I can panic with the best of them.
Back in February and March it was the depths of winter homeschooling. Seized by worry, I yielded completely to my anxious thoughts. “How can I continue to be school and taskmaster all day long? How can I spend time with my young children instead of just keeping them occupied so that I can work with the older kids? How can I spend less than 3 hours on saturday preparing for each week? How can I deal with the disrespect of my pre-teen each and every day?”
After some hair pulling weeks, prayer, and wisdom from older homeschool moms we finished off the year with an overall sense of peace and plenty of enjoyment in those last months.
Now the school work is filed away, the schedule is entirely uncluttered from demands and expectations for the day, and just like every other summer, it sends me off in a new tremor of panic. Isn’t that bizarre? A complete flip of the situation from a few months ago and instead of relaxed appreciation for the summer, it’s “What the heck are we going to do now?!”
Anyone out there familiar with this particular genre of panic? For homeschool moms and children, the school year is spent at home and the summer is spent at home, that can be a lot of at home. When summer arrives, suddenly daily goals which seemed so burdensome before, sound like an offering of structure and forward motion to the day.
Sure, open time can lead to creativitiy, getting out forgotten games and toys, connecting deeper with friends, it can also mean bored, grumpy kids (and a tired, grumpy mama).
I know I’m not the only momma who’s felt this way. Just a few weeks ago a good friend and mother of five said,
“So I don’t know what we’re going to do with all of this open time! I’ve started to write down everything I can think of to fill our schedule. Library time, Regular Playdates, and anything else I can think of!“
I’ll confess it felt good to know I wasn’t the only one thinking along these lines. I had been brainstorming ideas all week and had uttered these stressed out words the previous night to my husband,
“I’m going to need a few hours this weekend to plan out summer, I really need to get some things locked into place.”
At that point I was pretty convinced I could plan my way out of a potentially lonely and none-too-thrilling summer. My brain raced with ideas-prayer groups, girls bible study, regular play dates, library storytime, adult bible study…you name it, and I thought about adding it into our summer. (You’ll notice camps and the swimming pool aren’t on the list as out budget doesn’t allow for more expensive activities.)
My next confession is that all of this panic, both in the school year and out of it, has a whole lot to do with control, and my need for it at all times.
Think about it: I want to make sure I don’t have any chances of bored, whiny kids and to ensure that I’m going to fill up every single day for the entire summer to guarantee that it will not happen.
But I wonder what I lose when I hold tight to all of that control?
Do I lose opportunities to spontaneously jump on an art project that we would all enjoy?
Do I miss the chance to sit down on the floor and meet the grumpies straight-on by playing board games and making lego figures? (My seven year old has been asking me to do both of these.)
Do I miss being fully present to each moment, so that I can ensure the next moment will be just the way I want it to be?
And do I miss the chance to give my kids control over their own boredom/happiness level. Is it really my job to make sure they are happy and entertained every day of the summer, or should they own some of that for themselves? Are they going to grow into adults thinking someone else is always responsible for their happiness? (And should shovel out large sums of money to make it happen.)
As a side note, I don’t even think it’s healthy or godly for the whole summer to be about how well entertained they can be or about how calm and controlled my own life can be. I want my kids, and myself, to open our eyes to a world that is so much larger than ourselves and find a useful place in it.
Our kids actually like to have purpose, they feel important when they realize they can be a part of something bigger, even when they are relatively small.
I can take that side note and start planning it all out with a list of “Things to do to connect my kids to the larger world”.
Or I can leave a lot of blank spaces in our summer.
I can allow some boredom and quick conflict into their lives and then ask them how they are going to change it? Their ideas might be cheaper and more interesting than what I could schedule myself.
I can grab them and go draw wildflowers at the nearby trail just because it’s something I want to do and I left open space to do just that.
I can ask them to pray about ways they want to impact the world and then offer suggestions and help equip them in their goals.
I’ve had the summer panic attack, now what am I going to do (or not do) about it?
To read part two of this blog post, click here.