Summer Lovin’: A Manifesto for Sanity and Joy
So we have all heard the saying, “If Mom Isn’t Happy, No One Is Happy”, this one has stood the test of time because…truth.
Moms tend to set the tone for the household. When I am cranky it is like an electric force field hanging over my home, threatening the lives of my offspring. And in the summer this can be all amped up because the touching and talking and arguing and feeding is at Defcon level 174. Everyone is sharing more space than normal and sometimes I may or may not flip my lid. When you throw in expectations to make summer fun and special and amazing, and for there to be camping and roasting of the marshmallows and activities galore as we strive NOT MISS A MOMENT, our home can become a pressure cooker.
So, this summer, my manifesto includes things that will bring peace and harmony to our little world, instead of things that are sure to wow this crowd. The pressure to wow is exhausting. I want this summer to be one where I focus on what is really important and on what is right in front of me. Also, I accept that on some days we just will just agree not kill each other. Either way…no pressure it’s all good here.
The following is my manifesto to create a home where summer is restful, joyful, full of fun and memories, and where I can still sit on the couch a lot. It’s about balance people.
I shall look into their eyes and really listen. This summer I will put down my phone/computer/book and look at these beautiful creatures God has placed in my path. Usually, multitasking kills this one for me. I am at my worst when I am trying to do too many things at once, I bubble up with frustration when I am trying to text one person and talk to another. It just doesn’t work. So, when my people are talking to me I will dust off my listening skills. I want to be able to focus so that when they are telling me their hopes and fears and tales of angst and triumph I am looking at their dear faces and my ears are all theirs. This makes their eyes light up in a way nothing else can. Mom is listening my dear kiddos…even when Pokemon is the topic at hand.
I shall say yes more. Sometimes, just sometimes, I find myself saying the no to things that I really could say yes to. There are times I don’t really want to get up and bake banana bread thank you very much. But a yes to 10 minutes at the counter measuring and baking, or a quick trip to the park, or to reading them 2 extra books at bedtime, or even to letting them stay up and lay in the hammock under the stars may be the thing that they will always remember. Ice cream in the middle of the day, water balloons in the backyard, buying one of every deep-fried food being sold at the park, require no planning on our part but put a giant smile on our kids’ faces. If we don’t say a yes to those little things we are all missing out and these yes’s often become my best memories too. The spontaneous joy is ours to grab with a simple yes.
I shall participate in the fun. A few of my kids have this weird thing with me ordering food when they do. If we go through a drive-thru and I don’t order anything I am stealing their joy in some way. So I order. I eat that sundae or fries or both because it puts a smile on their faces (OK, and on mine. I really love fries). Our kids like it when we are having fun WITH them, not just setting fun up FOR them. There are the calls here of “Watch me mom!” but there are also the hidden wishes of “Play with me, mom”. This is where being present makes all the difference. I am all for sending them out for a bike ride, but this summer I vow to take one with them too every now and then. I will jump off the dock with them, go tubing at the cottage even if my bladder doesn’t love all those bumps, build that fairy house in the backyard and watch them create that Minecraft world. I am all in. Plus, later when I am sitting on the couch with my book, I can remind them I am old and just exhausted from that bike ride and they really should just go play.
I shall compliment instead of criticize. Good grief can we talk about the mess of summer for just a second? I know it is coming like an unstoppable tidal wave. The clothes and bags and paper and food and oh for the LOVE the socks that are about to be strewn all over my house. The fight and the bickering, it is all upon us. But this summer I vow to bite my tongue and find the good. I will ask nicely for help around this joint, politely ask them to pick up their socks and if I don’t have something nice to say I will say nothing at all. I will try and put away my lectures about good sibling behavior and keep my wits about me. I will try not to yell when I want them to stop screaming. When I see the good I will remind them how awesome it is when everyone is getting along and helping. And when I mess this one up I will apologize and I will reread this paragraph and start again…and again….and again.
I shall find joy in the everyday. Sometimes my Facebook newsfeed gets to me, I admit it. There are trips and camps and beautiful things happening all over the place and I can get sucked into the “We shoulds”. We should be driving to the Grand Canyon! We should be putting in a pool! We should be signing these jokers up for sleep away camp! We will take our trips and do our special things, but summer cannot be doing all the big things all the time. Because while these things can bring a bunch of joy, so can picking flowers in the backyard, taking walks around the pond, and getting down and dirty with that toad the kids found under that rock. Our kids require way less to make them happy than the internet would lead us to believe. We can find the joy right in our own backyard while doing yard work together. Joy is everywhere if we really look.
I shall fill up me so I can fill up them. When we are with our people all day everyday we tend to empty out a little faster. I know if I don’t take a timeout things can unravel pretty quickly. Back when the babies were napping there was a quiet hour here and there in the day. Now that they are big (and there are a lot of them) this time is harder to come by. I have learned that I need to actually shut myself away to get that hour now. It’s OK to put on a show for them and grab a book for you, send them outside so you can play on Facebook undisturbed for a bit, get a babysitter and head over to yoga, or just go to your room and hang out the Do Not Disturb sign in order to recharge a bit. Sometimes we need The Sit to fill ourselves up so we have something to give to the people and in the summer when the people seem to be always with me I have to be intentional about grabbing this time for myself.
I will not worry about making it special….it already is. The sight of my sleepy people sitting in their jammies on a warm, lazy, summer day eating their breakfast and chatting away really is as special as it gets. I look at them and sometimes actually gasp with amazement with the knowledge that they are mine. It is a miracle I tell you…all of it. We are teaching and guiding and loving them in a million small ways each and every day. That is a privilege that I will always be grateful for and this summer I will not take it for granted. These family years are so special it takes my breath away, I do not need to waste time worrying about making them more special. The popsicles on the back deck, finding the perfect rock on the shore of the cottage, having time on a rainy day to watch a movie together all snuggled up on the couch…these are the moments that make up our lives together, it’s hard for anything to be more special than that.
So, there you have it, my friends. Simple things we can keep in mind that will make all the difference, no matter what your summer might hold. Among the sports and bonfires and long days when no one is quite sure what to do with themselves we can go back to this list and remember that we’ve got this. Your people really just want you and they want you in a good mood, so let go of whatever is holding you back from that. Find your happy and spread it around to your people, that’s all you need to make this summer one to remember.