It’s summertime. When I was a kid, summertime meant playing outside, catching frogs, learning to ride a bike, swinging. It meant days spent with cousins, hours reading books on my bed, playing Barbies in my room. It meant finding a turtle and painting the shell before letting it go. Summer meant splashing in a kiddie pool or laying in the sun with my aunt. Summer also meant a week at 4-H camp and occasional days spent at the public swimming pool.
Today, though, I think we parents feel some pressure to be Julie the Love Boat Cruise Director. Have you looked at Pinterest for summer activity ideas??? Oh my goodness! There are lists of a hundred summer craft ideas. One hundred! That’s more than one craft a day if you don’t count the weekends. And we’re not counting the weekends, are we? Please say no.
And that’s only the crafts! There are lists of summer water games (50+ water balloon ideas! For real! 50. Fifty.), summer snack ideas, summer learning games and summer toys kids can make for themselves. There are cutesy posters of summer bucket lists. I may have had a little Pinterest panic attack just looking at all of this.
I’ll be honest. I have a little bit of Julie the Cruise Director in me. I am a party planner at heart. But I’m also tired from a crazy-busy spring. And I have stuff to do — like unpack boxes and wash laundry and figure out dinner and — ok let’s be real — check Facebook and read a book and take naps because this puppy wakes me up at like 6:00 every stinkin day. So I just cannot plan and coordinate fun games and activities and crafts and educational outings every single day during the summer. I am pretty sure I can’t even do this once a week.
We bought a membership to a pool. So we go often. We pack snacks, and my kids swim and play with their friends. They take breaks from swimming to play basketball or throw a frisbee. Some days I spring for a 25 cent ice pop for everyone. (What can I say? I’m a big spender like that.) I lounge on a chair talking with friends or reading a book, sipping ice water or sweet tea or Diet Dr. Pepper. And I don’t feel guilty about not being home doing housework because I’m making memories with my children.
This week, we shook things up a bit and spent a morning at the movie theater watching the dollar movie. I’m pretty sure someone at Regal earned his angel wings when he came up with this idea! I mean, if I believed that particular theology.
But there are still rainy days and days cheap movies aren’t showing at the theater. And there are a few hours in the mornings before the pool opens. And I do prefer that my kids not spend every hour we’re home in front of the TV watching every Disney show available on Netflix. Because they would. So I scoured those Pinterest lists and Super-Mommy blogs for ideas of things my kids can do that require pretty much no effort from me and no trip to the craft store for supplies. I put the ideas in a grid, sort of like a Bingo game card, and I stuck it to the fridge. I plan to come up with new ideas and change the grid up every week or so.
I don’t mind jumpstarting some creativity, helping out with some ideas for what to do with the long days of summer. But, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure it’s even healthy for a momma to be Julie the Cruise Director all summer long, planning crafts and water games and educational outings and enrolling her children in week after week of costly day camps. I want my children to be able to use their imaginations, to feel free to play, to be kids.
Last week, my boys made a swing out of old hoses and a stick. Yesterday, they used toy skateboard ramps as part of a marble run. Today, they built a giant fort in the younger boys’ bedroom. Look what creativity and fun they would have missed out on if I were overplanning their summer days, structuring their time with crafts and games and summer learning opportunities.
We might do two or three crafts this summer. We might make a couple special summertime snacks. We’ll probably go to a couple special places for learning or fun. And we might use water balloons for one purpose (to throw at each other). But I won’t be stressing out over a summer bucket list or trying to check off the 100 summer craft ideas. I won’t feel pressured to create Pinterest-worthy memories for my children.
How about you? Are you a natural Julie the Cruise Director? Are you more laid-back? Are you doing 100 crafts this summer? And did you know there were 50+ uses for water balloons?