Summer is upon us. Let’s talk survival strategies. Or, even, happiness strategies. Maybe we can enjoy the summer with our kiddos, and not just get through it. Both/and.
Here’s what’s been helpful for us, with our four (9, 7, 5, and 2).
1. Minimize the stuff you hate. Think about what aspects of summer you dread. Then work smarter, not harder. Often, these are fixable problems.
Hate the daily wet towels and bathing suits taking over your bathroom? Teach your kids (daily, until they get it) where the towels go. I put up Command hooks on our front porch siding- four of them- for each kiddo. They’ll come down at the end of the summer.
Hate the extra dishes when all the kids are home all summer? Paper plates for lunches, and consider a water bottle for each kid, instead of them grabbing a new cup every time they are thirsty. Less dishes- boom.
Hate the lack of quiet time in your house? Institute daily quiet hours each afternoon. Your kids come get you if they are bleeding or on fire. Maybe if there’s vomit. Otherwise they occupy themselves in separate parts of the house. My kids get to watch a show after a successful “room time”. (Use incentives. We all need them in life.)
2. Automate whatever you can. Take notes from Obama. He knew he would have a ton of major decisions to make every day, so he didn’t waste brain energy on what to wear.
For us that means a daily routine, posted on the fridge. Meals are at the same general time and the kitchen is closed before and after. When a kid asks for a snack I am not making a decision (“how much longer until lunchtime… when did they last eat… will they eat dinner if they snack now?…”).
This school year we also had a designated “play date” day. Flexing each day to create and coordinate a play date for the older kids is unrealistic. For me. But having each Thursday as play date day was very manageable, and I might institute something similar through the summer.
Automating things also reduces the amount of times I say “no” to my kids. They will ask every day for a play date and man do I feel like a jerk saying no all of the time. They also ask for snacks all day, every day. Instead of “Ummm… I don’t think today’s a good day to have someone over…,” (and the back and forth dialogue that follows), it becomes “When’s your next play date day? Who should I invite for that day? I’ll do my best.” Instead of “No snack!” it becomes “Snack time is at 10:00. We’ll have it then.”
Automated. Do as much of this as you can.
3. Daily chores. Seeing my kids work around the house is a good thing. I am not here to prep, serve, and clean up after them. No. Daily chores are a way they take care of our common space. These chores are in addition to their normal responsibilities, like emptying the dishwasher or cleaning up after meals.
We used to have a Saturday chore day thing happening and the whole morning was chore-a-rific. Now I am more on the “a little bit every day” train.
We use a chore list on the fridge (pictured) and I will add more things to it this summer. They will mess up the house more, so we will need to work a little harder to keep it in check. Two of my kids are hard workers and can get things done once I send them to do it. Another one- nope. Needs supervision throughout.
There’s a combination of easy and hard chores, too. Some days you get to wipe down the fridge and dishwasher (easy! fast! and fun!), some days you clean the bathroom (hard! time consuming! and gross!).
A mistake I often make it trying to jump into my own things while the kids are doing their chores. Like starting laundry, cleaning my own bathroom, etc. But things run better when my “chore” during that time is to oversee the chores. Otherwise I am interrupted a ton during my task and I feel frazzled and more short-tempered by the interruptions. If my job during that chore time is to make sure chores go smoothly I am less cranky about it.
Kids are given a task and then they come ask me to check their work when they think they are done. The faster they finish the faster they can play. Unfinished chores from the morning are resumed before they can watch the show with their siblings that afternoon.
Okay, I was going to add numbers 4 and 5 but those started to feel like I’m reaching.
Oh except this final plug: babysitters. And mother’s helpers. Use them.
I’m curious what anyone else would add. I am all ears!