Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mamas, Kiddos, And Summertime

Summer is here! The kiddos are off school and at home.  The days are slow and stress-free.  Right?


I was reading, this morning, one mom's ponderings about parents (especially mamas) and kiddos and summer.  She seems a little frustrated by the fact that she hears mamas complain about having their kids at home all day with them during this special season.  She is a little miffed that some of these mamas are quick to put their kids into every kind of summer activity, so that -- presumably -- they will not have to deal with said kids.  She blames this apparently selfish attitude on the part of mamas on the sin of pride -- of wanting ones own way and not being willing to put others (like our children) before ourselves.

This particular mom, whose ponderings I was reading, homeschools her own kiddos.  She also has many kiddos.  She is a wonderful mother.  She is a very good person.  I don't mean to come down unfairly on her.  But, I have a little bit of a different opinion about this situation.  And, occasionally, I think I might have some Texas blood in me, as I enjoy "mixing it up" a bit.  (See:  Stand With Wendy and Battleground Texas and all that.)

So, here I go, throwing my iron into the fire.

I did homeschool my three children, but not until they were going into the 5th grade, the 3rd grade, and kindergarten.  My youngest did not actually enter a formal classroom situation until after high school.  I spent the first couple of months after he had gone across the country to attend college lying awake at night, wondering and worrying about how he would do and recounting to myself everything I had not done well enough to prepare him.  He is now entering his junior year, and he has done just fine.  Thanks be to God.  Until we decided to homeschool, though, my older children (both girls) attended public school.  It was a lovely public school.  We didn't homeschool because the regular school was bad or because we are religious zealots.  We are Catholic, but we are basically middle-of-the-road people.  My children, though, expressed a great interest in being schooled at home.  And because there were many social opportunities in our area for them, and because I had been a teacher myself, I decided to give it a go.  As it ended up, I was a "homeschool mom" for 13 years.

Having had my kids attend regular school before I homeschooled them, though, did give me an opportunity to compare and contrast the two situations, including the whole "coming home for summer vacation" phenomenon.

And I don't think mothers who get annoyed by their kids when those kids are home all day, every day for summer break are selfish or prideful.  They are not bad mamas in any way, shape, or form.  They are just dealing with a transition that is difficult -- for both them and their kiddos.

When they are in school, mamas and kids have their routines.  Kids know what to expect and what is expected of them both during the school day and when they arrive home in the afternoon or evening.  They see the same people every day -- their friends, their teachers, the custodian, the lunch lady.  Mothers have their routines, too, whether at their jobs (if they work outside of the home) or in their role as stay-at-home-moms.  In their routines during the school year, these moms do not have to see to their kids each and every minute of each and every day, and they probably spend the majority of their time either with other adults or alone.  And please know that when I say these things, I am not judging anybody's choices.  I am not saying it is better or worse to have a job outside the home or to stay at home.  Each woman must make her decisions based on her own personality and circumstances. 

When summer arrives, though, everything changes for both the mamas and the kids.  If mom works, there is a new childcare arrangement to which the children have to adjust.  If mom stays home, suddenly her daily household schedule is upended by the presence of her children.  And it is probably a lot noisier in the house than during the school year.  It is a huge adjustment for the kids, too.  They go from having a highly structured day to having either no structure or very little.  So, even though mama loves her kids and enjoys being with them, she is bound to go a little nuts -- whether she works outside the home or not.  And the kids are bound to go a little nuts, too.  And when you put the stress of the mom together with the stress of the kids -- and you throw some summertime hot weather into the mix -- some fireworks are bound to result.  This is not selfish or prideful.  This is normal human emotion.  No wonder the mom is out signing her kids up for all kinds of summer activities and camps.  She wants to save her own sanity, yes.  And saving ones sanity is not selfish.  But, she's also thinking of her kids -- that they will be happier and have more fun and even have some new experiences.

It is a nice thing, though -- and probably most moms would agree with this -- to be able to spend time at home with your kids during the summer in a peaceful way.  So, I would like to offer a few suggestions which, believe me, came from learning things the hard way.  I hope they will be useful to you.  If they are not, feel free to discount them.

I think the first two or three weeks of summer break are the most difficult.  Be patient with yourself and with your kids.  Trust that things will get better.  As for daily activities, the following is what I found most helpful:

I would try to have an idea in my head of how I wanted the day to go.  I tried to get up in the morning and shower before my kids were awake.  If they all got up and started running around and playing loudly and fighting with each other before I had my shower, well... I could be a little short-tempered.  After I had my shower, I would get my coffee.  Then the little people would usually start getting up.  I did not allow rough and loud play at this time of the day.  Why?  Because I could not take it.  So, I would assist each one in dressing and hair combing, as their age and maturity level required.  Then they would have breakfast and we would chat.  After breakfast, they brushed their teeth.  Then they were allowed to watch a bit of TV (something kid-friendly) or read or play with their toys.  While they did these things, I would clean up from breakfast and do any other chores that were necessary so that I could feel at least relatively organized.  Sometimes the kids would start to fight.  I would stop them.  Why?  Because I could not take the fighting.  (Yes, mamas, I am pretty convinced that you should not have to put up with your kids fighting.  I mean, all kids fight, but you don't have to put up with it.  You are worth more than that.)  After I was done doing what I needed to do, I would take the kids somewhere, bringing along a snack.  We would not go anywhere fancy -- just out of the house.  They enjoyed the park most especially.  They also liked the "duck pond."  But, even a little walk around the neighborhood could be fun.  Once a week, or so, we would perhaps go to a kid-friendly museum or to the beach or to the lake that is near our home.  Then it was usually time for lunch. 

After lunch, I would let them watch a little TV while I cleaned up and rested a little.  Maybe I would have some tea.  Then I would usually read to them.  I read to them even when they were perfectly able to read by themselves.  I would read all sorts of things.  There was only one rule.  The reading material had to be interesting TO ME.  Yup.  TO ME.  Of course, it had to be interesting to them, too, or else they would start cutting up.  While I read, they could draw or color or play with blocks or lego-type things.  After reading, they did what they wanted to do while I did what I needed to do.  But, what they wanted to do could not involve destruction or ungodly levels of noise.  As they got older, this was an ideal time for them to practice musical instruments or even listen to music.  I tried mightily to get them all to appreciate Bon Jovi.  And, by God, I succeeded.

If it was a hot day -- as it usually is here during the summer -- we would often go to the community pool during the later part of the afternoon.  If you don't have a community pool, you can usually arrange some sort of water-play outside of your home, even if you just have a small patio.  When I was growing up, my mom used to put my sisters and I in our swim suits and we would play on our porch with our Barbie pool and Barbie dolls for hours at a time.  My favorite thing was to pretend the Barbies would be involved in near-drownings and have to save each other.  A Ken doll would come in handy for this game.

After this, everyone would be getting kind of tired, even me.  But, as it is with moms, the most tiring part of the day was yet to be lived -- dinner and clean-up and bed time.  So, I'd get the kids dried off and dressed and put them in front of the TV.  What would they watch?  For this time of day, "Emergency!" was a favorite.  All my kids loved "Emergency!"  They also loved "Lost In Space" and "Wonder Woman."  These shows are great choices while you're making dinner.  Your kids will be glued to the screen and you can drink a beer and throw some burgers together.  Or hot dogs.  Or chicken, if you want to be all healthy about it.

Hopefully, dad will be coming in about now.  And, hopefully, mom and dad like each other.  Perhaps they can cooperate in getting the kids fed, having a bit of family time together, and accomplishing the bedtime routine.  Then they can neck on the sofa before passing out from exhaustion. ;-)


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