First Person

Lazy vs. Crazy: Balancing scheduled and unscheduled summer weeks

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“Can we do the Christian School of Performing Arts Summer Camp, Mom, please?!” both my children plead.

I sigh. Isn’t summer about chasing butterflies and looking for rainbows? Don’t we live all school year for the hazy, warm days of not having to get up and out the door to anywhere in particular?

No cute outfits needing to be pressed and ready in the morning. No healthy lunches needing to be packed. No caring if hair is brushed, faces are washed or teeth are sparkly clean.

I come from a different starting point than most. My oldest child, Amanda, has special needs. From the moment she was medically able she started receiving occupational, speech and physical therapy. An academic tutor came to our house. Play therapists brought toys and games multiple days a week.

When she was old enough to attend school, all these services and adults followed. They joined teachers, administrators, teaching assistants and numerous others.

Sounds great. All these people working hard to help this wonderful child reach her fullest potential. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it tremendously and know they are all motivated to see my daughter achieve.

But what it also means is people constantly telling me what we need to be working on to make strides in their area of expertise. It means adults coordinating with me to either come to my house or to her school. It means constantly hearing how she/we stack up against norms in various areas of development. It means stress.

I live for the days of summer when all comes to a halt for those few months. Summer means not being judged. Not being stressed. Not being on a schedule. Summer is not just for the kids: It is for me, too.

My second child, Jason, was born when Amanda was 4. He merrily joined our summer adventures. Nothing that had to be done was on the calendar.

Eventually both children became aware of the activities of their friends. They could now read the flyers sent home in their folders advertising camps, programs and summer group activities. Classmates were calling to see if they could join them at sleep-away camp.

I, too, became aware. The initial heartbreak of giving up both my children for hours to strangers in the strange land of school brought a realization. That deafening silence in my house announced a bit of freedom.

I now had hours to myself each school day. I was able to clean the house, grocery shop and attack the laundry pile. I had time to develop new hobbies. I quickly grew accustomed to this me time—time that goes away once summer vacation begins.

But is summer supposed to be more months of each of us doing our own activities? More of me dragging sleepy children out of bed because we have to be on the road before 9 a.m.? More standing in the kitchen at 7 a.m. packing lunches?

Summer, like childhood, seems over in an instant. I want to hold on to my time with them as long as I can. But I cannot hold too tightly or I will smother. Plus, I hate to admit it, but summer is not just about me.

So we compromise. Each child picks a camp to attend once summer officially begins. This usually fills up much of July. In August we head to the Outer Banks for a week and then spend the end of summer with no official plans.

This allows us to relax, regroup and get ready for the new academic year. It also means that by the first day of school we are craving our days of routine and schedules, because to be honest, too much family time and we all start getting on each other’s nerves.

So here comes another wonderful Syracuse summer vacation. We are excited, and we are ready.

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