I have one goal for my summer: not to be a cruise director. Instead, I am starting a Summer Revolution where I am NOT in charge of planning wild and crazy fun and entertainment for my little loves every day of the week. I. JUST. CAN’T!
At the inevitable end of every school year, parents panic. Some parents quickly jam pack their child’s summer schedule with activities, clubs, camps and events. While this works for some families, this year we have decided to do just the opposite. Yes, each child has one or two things they will be involved in but, for the first summer ever, we will be taking a giant step back.
It all began with a conversation my husband and I had when I missed the deadline to sign one of the cherubs up for a summer event. My husband, ever laid back, looked at me and said, “so what?”
I simply cannot face a summer without some plan so, for the first time ever, I am asking the kids to do the planning. (Well, most of it.) There are some guidelines for their planning (think budget, schedule and REALITY), but it is up to them to design and designate how they will spend much of their time.
To say I am a planner is an understatement. Summers of our past included charts of daily activities, chore charts, electronic use charts, and charts for the charts. You think I am kidding? So not kidding. My level of planning and chart-making has always been my way of attempting to control the chaos. Here’s the thing: it never worked for more than a week.
So, this year will be different. In an attempt to shift the responsibility to my kids, we will start off with a planning party. That’s right. On Friday morning (the first day of summer for us), my kids and I will spend our morning at the coffee house in a full blown planning party. The only difference this year is WHO will be doing the planning (hint: NOT ME). Here’s how it will work:
Step 1: Dream big – What would your ideal summer look like?
This party will not include gifts, streamers or balloons. Rather, we will snuggle in our coffee house niches (some of us clutching a double dose of caffeine) and brainstorm. The brainstorming will begin with a blank notebook. I will ask my children to design the utopian summer. The ‘bigs’ will be all over this challenge while my ‘little’ may need some guiding questions to answer. (What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you hang out with?)
Step 2: Dose of reality – What are the must do’s that keep our house running? What can you do to help?
Reality will set in as I then ask them to list all the road blocks to that said utopia. (Think money, reality and responsibilities). Instead of assigning chores, I am going to ask them to collect some data. I want them to notice the daily work of running our household. So often I get frustrated with the relentless questions and demands. If one more person asks me where their socks are or what is for dinner, I will explode.
Before that inevitable explosion, I will be proactive. They can figure this out! I am sure they already know so many of the things that need to be done. They also need to be observant to find out what else needs to be done and how they can help out. (The challenge here will be for me not to be a control freak and let them complete the chore to the best of their ability and be happy that I am not the one doing it.)
From there, I will ask them to take care of business. As always, there are expectations for how everyone contributes to our family. Perhaps, during the summer, they will begin to see how they can contribute more during the summer than during their busy school year. (Who am I kidding? They will be told this.)
Step 3: Strike a balance – Use your body & brains, not just your thumbs.
Inevitably, their utopian summer will include electronics and a lot of them. I have tried in years past to dictate strict restrictions on the amount of time each child can have on their devices. They have had punch cards, timers, coupons, you name it. Not this year. Instead, I will ask them to generate a huge list of ways they can use their body and brains. From there, they will be asked to keep a balance. That’s it.
Of course, if this balance is largely out of balance (or more likely falling off a cliff), we will coach them in finding a more realistic ration of doing something in real life rather than electronically.
Step 4: Do good. – Genius Hour Project
The last thing I will ask them to consider is how they will use their time to do some good in the world. During school this year, our oldest participated in what was called “Genius Hour.” His teacher started this project based on what takes place at Google. Employees are given 20% of their time to be creative in something they care about. Google has had great success with this system and now schools around the country have caught on. It was such a successful experience for my son this year that we are ALL going to participate this summer (even the adults).
Each of the kids will be asked to be in charge of their own passion project with one thing in common: that what they create will do some good in the world. From there, it is up to them. All we, as parents, are investing is time dedicated to their work. I cannot wait to see where this takes us.
I am fully aware that there is some level of planning involved in releasing the summer reins to my kids. However, I am hoping that if I set them up for success, they will realize that life is about making choices, being responsible and having some fun while minding limits. Wish me luck. If this doesn’t work, you will find me hiding in the closet with coffee (or something much stronger).