Summer can be a wonderful time for lazy, relaxing days full of sunshine, playing outside, enjoying the pool, vacations, family and friends! It can also be a recipe for disaster when there is no structure. If there’s anything I’ve learned so far as a parent, it’s quite simply: kids need structure. It’s amazing to me to hear that kids are bored after only 3 days into their summer vacation. I truly don’t get it! Had we shown the slightest bit of boredom, we were sure to have a mile-long list of chores to help occupy our time.
Among all the fun and enjoyment of the summer season, it’s always a good plan to have activities on the ready to occupy little minds. When I was growing up, we often played outside in the fresh air enabling our Mother to get things done around the house and have a break from the noise and boundless energy. Riding our bicycles was a must! We used our imaginations to pretend we were bus drivers picking up children at their designated bus stops. We got dirty as we formed steps out of dirt on the steep cliff in our backyard. We used our creativity to put on little plays in our garage for the neighborhood kids. Often my girlfriends and I entertained ourselves by playing school; we were teachers and our younger siblings and neighborhood friends were our students. On rainy days, we played inside; we loved playing restaurant. We girls were the waitresses and we used our beds in our upstairs bedrooms as tables where we took orders and prepared food in our makeshift kitchen.
When I close my eyes and think back to some of my most favorite memories, I’m quickly taken back to these carefree, imaginative days of my childhood. Our imaginations were on overload and we were free to play and enjoy the company of our friends. Sprinkled among the fun were chores to be done both inside and outside. Early on, Mom had us making our beds, cleaning bathrooms, emptying trash, vacuuming, rinsing and loading dishes in the dishwasher, folding and putting away laundry, and clearing the table after meals. We would accompany Mom to the grocery store and other errands. Occasionally, we could have a friend spend the night stretching out our play time; Mom would make homemade pizza for supper and we’d make floats for dessert. We’d talk Mom into setting up a kool-aid stand on really hot days. We helped Dad wash the cars, pick up sticks, rake pine straw, pull weeds, and other activities. We would go to Vacation Bible School (2 weeks long!) at our church every summer, which we loved! Mom would take us to the library weekly to choose and check-out books to take home and read. We loved going to our neighborhood pool! We did have simple video games that we loved to play but were limited to how much and when we could play them, always under the watchful eye of Mom and Dad.
Of course, most of my friends’ Moms didn’t give them chores to do, stating they had the rest of their lives to work. Sure, I thought it was unfair when I couldn’t join my friends outside because I was stuck inside cleaning bathrooms. But, I will say, my sister and I learned the value of hard work, earning our keep, as well as earning a little spending money. As I grew older and moved out on my own, I had the skills needed to do my own laundry, cook simple meals, and clean my apartment. It was then that I was thankful for the chores we were given teaching me to be independent and take care of myself.
Most of my fondest memories involved my Mom. I was and still am thankful to have had a Mom who stayed home with us girls. She made great sacrifices to be a stay-at-home mom rather than working outside the home. Sure, money was tight at times and extras weren’t plentiful, but we made memories with her that to this day stand out as some of the best of my life! You see, I learned that children don’t need more toys, more spending money, fancy vacations (my family didn’t go anywhere for spring or fall break; we went to visit our grandparents), expensive sports and travel teams, or exotic food. What we needed and craved was time with our Mom. We knew we were loved, wanted, and well-cared for. We had rules to follow and respected our parents. We weren’t busily shuffling from one activity to another. Our lives were certainly more simple because our days weren’t scheduled to the minute. Our activities oftentimes didn’t require spending money. We were excited to be able to have a friend (or two, or three) for lunch indulging in peanut butter and honey sandwiches, chips and kool-aid.
I believe that children today are super spoiled with expensive activities, trips, play dates, water/theme parks, movies, sports, and video games; not to mention expensive shoes, clothing and costly meals out. When asked, I would be willing to bet that most of these children would likely prefer time with Mom and Dad over all the expensive whatnot that parents think their kids want, and have to work long hours to be able to provide. My personal belief is that our culture today has its activities out of proportion. Also concerning is the fact that most of these children, once grown and on their own, won’t be able to keep up the lives they have become accustomed to. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. More stuff isn’t where it’s at.
For me, I’ll always be eternally grateful for the upbringing I had with my family. Having my Mom to come home to after a long day at school was more important to me than the things we could have had if she had been working outside the home. Having my Dad home every night at 5:30pm for supper was the norm, rather than the exception. While today’s technology has made life more convenient with skype and such, it doesn’t replace being present at the dinner table or bedtime. I’m thankful my folks put value in being together as a family rather than in attaining more stuff, or a bigger house. Memories of togetherness last a lifetime while stuff comes and goes.
Lest you think I’m against working parents, I’m not. I’m well aware of the single Mommas out there having to earn a living to support their kids. It’s parents working like crazy to keep the big machine of living-in-excess that is troubling. Big houses, fancy cars and over-the-top trips all come with a fat price tag. I challenge you to consider paring down our out-of-control lives in exchange for a fuller, more satisfying, less stressful, more rested, well-adjusted family. I believe the investment of time well spent with family will pay back in spades!