Summer is almost over.
At least that’s what it feels like to me.
The Fourth of July is next week! What happened to June??
My plan, back in January, when we were knee-deep in the polar vortex, was to have a leisurely summer where we took long bike rides, dined alfresco and relaxed together as a family savoring the longer days and the warm weather.
Instead my summer—so far—has involved driving my youngest 2 hours, round-trip, everyday for two-weeks to a camp in the city and struggling to find 15 minutes of one-on-one time with my oldest son in between his two jobs, his girlfriend and his friends. And then there’s the World Cup…
My bottom has yet to touch my bike seat and I’ve eaten outside once (unless you count a biscotti and espresso at Starbucks as a meal, then I’ve eaten outside twice).
I would like nothing better than to introduce my kids to the summer of the 70s ala Melissa Fenton of 4boysmother but I think I missed my chance. Now, if they are gone all day, I start to suspect trouble–the kind of trouble that only teenagers can get into. I also long for a way to simplify my summer as my friend Joy of Joyfully Green suggested but it’s not gonna happen. There’s just not enough time.
If I want that kind of relaxed, spontaneous summer I need to plan for it.
So here’s my plan:
1. Watch a lot of TV and movies as a family.
Not quite what one would encourage children to do during the summer but I have a list of movies and television series that my kids need to see before they become influenced by someone else’s Netflix queue. I didn’t realize how far behind I was on my list until I read the blog post, Educating Tweens and Teens on Pop Culture: The Movies I INSIST My Kids See by Momma Be Thy Name. Suddenly it became imperative that we get through the list. We finally watched Stand By Me and Caddyshack the other day so that only leaves 20 more movies including, Slumdog Millionaire, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and now, Wedding Singer (thanks for the reminder, Momma Be Thy Name!) just to name a few. Between those movies and episodes of Hogan’s Heroes, Fraiser and MASH we should be watching TV ten hours a day for the next two months. At least we’d be together. This plan might prove difficult, however, given the next item on my list…
2. Get outside.
I realize that my kids are busy with jobs and friends and sports but do they have to spend all of their time together in front of a screen (see the problem with #1?)? I’m torn because my oldest is leaving soon and I like that my kids are spending time together; I just wish it could involve sunshine. I mean we live in the Chicago area for Pete’s sake! Sun and warmth are gifts to be savored. So, I’ve come up with a list of things they can do together outside (I do love a list): Mini-golfing, golfing, paddle boarding, bike riding, canoeing, playing Frisbee golf…so many options. If they let me tag along, even better.
3. Prepare a meal (or two or three) together and eat outside.
This accomplishes two things: first, it will prove to me that my children can feed themselves (always a little questionable) and two, we will eat outside! My youngest used to love to cook. He and I used to watch The Barefoot Contessa together, and then cook one of her recipes. I even had her autograph one of her cookbooks for him. And then, suddenly, he stopped. Now if he has to feed himself he eats a bowl of cereal or a bag of goldfish. He needs a cooking refresher. Besides, cooking together is fun for everyone (I swear!) and no one needs to know that they are learning something in the process.
This may seem daunting especially when my kids will be watching ten hours of television a day, preparing dinner and spending time outdoors but…I just found out this morning that my oldest has never changed a light bulb! And he’s leaving for college.
How is that possible??
My husband and I started ticking off the other things that our kids don’t know how to do yet (or at least not do very well). Laundry tops the list, followed closely by tying a tie, knowing basic first aid, putting out a fire, hanging a picture (and patching the wall when they do a bad job), sewing on a button, the list goes on and on…
5. And finally, force togetherness with a little vacation.
We are taking a four-day vacation this summer that is significantly shorter than I would like but all my kids would fit in with work and sports tryouts.
I’ll take it. Four days is better than nothing.
When you have four days you have to plan though; there isn’t much time for lounging around and seeing what happens. So, we will fly fish and whitewater raft and hike but, most importantly, we will eat three meals a day together.
Even if each meal takes only 30 minutes, that’s an hour and a half per day of uninterrupted family conversation, something that would never happen if we were at home.
Three meals without cell phones, television and friends.
Maybe if I’m lucky a couple of those meals will be outside after a bike ride.