinda crazy, I reserve time for yoga classes and meditation two months in advance using Outlook. In other words, I block and protect time for exercise (mental and physical) on a calendar that’s a blank slate. So as invitations to meetings – whether they’re from colleagues or the kids’ summer camp – start flooding my inbox, I’ve got the big rocks in the jar, and all the little pebbles fill in the empty spaces around them. Not making the time to take care of myself is no longer an excuse.
5. I cook bacon in the oven.
I know this seems inconsequential, but cooking can be a real chore, and finding ways to make it easier goes a long way in my house. Cooking bacon on the stove is a nightmare: There’s hot grease popping all over your knuckles, more bacon drippings than bacon, and the constant worry that a small child will burn himself on the handle. It’s a hot mess. Making bacon in the oven means less mess and less stress, and isn’t that what summer’s all about?
So there you have it. From my newfound sanity to yours. Life isn’t always easy, but there are always things we can do to lighten our load, if only a little. I hope you have a summer list of your own going.