Temperatures are starting to rise here in the southern U.S. My flip-flops have been unpacked after a long, wet winter, and I can’t help but start dreaming about backyard get-togethers, beach vacations with friends, more relaxed bedtime routines, and no homework for the kids (which also means I don’t have to remember how to divide fractions—don’t judge).
There’s just an air of relaxation that settles over everything once the kids are out of school. Our evenings become filled with dinners on the back porch followed by dripping popsicles rather than a rush of dinner, homework, bath, book, bed. The rush of the school year brings its wear and tear on my family, and we just don’t do well at a fast pace. The summer brings a welcome time of recuperation, and with it a collective sigh …
The rest of the year is filled with other obligations, but the summer belongs to us.
One of my goals this summer is to reacquaint myself with my kids. That may sound silly. I mean, I should know my little family pretty well, right?
But the truth is, we all change. My daughter no longer really plays with toys, and her taste in books and music has evolved. My son, who has always been a huge Mama’s boy, has been seeking his own sort of independence over the past few months. They’re growing. If I don’t frequently reacquaint myself with the little people God is growing them into, I’ll miss out on really knowing my family.
With that thought in mind, I’ve dug around, stolen ideas from friends (I mean, borrowed upon their wisdom), and really thought about ways I want to engage with my kids this summer. Here are some of the things my husband, Josh, and I will be doing to get back to the basics of family time this summer.
1. Start your own book club.
Reading to my kids has always been one of my favorite pastimes as a mom. I’m a sucker nearly every time my son asks, “One more book?” Hey, it’s hard to get snuggle time with a rowdy 5-year-old. But even my preteen still enjoys this time each day, just the two of us.
Have your children pick a book they would like to read with you this summer (my son and I will be reading Charlotte’s Web). Read a passage or chapter and then let them share their thoughts on what happened with you. I’m always surprised by how insightful kids can be.
2. Take regular family “staycations.”
Have your family take turns picking day trips. My daughter enjoys history, so we are marking a map for places where she can dive into our state’s past. My son is a dinosaur and animal fanatic. So this summer we are hitting up a local museum’s new dinosaur exhibit and visiting a nearby elephant sanctuary. We also have several hiking trails in our area we plan on trekking (when the weather isn’t 110 degrees with 90 percent humidity, that is).
I wish I had shared this experience with my daughter last summer, before she started middle school. No one wants to have “the talk,” right? Talking about sex is kind of awkward, for them and us. Have no fear, nervous parent. Instead of fumbling through your words, Passport2Purity guides you through the topics of peer pressure, puberty, sex, and dating over the course of an overnight trip, just the two of you.
I’ve planned a short trip with my daughter just before schools starts in August. Thanks to planned activities and CDs that tackle the hard topics for me, I’m actually looking forward to having the talk with her. From one parent to another, do this one sooner rather than later.
We’ll actually be doing this one in a few years, but I couldn’t mention the above suggestion without recommending something for parents with kids older than mine. And if you are a parent of a teenager, you know raising them for adulthood isn’t for the faint of heart.
Passport2Identity can help. Created in the same format as Passport2Purity, this FamilyLife resource leads you and your child through discussions that matter: what a godly man/woman looks like, making their faith their own, and determining what their calling in life is. Remembering back to my own teenage years (some time ago), I guarantee you this is a trip your teenager needs with you. Now.
5. Grow a garden together.
To be honest, I am known as the killer of plants (I am hoping my kids take after my husband on this one). Even so, there are a few great lessons for your kids (and maybe you) to learn through gardening—hard work, responsibility, patience, and how good it feels to see some fruit be produced after a period of growing.
And here’s a bonus: it’s easier for kids to open up when they don’t feel the pressure to talk. Sit quietly beside your child picking weeds out of the garden (or even filling up some containers with potting soil if you don’t have the ground space). Don’t play 20 questions or feel the need to fill the silence. Just sit, enjoy the company of your kids, and be open to listening when they have something to say.
6. Set a family goal together.
Maybe you want your family to be more active. Or you just want to slow down so you can find more time together. Whatever it is, you have some dreams for your family. Chances are, your kids do, too. So have a powwow around the picnic table (my kids are far better participants if there are yummy snacks involved) in the backyard to discuss a family goal for the summer. Brainstorm some steps toward making that goal a reality.
I’ve been thinking about this family goal thing a lot lately. Especially since this is the first time I have worked outside the home since the kids were born. One of my goals for my little family leads me to my final suggestion.
7. Reclaim the Sabbath.
Confession time: I have turned Sunday into “catch up” day. Everything we don’t have time to do during the week is done on Sunday. Loads of laundry. Forgotten kids’ chores. Yard work. You name it. Sure, it feels good to get that stuff done, but in the process we’ve completely forgotten the purpose of a Sabbath.
In Mark 2:27, Jesus told those nit-picking (my words, not His) Pharisees “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Just because we aren’t bound by Old Testament Sabbath laws anymore, doesn’t mean we should forget it altogether. It was made for our good. Our family’s good. So I am hoping to bring that good back into my family’s lives this summer. My steps to make this a reality?
For starters, we’ll be dusting off those piles of family devotional books I purchased with hope we would actually finish. The Sabbath should not only be a time to rest but also a time to turn out hearts to the One who gives rest. Second, we will put down our devices for the day. Trust me, your soul (and your kids’) could use a break from social media and email.
Maybe you haven’t put much thought to summer yet (maybe you still have snow), but I’d wager your kids have. Plan a time to sit down and bounce ideas off them. How do they imagine this summer going? Maybe they have some personal goals they’d like to accomplish—mastering two wheels on a bike, perfecting that backhand on the court.
Whatever you do this summer, engaging with your kids will never be time wasted. Remember, we only have a handful of summers with our kids before we launch them into the world. Make each one count.
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