Moms have a love–hate relationship with summer.
There is less carpooling, no making of lunches (unless they have to bring a lunch to camp, of course) and no dealing with that horrible 5 o’clock witching hour of both you and your child having a meltdown over homework. (I am definitely not smarter than a 5th grader!)
Summer promises long days, warm nights, popsicles, swimming, vacations, time to relax and not having to be out of the house at 8am. However, ironically, summer brings a whole new set of stresses to moms: What do I do with the kids all day long???
The first two weeks are usually great! Long, lazy mornings, fun outings and playdates, hanging at the pool or beach, excursions to local museums, staying up late watching movies and making s’mores. Summer really is a time to reconnect, relax, rejuvenate and have fun!
Then, for many moms, there is a shift: The long awaited summer vacation is now the very thing that they begin to dread. The amount of togetherness not experienced since your child started preschool, and the micromanaging of your kids whining, “I’m bored!” drive many mothers to post on their Facebook pages a countdown until school starts again.
I wonder what the magic number of days is that would suffice for a break from the routine – maybe 10 days or so – before everyone were wishing for structure and the ability to get back to their 9am yoga class. Ironically, for many moms, summer becomes very stressful and the true vacation for them is when school starts back up again.
So what is the answer to this age-old dilemma? Well, I’ve got two answers for you: be present and be grateful.
Being present is easier said than done. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment; it is where the true joy is found and is the only moment we have control over. Often we have difficulty letting go of the past and fearing the unknown of the future. Being present is a synchronicity between your mind, body and spirit in which you actually embody a way of being in the here and now. This allows you the opportunity to be with your kids rather than just do stuff for your kids.
The first step to cultivate presence is through awareness. Notice when you’ve stopped paying attention to what is right in front of you. Be aware of when your mind has wandered away this moment and into your head, the past, the future, other people, or other tasks. Once you’re aware that you’ve gotten out of the present, the practice is to take a deep breath, using it as the vehicle to not only naturally calm your mind and body, but as what tasks your mind to bring your attention back to the here and now. Being present allows you to have more fun, enjoy the moment and create lasting memories.
The second way to enjoy summer with your kids is to be grateful. One day (sniff, sniff!), they will be out of your house and you will be longing for those long, relaxing days in which you’ve seemed to forget they drove you crazy. Studies show that when developing an attitude of gratitude and making a conscious choice to look for the good, everything – from our health to our mood to our experiences – gets better. Brain science also proves that when focusing on the negative, it only becomes more negative. Conversely, focusing on the positive strengthens those positive thoughts in our brain which become part of our implicit way of being, thus making you happier.
So be grateful now for the time you get to spend with these little people that are growing up too quickly. Let go of the small stuff; don’t stress over them whining that they’re bored. Rather, choose to use these moments to be present, as an opportunity to connect with each other and just have fun, which is really what summer is all about!
Role model to your children how to enjoy not having a schedule. Create a family project like making a photo book or a vision board collage. Make a commitment to exercise together. Make homemade ice cream, cookies and popsicles. Or just be. (A little extra TV never killed anyone either; don’t you just wish you could veg out on the couch a little more often?)
And when all else fails, know that this too shall pass and the school year is inevitably around the corner. It will be here sooner than you think, so practice being here now and enjoy the time you’ve got.