The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Summer Vacation

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We’ve been out of school for about three weeks in my neck of the woods, and man, has it been hard.  I imagine most every mom–working outside the home or full-time at home, sending her kids to school or homeschooling them–has dreams of the fun, relaxing summer vacation that the family is going to enjoy together.  Pinterest is full of bucket lists, most towns have lots of free and cheap family-friendly activities, and if you’re lucky enough to be married to an academic, Dad even has more flexibility with his work schedule.  Except that along with all the freedom of summer comes the testing of boundaries and all that fun stuff.  Last week, as I was being kicked, bitten, and head butted for half an hour by a little girl who was having an out of control temper tantrum over a single disputed duplo girl, I thought, I totally get moms who have their kids come home from school and send them right back out to camp for the summer.  This is not how I thought summer break was going to go!

I’ve opted not to send my kids to summer camp, nor even to VBS, this summer.  We worked hard up through the last day of school, and we’re driving over 5000 miles on a month-long road trip this summer, so I wanted our six weeks of summer vacation at home to be a real vacation.  I’m glad I did this.  We’ve gotten to do some fun field trips with friends to local zoos and museums, we’ve had some leisurely days at home and an impromptu afternoon at the beach, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of parenting work.  During the school year, I’m parenting all the time, but our routine and general busy-ness (we were out of the house at least three times a week this spring) often prevent my girls from having enough time to play together long enough to start fighting over Veronica, everyone’s favorite duplo zookeeper.  It’s not that my kids are innately holier during the school year, but rather that their little sin natures are hidden under the generally compliant behavior of a child who is getting to play with her best friends several times a week.  When we’re not on the go, it’s much easier to see the state of all of our hearts.  And it’s not too pretty.  Everyone wants the same duplo.  I am beyond exasperated that they are fighting over something so stupid and just want to get rid of all our duplos.  Tempers flare.  Teaching opportunities abound.

So what is the solution?  Send them off to camp, distract them with tv when they get home, and then bribe everybody with popsicles in the evening, collapsing in bed too tired to fight anymore?  For some moms, that might be the right call for a season, and of course this doesn’t preclude heavy duty parenting in the spaces between activities.  But this summer, I’m trying to embrace this chance to train and shape their character.  I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting down to eye level and working on cheerful obedience.  I am embarrassed to admit this, but this month, I’m finally getting around to teaching the little ones to fold and put away their laundry–there’s no reason just the big two and I should be doing all the work!  I’ve mentioned before that extended free time at home over school breaks goes better when I’m purposeful.  In addition to that fun summer bucket list, I have some heart goals for each child, and I’m plugging away at them.  I also used our school marker board to write up 1 Corinthians 13, replacing “love” with “our family.”  It’s sortof an overarching goal for the summer.

Has your summer vacation been good, bad, or ugly so far?  Do you find yourself having to work harder at parenting once school is out?

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