Simple joys of popsicles & playdates
Choosing real summer fun over the summer camp craze: Every day can't be DisneyWorld
Ask most parents and they will tell you they both love and loathe summer vacation. In my house, we revel in homework-free nights, limited structured activities and consuming popsicles by the freezer-full.
I have the luxury of a flexible work schedule, which means I can spend all summer with my two girls. Every day. All day long. Which is great, although somewhere around the first week of August, we all get a little twitchy and I’m reminded why homeschooling would never work for me.
It’s not like my girls are devoid of any mental stimulation during the summer, but you won’t find them involved in Latin classes or any TAKS-related camps. We aren’t at a sleepaway camp place yet, but my 9-year-old does Fine Arts Camp and my 5-year-old attends Veggie Tale camp. We are still contemplating Kindermusik, LegoMania camp, piano lessons and a Museum of Natural Science week-long camp where there may be some kind of dissection involved.
Of course, since I haven’t booked any of the latter choices, it may not happen, and in my neck of the ‘burbs, registration for summer activities starts early March and your kids go on a waiting list by April Fool’s Day. No joke.
My fulltime working friends have a different set of summer scenarios to deal with. Some can just easily slide their kids from the afterschool program they are in to a summer plan, which includes field trips and cool experiences with their friends. Others have to scramble to find a temporary place for their kids to spend Houston’s eternal summer and it is stressful, especially if the kids are in vastly different age groups and the sitter can take the baby, but not the second-grader except when she’s on vacation for two weeks during the summer and can’t care for the baby at all.
And in both situations, most parents wouldn’t mind a little summer vacation themselves, especially if it means no alarm clock, hanging out by the pool and taking in a movie with the kids in the middle of the afternoon.
We are fortunate to live in a place where there are a lot of summer resources. Since before I was a parent, I remember hearing about Sarah Gish’s The Summer Book, an extensive guide of day camps and classes for preschool-age kids to teens. The book is a godsend for parents who aren’t sure where to start looking and even though it comes every March (seriously, the March registration is the real deal) there are still options left for the summer.
Thanks to my parents who never underestimated the value of the performing arts, I grew up a Miller Outdoor Theatre groupie, seeing plays and ballets and getting my first taste of the Houston Symphony. As a result, my girls are beyond excited for our sometimes weekly trips to MOT, although after a particularly sweaty performance of Aladdin two years ago on the hill, we try hard for covered seating during the day.
I flip my Houston Zoo and my Houston Museum of Natural Science memberships so that we see the animals in the winter and spring and the air-conditioned exhibits in summer and fall. There is just a bit of a gap, but unless I’m only hanging out in the reptile house, I would rather enjoy the zoo when it’s a bit cooler.
We maintain our Children’s Museum membership all year because there are days when you just want to get out of the house and there’s something for all kids there. I like to go right after lunch because I find with most museums, parents of little kids go early and leave in time for lunch, field trips are often done by lunch and working parents will hit the museums in the late afternoon.
Of course there are some days when we don’t do anything at all. I have stories to write and laundry to do and, like I tell my kids, everyday can’t be a trip to Disney World.
I’m sure that phrase will haunt me or they will discuss it with their therapist someday, but the reality is, summer vacation isn’t always a break for moms and dads. We have these bright, energetic kids who are used to a ridiculous amount of information being stuffed in their heads all day. Their school days are intense and even the littlest ones are under immense pressure to keep up with their peers, as well as the kids who go to school on the other side of the globe.
There’s also dance, soccer, art classes, baseball, student council, homework and super-involved school projects that keep them in a perpetual state of motion, so after the novelty of sleeping past 7 a.m. has passed, then what? Parents are faced with kids who have a lot of get-up-and-go, which isn’t a bad thing at all, except for when mommy hasn’t had her coffee yet.
It can be a challenge and while 98 percent of the time my girls and I really like to be around each other, it’s good for all of us to get a break too. I’m a better mom for it and it’s good for them to experience life without mom sometimes.
The way I see it, summer should be about playing in the pool, checking out books from the library, staying up past your bedtime, riding bikes at dusk, eating breakfast for dinner, going to the beach, sleepovers with friends, watching television, playing Wii and making snow cones with the Snoopy Sno Cone machine.
If there’s a camp or a class your kids really want to do during the summer, then go for it. My kids may be there too, but if not, we’ll be in the backyard with the sprinkler on, wiping out a box of popsicles.