Kara here. My family and I are taking a few vacation days, so I’m re-posting this wonderful article from former Simple Kids editor Megan Tietz, of Sorta Crunchy. This post originally ran in July 2009. I know the topic of mindful summer planning is timely for me and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
~ In summer, the song sings itself. ~William Carlos Williams
For some, the month of July marks the beginning of the celebration of summer, while for others it indicates that the summer holiday is nearly halfway over. July offers ample opportunity to slow down and evaluate how your family is wiling away the days of summer. Here are some thoughts to bear in mind:
1. Assess Motivation
Thoughtfully consider why each activity, camp, or trip is on your list of plans. Are you planning on taking the big vacation because it’s summer and that is what you “should” do? Or is the trip away a chance to purposefully engage and connect with each other as a family in a new and exciting (or old and beloved) locale?
Are you sending your children to swim lessons or away to camp because that is just what everyone in the neighborhood does, or is it because this activity or time away will genuinely enrich their growth and learning?
Photo by Todd Baker
2. Embrace Limitation
The fact of the matter is that even the most thoughtfully made plans will get derailed. Life brings the reality of economic upset, rain delays, and last-minute cancellations. How will you respond as a family when you encounter circumstances that threaten to limit your summertime plans?
Find the strength to surrender what is not so that you might fully accept what is.
If the family budget is leaner than in years past, take up the challenge to see how much fun you can have without spending money.
Amy from MomAdvice.com did exactly that when she planned a Money-Free Weekend. Amy was inspired by this list from The Simple Dollar: 100 Things To Do During a Money Free Weekend. Plan a staycation, visit a local national park, sleuth out free admission days at your local zoo or museum.
So many of the simplest, most uncomplicated ways to spend summer days are very cheap or free, and there is no reason to allow a slimmed-down budget to overshadow family fun.
Perhaps it is not the economy but rather unfavorable weather that threatens to limit the way your family enjoys this summer. Again, the key is to shift your focus from what you can’t do to what you can.
Outdoor plans rained out? Rainy days deliver the gifts of kitchen experimentation, literary explorations, and heart-to-heart conversations. Scorching afternoon temperatures keeping you indoors? Accept the invitation to wake up with the sun and revel with nature in the beauty of the early morning hours, or stay up late to dance with the lightening bugs in the cooler hours of dusk.
As you strive to overcome the challenges and disruptions that will come your way this summer, you are teaching and modeling for your children the importance of flexibility, critical thinking, and problem solving – lessons they will remember long past the celebratory days of summer.
Photo by Per Ola Wiberg
3. Emphasize Retrospection
Who among us hasn’t been startled by the swiftness with which these summer days pass by? Schedule in to your days and evenings some purposeful time to capture the highlights of this season.
Plan to keep your camera close-by. Sure, we all bring out the cameras to capture a stroll past the lions at the zoo or the smiling family standing in front of a national monument. Yet the sweetest, or most outrageous, or most vivacious moments often happen in the everyday days of summer. A little one’s first sno-cone or the big kids’ mud fight are occasions that deserve documentation.
Schedule time to journal as a family. We all know how quickly the details of the day are lost. Plan to meet together for a few minutes every evening or even just once a week to record the best (and yes, even the worst!) moments. What a treasure you will have at the end of the season – a retelling of each moment of summer from the unique and powerful perspectives of each member of the family. If your little one is verbal but cannot yet write, make sure an older child or a parent records his thoughts and feelings, too.
When the recording of days is thoughtfully and intentionally given priority, memories of the fullness of the summer season are suddenly much more tangible and accessible for your family to treasure for years to come.
Perhaps no other season is as looked forward to or so mournfully missed at its conclusion than summer. It will slip through your fingers if you don’t put forth the effort to grasp it! How is your family putting forth the effort to make mindful plans this summer?