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“How’s Your Summer Going?” — A Pause for Mid-Season Reflection

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Photo by Marc Tutorials, obtained via Pexels

It’s July 21st – how’s your summer going?

The response I’m looking for here is not, “Good! Busy but good!”

Because that’s the pat response we give when we feel like we can’t say what many of us are really thinking — ugh. Summer is hard.   

Signing Up for Camps – A Wonderful and Terrible Plan

Photo by Cotton

Schedule-wise, it’s been a doozy of a week at our house.

My two older boys each have a morning camp and an afternoon camp.

The morning camps are in two different locations, so the hour between noon and one involves picking up Kid 2 from Location A, bringing him home for a quick lunch, and driving him to Location B.

Once at Location B, I drop off Kid 2 and then find Kid 1 to help him reapply sunscreen and give him his fishing rod.  

Kid 3 has to accompany me for many of these drop-offs and pick-ups. He lets me know exactly how he feels about the situation by arching his back and screaming each time I strap him into his car seat.

As I’ve helped the boys prep for each of these camps—“Do you have a water bottle? Are you supposed to bring a snack? Is it today you’re supposed to wear the white t-shirt?”—I can’t help but wonder, for lack of a more delicate way to phrase it, what the hell I was thinking when I signed up for all this.

And yet.

There’s the other part of the story, too — the boys are LOVING their activities. The kid we’ve long referred to as our theater kid is giddy with excitement about his performance tomorrow at theater camp, and has gotten to reunite with some preschool buddies while at science camp.

The kid who never stops moving is thrilled to be doing relays and trying out shotput at track and field camp, and chatters at length about the different types of bait he’s using at fishing camp.  

When I pick them up each afternoon, the boys are bubbling with excitement, pleasantly exhausted and eager to tell me about their days. I resign myself to thinking, okay, the logistics are a pain, but it’s worth it.

So which is it, then? Is this week a stressful disaster? Or a big success?

Well, the answer is YES.

You’re Not Doing It Wrong

I’ve realized this — if you currently find yourself a cranky mess chauffeuring kids around multiple hours a day, scrambling to cobble lunches together, and snapping when your kids bicker for the third time in ten minutes, it’s not because you’re doing something wrong.

It’s because summer is HARD.  

The image of kids in the summer is one of day after day of idyllic fun, so there’s a bit of a disconnect between that ideal and how the season can feel for parents.

Because the reality is that making all that fun happen is a ton of work.

I don’t mean to say it’s all a joyless slog — there are certainly wonderful parts about summer with kids.

It’s just that the logistics, absence of a normal routine, and intense togetherness can make summer exhausting.

That’s why we’ve gotta do some reflecting while we’re in the thick of it.

How’s Your Summer REALLY Going?

In the summer, our schedules tend to fill up quickly, often before we’ve even had a chance to consider how we WANT to spend our time.

A lot of life unfolds between the time one summer ends and planning for the next one begins, so let’s record our lessons learned while they’re fresh.

Then, when next March rolls around and enrollment starts opening for Summer 2023 camps, you’ll have your summer self’s wisdom to draw from.

Below is a list of journal prompts to jump start your reflections. Start jotting down thoughts now, then add more observations as summer continues.

Here we go! You got this!

A List of Questions for Reflection

First, to kick things off, one of my favorite things in the world, a killer tool to organize thinking in a way few other tools can. Behold, a table. 🙂

This particular table is a reflection exercise to get you thinking are the ways your kids are spending their time this summer in alignment with your parenting values?

Are your kids spending adequate* time…  YesNoMaybe?
(note your thoughts!)
…playing independently (no screens involved)?     
…playing outside?     
…hanging out with parents and siblings?     
…keeping up on academic skills?     
…pursuing their passions? (e.g. camps/classes focused on one or two topics)     
…exploring new interests? (e.g. lots of different kinds of camps/classes)     
…learning new skills? (e.g. how to make a meal, pitch a tent, ride a bike, tie shoes, etc.)     
…bonding with extended family?     
…being at a place that’s special to your family? (e.g. a family cabin, favorite lake near your house, etc.)     
…playing with friends?     
…enjoying uniquely summer experiences? (e.g. parades, fairs, berry picking, going to the beach, etc.)     

* “Adequate” is an intentionally vague word choice so that you can define the right amount of time for your particular family. No family could possibly be doing everything in this list! And that’s the point — we all value different things and get to reflect those values in how we spend our time.

Open-Ended Reflection Questions

Photo by JEShoots.com, obtained via Pexels

I’m guessing you’ve already done a lot this summer. I’m also guessing it’s all a bit of a blur, especially since normal family routines get chucked by the wayside in the summer.

With that in mind, here are some open-ended questions to help you capture what’s been great and not so great about Summer 2022.

  • What types of things have you done as a family this summer? Any favorite activities worth turning into annual traditions?  
  • Have you taken any trips? How’d they go? Too short, too long? Too busy or not enough activities? Thoughts on meals or accommodations? What would you consider doing differently next time?
  • List the camps, classes, activities, etc. that your kids have participated/are participating in. What have they liked and disliked about them? What have YOU liked and disliked?
  • When you get ready for outings, camps, etc., what are your greatest stressors? Timing when it happens in the day? Packing lunches? Kids fighting? Getting everybody slathered in sunscreen? Coordinating with other families? What could you do to alleviate some of that stress?
  • How much time do you spend on logistics to get everybody ready for the day/week? How much time driving or arranging carpools with other parents? Does it feel manageable? If not, what needs to shift?
  • Ask each person in your family (adults get to weigh in, too!) – if you could only pick ONE more activity to do this summer, what would it be? *

(On a related note, now is the time to toss the summer bucket list. Okay, maybe you don’t have to toss it, but gently set it aside. Remove it from its place of prominence on your refrigerator and tuck it into a folder or drawer. Start thinking of it as a reference tool that gives inspiration about things you could do rather than an overwhelming list of things you must do.)

  • How’s everyone doing on sleep? Is your family having regular meals? Is the kids’ snacking at a level you deem acceptable?
  • What opportunities have you had to nurture and build community? Do your kids’ activities lend themselves well to meeting families from your neighborhood?
  • How are you doing budget-wise? Is all this summer fun blowing the budget or is it within reason? Any adjustments needed between now and the end of the summer?
  • Last but oh so certainly not least, have YOU gotten to enjoy summer? Cocktails with friends on a patio? A nice solo bike ride? Reading a novel while swinging in a hammock? Make sure to give yourself some kid-free time to enjoy this fleeting and fantastic time of the year.
  • Any other highlights? Struggles? Surprises?  

How OUR Summer’s Going

One of the things I love most about blogging is that writing posts like this one helps me clarify my own thinking. I did this exercise with myself and came up with a lot of observations, some deep and some not so deep.

To give you a peek into another family’s ups and downs, here’s an excerpt from my reflections:

  • We haven’t made homemade ice cream together yet this summer.
  • Glad we went to Duluth – rocks and hotel pool are all the activities we needed
  • I need to be better organized around packing lunches – super stressful trying to do it the morning of
  • When we sign kids up for camps, needs to be joint decision how much we can handle
  • Kids are fighting a lot – are there better strategies I could be using to deal with this?
  • We haven’t been to the pool much – could I attempt this with all 3 boys by myself? If not, could I find another mom/family to be our pool buddies and we could tag team?
  • Evan loves soccer, but it’s a big demand on evening time – having a middle schooler from the neighborhood come an evening or two a week has been a big help
  • Weekend prep time is essential – get gas, have a plan for lunches and dinners, etc.
  • If want to do things like county fairs and parades, have to be deliberate about getting them on the calendar because weekends fill up so quickly (e.g. Evan going to bday parties and day revolving around that timing)

I’m so curious how other families handle summer break! I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

In the meantime — yes, summer is fun. Yes, summer is hard. Yes, we’re all doing the best we can.

And we’re going to do it even better next year. 🧡

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  1. At work, talking to adults without kiddos, I am hearing how exhausted we all get in the summer here in MN. We want to seize the day! Do all the stuff in this short season! That + kids is extra fun/exhausting. I appreciate the perspective – yes, fun. Yes, a lot. Love the reflection questions!

    1. Yes, it’s true! With summer being so short we want to cram in as much good stuff as possible, which can be super fun…and also completely exhausting.

  2. Love the idea of a mid-summer pause. I learned pretty quickly this summer that i needed an affordable drop-in camp option so i can get some focused work time in. I will definitely plan for that much earlier next year and try to get some friends on board since my kids don’t enjoy going when they don’t know anyone.

    1. That’s a good realization and I totally get that. I haven’t done much blogging this summer, but the times I have are when the kids are away for a good chunk of time. Those little snippets of times that many camps offer — 2 or 3 hours max once you factor in driving times–are just not enough to do anything that requires focused concentration.

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