I grew up in the ’80s, when summer consisted of endless hours of unsupervised free-time. Our moms kicked us out every morning and we ran around the neighborhood like wild animals until dark. Let me tell you people, those were the days! If we weren’t riding bikes, swimming or playing at the park we were creating dances and planning our bright futures where we were all extremely famous doctors, actors and singers (yes, all three!). But most importantly, we were having a blast. Our parents knew we were alive, but aside from the occasional playdate and handing out a couple bucks for the ice cream truck we made our own fun. We gained some independence and our parents kept their sanity. I have been chatting with friends about our upcoming summer and after trying to sync camps, sport schedules and travel around our normal day jobs, we all reminisced about our summers of the past and how we long for simpler times for our kids and ourselves. I’m committed to doing less, laughing more, and cutting stress substantially for the next 3 months. Since I am a complete control freak and slave to my iPhone calendar this will take some change, but I’m committed to a stress-free summer for both me and my kids alike. Here are six ways I’m planning to make this happen. Care to join me?
1) Say NO to commitments, camps and events you feel you SHOULD be doing, but are dragging you down.
Why do we think we can do it all? More importantly, why do we want to? Many families these days have two parents working full time, and our kid’s extra curricular schedules have never been more hectic. It is okay to say no. In fact, it may be the best thing you have ever done. Those of us who overcommit do this to ourselves, and are often left feeling like an exhausted failure. Take charge of your life, say no, and jump off that crazy train of insane commitments. Talk with your family and make sure you are all on the same page with this new plan.
2) Turn it off!
I know we’re all glued to our phones, computers and devices, but set aside time each day for a few hours that are device-free. In our house this means actually bringing phones, iPads, etc. into our office or another room or we will soon find ourselves on them. This allows you to really engage with your kids and hear what they have to say. Let’s face it, your kids and mine are pretty spectacular so let’s be present and enjoy them.
3) Use free stuff!
Libraries, parks, zoos, trails, museums and landmarks are fun! Take advantage of free local activities starting with your local library! Most area libraries have fun reading clubs and also post local events. Many museums, concerts and parks offer free passes or discounted tickets on certain days. If you’re in Minnesota, check out the Split Rock Light House in Two Harbors or Historic Fort Snelling in Saint Paul. And if you’re not in Minnesota, look up historical landmarks in your own state. Hop in the car for a day trip and create family memories. Show your children what history is all about and share these experiences with them.
4) Block it out!
Block out time on your calendar every week to just BE… no parties, no sporting events, no classes. These are days you as a family choose a fun activity. Try family game night, have your own “Cupcake Wars” or just live in the moment and hang out without any distractions.
5) Kick it old school!
Remember when you were a kid? Somehow we all enjoyed summer swimming at the community pool, playing kick the can and searching for fire flies at night. Write down your top 5 favorite activities from when you were a kid and try to do all of them with your children this summer. Here is a list of some our favorites:
6) Lighten up!
Our lives have become SO scheduled and hectic and oftentimes that leads to us becoming stubborn and rigid in our ways. But now that’s it’s summer and you’re trying to live stress-free, maybe it’s time to ease up a bit on bedtime; let the kids run around with messy hair and dirty feet. These are the things that make being a kid amazing and become childhood memories that will last a lifetime.