On any given summer day of my childhood, you could find me sprawled out across my neighbor Julie’s bed, eating my way through a box of Fruit Rollups. My dad was healthy before non-GMO was cool, so I would help myself to anything with food dye and artificial flavor while waiting for Julie to stuff the
tanning baby oil into her pool bag.
Spoiler alert: Baby oil leads to forehead wrinkles and the surgical removal of pre-cancerous spots from your back. But, I digress.
Julie and I didn’t do much more than exist during those lazy days. Summer was three solid months of not having any idea what day it was. My mama was a high school English teacher, thus a vocal advocate for proper grammar, summer reading lists . . . , and not scheduling one hot minute of June, July, or August.
Her plan worked so well because she didn’t have the Internet to contend with.
Granted, times were tough in the ancient days. Growing Pains came on at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, and I actually had to WATCH Growing Pains at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. You couldn’t pause it. What if your super-awesome-see-through-clear Swatch phone rang during the show?!
Trick question, smarty. You wouldn’t be friends with someone who would call you during Growing Pains.
Anyway, despite the trials, we knew how to summer in the 80’s. With no social network to connect our families to everything and everyone, the entire world was found within the confines of a bike ride. The memories are now peaceful, meandering daydreams.
When I close my eyes, I can feel the warm concrete under my legs while I covered our driveway in chalk drawings of rainbows and butterflies. I can hear the “ch-ch-chhhhhh” sound of the sprinklers that my dad attached to the hose and moved around the yard every 15 minutes as the sun was going down. I spent untold hours laying in the front yard, the perpetually cool St. Augustine grass somehow beating the Texas heat, waiting for friends to ride by on their bikes so that I could dog ear my Little House on the Prairie book and join them. I never seemed to have anywhere to be and it was the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world.
A Reality Check
We are way too busy now, y’all. Kids never get a chance to just be. I’m all about pumping the breaks on those overbooked summers we’ve come to know and stress out about lately. What if we just said no to some of the trips, camps, and classes?
I had little choice but to embrace unfettered summers because my firstborn suffers from General Anxiety Disorder and OCD. Standard summer activities don’t work for him. It’s been a no-go on chaotic family trips, day camps, strange places with new people, drop offs anywhere, VBS . . . you get the picture. Needless to say, we’ve spent quite a few seasons thinking outside the box.
Carrying on my mom’s unscheduled summer tradition was born out of necessity, but I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. In our house, summer is blessedly slow . . . kind of like it’s still 1987, but with less jelly shoe and more Amazon Prime. It’s a beautiful thing, friends.
How We Slow Down
First and foremost – we stay in our jammies long into most mornings. We make oddly shaped pancakes and watch videos on our assorted iPads.
What? I said kind of like 1987.
My nine year old has an amazing imagination, so during the mid-day heat, the house usually gets transformed into a pretend world where the boys are police, veterinarians, or teachers. We have fun exploring garage sales, where the big one will carefully spend a handful of change on odds and ends for his games. Old phones for “the office,” boxes of file folders, used textbooks for the “teachers,” and so on.
The four year old is finally making a good play partner, but these games have never required a ton of participation from me. All you have to do is give yourself an appropriate title (hello, office manager) and you’re set to spend an hour adding things to your cart that you will never actually buy on Wayfair. Everyone wins!
This might be a good time to break some news . . . you can’t accomplish a laid back summer if you are hung up on messes. It’s no secret to my friends that I thrive on a clean house. Neatness = peacefulness in my busy head. But, good imaginative play requires a bit of rule breaking. I may spend 30 minutes putting the living room furniture back in the actual living room at night, but it’s worth it.
Water Is Required
Another Slow Summer must have? The neighborhood pool.
If you don’t already live in one of DFW’s many master-planned communities with pools included in your HOA dues, you should put it at the top of your wish list. While my neighborhood lacks Joanna-Gaines-Farmhouse style, you don’t need a purse or even shoes to drive two children and 749 pool toys three doors down to swim.
Bonus points if you have a neighborhood Little Caesar’s that you can grab dinner at afterwards. Maintaining a No-Schedule-Summer goes hand-in-hand with $5 Hot and Ready pizzas. Y’all know a mom invented that marketing plan.
I’ll move to Waco for a $48 house that I can sink $200,000 into when the kids graduate from high school.
Spontaneity Is Key
If you are a Type-A mama, open calendars with no agenda take some getting used to. In my early days as a SAHM, I kept my sanity by organizing our every minute just like I did back at work.
Enter elementary school chaos and real summer vacation.
It was quickly obvious that I had to relax my own personal rules for the good of my kiddos. When your child has a mental illness, best laid plans always go awry. I never know what a new day will bring. Deciding on activities is easy in the moment because you know how everyone is feeling — and that is applicable to ALL little ones!
It’s a bit of an adjustment to wake up and just see where life takes you, but it’s truly satisfying and so much fun. When you are open to hopping in the car on a whim, exploring ideas that pop into your child’s head, and occasionally covering your back deck in finger paint, summer break can actually be therapeutic instead of stressful. I enjoy my boys so much more when I’m not barking at them to find their shoes before we are late. I get to hang out with them, experience them, and really see who they are. Isn’t that what we want?
Well, sometimes it is. Kids are crazy, y’all.
Generally speaking, these kiddos are super fun and mellow summers rock. Grab yourself a popsicle and join your babes at the lemonade stand you decided to put together 10 minutes ago! But put on some sunscreen. These forehead wrinkles aren’t cheap to erase.