Originally my plan for the summer looked like summer dresses and flip flops and sipping tea on the porch, instead, I opted for t-shirts, hiking shoes and several bottles of water.
My son is five years old and has a lot of energy. I’ve heard so many people say “all five-year-old’s have a lot of energy!” Yes, but I’ve worked with kids for quite some time and I can tell you that without a doubt my son has a little extra.
After school ended this year, I thought I’d send my son to day camp or vacation bible school for a good part of the summer. I did my research (thanks Charleston Moms’) and knew those would be great for my daughter but I was teeter-tottering until it was almost too late. I wondered if we could have a great summer on our own. I wasn’t sure if I could keep him busy enough that he/we/I wouldn’t go crazy. In my mind, idle time meant a disaster would be near.
The plan: stay busy
Trying to plan things that my five-year-old son and my sixteen-month-old daughter can do together is not easy. We just moved here in November from Chicago so not only is the area new, but so many of the activities are new.
Also, as I saw it, there’s an upside and a downside. Upside being that everything is brand new to us. The downside is that we don’t have many friends to share it with. I wasn’t sure if my kids would be able to relate to each other enough to have fun. And my daughter still wasn’t/isn’t walking. We were up for some challenges.
As a parent with a chronic illness I’m very aware of my limit. Before (and during) summer I’d been going through a bunch of medical tests. Each week I told myself that if things got too hectic I’d figure out how to place my son in a camp or something equally as fun. But I was truly surprised as each week passed that we not only survived but thrived. My husband, being an awesome partner, took the lion-share of family planning on the weekends and I was able to regroup.
I’m not going to lie, I always thought that I had to go-go-go as part of a requirement of being a SAHM. This summer I felt it was a requirement for my own sanity. I was trying to avoid a “down day” because I didn’t want the stress of looking for something to do around the house and worrying about a bored kid.
jam-packed overscheduled our summer.
Here are some of the places we went to the first 6-7 weeks of summer. (If it seems kind of crazy, I’d agree!)
- South Carolina Aquarium (multiple times)
- Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (multiple)
- Charles Towne Landing (multiple)
- Short Stay Beach Monck’s Corner (multiple)
- Pool (many many!)
- Cane Bay YMCA (many!)
- Libraries (three different ones)
- Riverbanks Zoo
- Coastal Carolina Flea Market
- Folly Beach
- Riverfront Park
- Flight Adventure Park
- Old Dorchester State Park
- Givhans Ferry State Park
- Camping World
- Charleston Museum
- Bee City Zoo (twice)
- Wannamaker Park
- Frankie’s Fun Park
- Riverdogs Baseball game
- Pirate Cove Park Daniel Island
- Waterfront Pier Park
- Local Playgrounds
- Berry Picking Farm in Holly Hill
- The Battery and playing in the fountain downtown
- Visit from family
- Lunch with dad several times
- Tried Hibachi for lunch for the first time
- Youth Basketball League
- VBS for a week
What’s funny is that my husband and I took a three-day vacation during this time. Without the memberships we purchased to the aquarium, the Y, the state parks and both museums, the summer could have gotten extremely pricey. If it’s an option for you, I highly recommend memberships to these places.
My takeaway from being busy
My huge takeaway from all of this is that I was completely wrong. I was really great at programming our days the first few weeks but, of course, there were days where we just couldn’t go anywhere. That’s when I started to notice those “boring days,” These were the days that I feared. The days I thought would be the disaster days.
At first, when I realized we’d be staying home and I wouldn’t be doing crafts and planning activities at home, my son’s eyes started to glaze over. I let him watch tv, I let him get his tablet, I let him get snacks whenever he wanted. I let him go into all of his toys. I let him do all of the forbidden on his own and without limits. I saw “the bored” takeover. I couldn’t believe what happened.
My son ignored the tv and when he grabbed his tablet he watched educational shows or played educational games. He wanted me to read to him! He played with his sister, they shared toys, he made her laugh so hard. He wanted to draw and use scissors (which was a challenge for him this past year). And each day we stayed home these sorts of things started to take shape in him.
And me, I was really disappointed because I just didn’t have it in me to go anywhere. I felt like I was letting my kids down because I wasn’t providing my kids with programmed learning or recreation.
But on a particularly low day, my son asked me if we could please just stay home. I can’t lie that I was relieved, I was completely worn out. That day he pulled out all of his art supplies. He made clocks with different animals, and he made comics. My son made a huge mess. He also cleaned up that mess. He asked me to read him stories. I heard him playing on his own from his bedroom with his toys. He taught his sister a new word. He was so happy. Happy, that’s what it’s about right?
Soon after was another one of “those disaster days” I just let him watch tv and lounge in his pajamas. He made a book filled with animal pictures and facts. He completed some worksheets for school in the fall. He made a huge mess in his playroom and he was very pleased with all of his creations.
I am well aware that if my son had stay at home days every day that we would all go crazy, but what I didn’t expect was how much he needed that time to be creative and just be bored. I loved watching him figure out how to move his own day along. He programmed his own time. He figured out his own priorities. It taught me a lot about who he is and what he loves to do.
I can promise you that my son will not remember or be able to recite the list of places we went to this summer or know how much I wanted him to have fun his last summer before he started elementary school. But I think he will remember the time we spent together. And I hope he learned a really great skill. Knowing how to be still and figure out how to spend your time the way you want to spend it is truly a gift. I think it’s a gift that I’ve lost touch with as a busy mom. We can really learn so much from our kids!