Intentional SummersJune 29, 2019
Summertime feels like freedom to kids getting out of school. But a working mom's perspective is a bit different. Tracy Lane describes how she plans to make meaningful memories with her children this summer.
Summertime feels like freedom to kids getting out of school. But a working mom's perspective is a bit different. Tracy Lane describes how she plans to make meaningful memories with her children this summer.
Michelle: Moms and dads—you live a busy life. You're busy driving from here to there—waiting in the carpool line, talking on the phone, making a business deal. Well, your kids are watching you. They're watching you live out that hectic life, so what are you teaching them about relaxation? Here's Tracy Lane.
Tracy: I think we've trained our kids to feel that need to respond—to be busy. During the school year, they’re like ultra-programmed. Yes; we have to plan to give ourselves the freedom and to teach our kids to enjoy the freedom of relaxation. I don't think that, in our generation and in our culture today, it's something that we naturally go to.
Michelle: So why don't you grab those flip-flops, pour some Kool Aid in that ice cold water bottle, and head outside? We're going to talk about how to relax and share an intentional summer with our kids on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Well, it is mid-summer for some, so, you know, those lazy, hazy days of summer are in full swing. Many homes have popsicles packed in their freezer, and the sprinklers are hooked up to the hose; the sidewalks are covered with chalk, and your kids are bored—or maybe, they're not—I don't know. What does it look like in your house?
You know, the question is: “How do you bridle all this endless energy that your kids have from the sun and the Vitamin D? How do you turn that into something worthwhile?” I was talking to a grandmother the other day. During the school break for summer, she has her granddaughters; and she's asking these questions: “Just what does our summer need to look like? We've already had half the summer, but is that really how we're supposed to be spending our time together?”
I know that she's not the only one that has those questions. You might be having those questions, too; so I turned to my friend and co-worker, Tracy Lane. Tracy's a writer, here at FamilyLife®. She's married to Matt, and she has two girls—six-year-old, Audrey, and [five]-year-old, Annie. She's had to wrestle with these questions of: “How do I make my summer count?” She's in the thick of things right now. We had a conversation about relaxing in the summertime and how to make it count.
Michelle: Talk to us about what you're planning to do for activities this summer or even how you frame your mind around, I guess, how not to waste time in the summer?
Tracy: Yes; so I have struggled a little bit as a working mom.
Tracy: Because the very first feeling about summer is: “Ugh! My kids!”—like—“What am I going to do when I have this meeting?” or “…when I have this deadline?” and “They're going to be there, bothering me!” [Laughter] And how terrible is that?
Michelle: I love how you're so real about—just like, “It's about me!”
Michelle: “They're going to be there, bothering me!”
Michelle: Sorry—sorry to point that out to you; but I just think—I just appreciate how real you are in that.
Tracy: Yes; well, that's my first thought; and then, it's like I hear myself think it.
Tracy: And then, there's the mom guilt that comes in. Then, I’m like: “Oh, well, what a terrible mother—that I'm going to be bothered by my children.” [Laughter] And then, “I must not have trained them well if they're so bothersome,”—you know?—all of these thoughts. Then, I get to the point of—which is a pretty quick progression—but the point of: “Why would I be bothered by them? Children are a gift.
Tracy: “And the days that we have with our children, no matter what family or what situation you're in, those are gifts!”—like: “Who am I to be so bothered by these gifts God has given me?!” It's like this introspective process of planning a summer.
Michelle: Yes; well, you still have to get your mind wrapped around: “What do I do with them when I have meetings? What do I do with them when I've got to run out and run errands?” Because, right now, they haven't been around—they've been in school.
Tracy: Right; they both are in school; yes. “All day, every day” is the way we say it; because that's the first year both of them have been—Monday through Friday, 8 to 3. It will be different when they are home with me for the summer; and it will be different in some ways that are challenging, and it will be different in some ways that are really beautiful.
Tracy: We have to plan for both in order to make both work, I think. Our kids are at an age now where we can actually ask them for their opinion on some of the things. We asked them in planning: “What do you want to do this summer? What would make this summer like a ‘win’ for you and special to you if we did whatever?” They've given us some ideas.
Michelle: Did you give them options in those, or did—
Tracy: We kind of opened it.
Tracy: Yes; like: “Let's just throw out the ideas.” We’re starting to think about summer. Lots of family is starting to text and make plans to visit/suggest visiting; so we need to know: “What's top on our priority list?”
It's so sweet that our six-year-old—she said: “Bible school! I have to go to Bible school! If we don't go to Bible school, Mom, I'm going to be so sad!” So VBS marked—that’s the very first week of summer. Our five-year-old said, “Swimming”; so—[Laughter]
Tracy: —which—she’s not a great swimmer! [Laughter]
Michelle: But she's going to learn.
Tracy: Apparently; she is determined to learn; yes. We are members of our local Y,—
Tracy: —so we kind of have that as like—that's our day-to-day fall back—
Tracy: —like we can take a lunch to the pool. A lot of our friends are also members at the Y; they're planning to spend a lot of their summer days at the pool. I think that's going to be like our go-to activity when people feel crazy at home, getting a little cabin feverish inside.
Tracy: So a lot of that; but we also have plans to relax.
Michelle: Good for you. What does that look like in your family?
Tracy: Yes; we have this amazing yard at the house that we moved to. We have like this fenced-in acre—Matt built a swing set; we have this tree swing—and just all these different types of foliage that we're not used to, because we're living in a new climate now.
Tracy: So our kids love to be in the yard. We, also, have these amazing neighbors next door with two little kids. What relaxing is, now, for us is in the backyard, with our neighbors, on the patio. The girls actually like penciled in the days that they want to “relax with the neighbors.” [Laughter] So, at least—
Michelle: How sweet!
Tracy: Yes; I mean, it's really cool to see them like planning for themselves but, also, planning to include people whom they think should be included.
Tracy: I can see their hearts in that, as well. Yes; at least, one day a week, we have, basically, like a “No-plans relax day,” which we all anticipate being pretty much like grilling in the yard, playing in the yard, hanging out with the neighbors. I'm really looking forward to it!
Michelle: Now, in my mind, those three things could take all of three hours. [Laughter] So—
Tracy: No; you have to draw them out. [Laughter]
Michelle: And so then, a relaxing day—you do draw it out.
Michelle: How do you draw it out? How would you plan a day, relaxing with the neighbors, intentionally?
Tracy: We do this now that it's warmer—
Tracy: —as the spring has brought nice weather and sunny days. It's kind of a go-to for both of our families. We developed a really close relationship with them; but on a Saturday now, we will each eat breakfast in our own houses—just, you know, our kids wake up early. Like you cannot teach a six-year-old to sleep in, apparently; or I have failed, if you can. [Laughter] Our kids are up early, and right after breakfast, we're in the yard—it's like maybe 8:00 a.m., and we're in the yard. The other option would be like kind of fighting over TV, and we don't really do a lot of TV.
Tracy: So if we can—like push them out to the yard; then they'll quit asking us to watch something, and we have to keep saying, “No.”
Tracy: So then, once we see each other in the yard, that's like a two-and-a-half hour process—about—like we're probably not going to come back in until people start getting hungry for a snack or lunch.
Tracy: Yes; so we eat the lunch inside at our own house, usually. On occasion, we have done like a picnic lunch together on one of our back patios; but usually, like inside, recover a little bit. But again—like early afternoon/like 1:00-ish—probably back out.
Michelle: I want to go back to the beginning of your day, when you said we head outside about eight o'clock, because we know that, otherwise, the TV would be fought over. If you, as a family, are not all that “big into TV,” how did you and Matt work that out? Because I know for me, babysitting, that's always a fallback: “Let's watch TV, kids!”
Tracy: Yes; I know. Yes; so we do have a standing rule in our house. They don't watch anything during the week. They're only allowed to watch—we call it—“one show” on the weekends, like one a day. I think Matt and I, early on in our parenting, just decided like, it's really not worth it. We only have so much time with their children, like I was saying earlier, which sometimes can feel like a heavy burden. And when you look at it rightfully, it's really an honor and a privilege.
We only have so much time with our children; why are we going to fill that with Peppa Pig?—would be my kids’ choice every time! [Laughter] But why would we?! You know, like it's fine on occasion; we're not going to like throw our TV out the window. We like to watch baseball together, as a family, some nights if it's like the team that we like.
Tracy: We'll watch that together, but centering our lives and our entertainment around that is just not something that we were interested in. We feel like the minutes go too quickly there, in front of a TV, and we don't engage with each other in the way that we would like to.
Michelle: Yes; well, it's interesting—just as you're talking, I'm remembering a Facebook® post from a coworker, who said that they had been sick; so, for the last several weeks, they had been watching TV. As a result, they're better now; but they felt that their mind had sort of went to mush.
Tracy: Right; because once you start the TV, you might have started with somewhat pleasant kids—you know, just maybe, kind of the normal morning—that's not the kid that you get back! Because, once it's time to turn it off, So-and-so didn't get to pick their show—you know, whoever picked which one to watch, the other one's mad—or they wanted to watch something else: “You promised this,” or “…that!”—like it does not go well! [Laughter] It never ends well. Like the 30 minutes that you've got with quiet—no!—it is not worth it. [Laughter]
They can go play outside for 30 minutes and be quiet. I can see out my kitchen window into our backyard. They’re at their ages now, they can play in the backyard; it's fenced. I can have the time doing the dishes, quietly, while they're actually doing something creative and productive together instead of Peppa Pig in my ear.
Michelle: Yes; which doesn't end well for them or for you.
Michelle: So this is just a whole lot happier.
Michelle: Sounds like a great day!
We need to take a break; and when we come back, I want to talk a little bit more about just how to be intentional with our summers. So stay tuned; we'll be back.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill, and I'm sitting in studio today with Tracy Lane. Tracy, it's so good to have you back on the program. I think it's about once per quarter we invite you in; and it's just so fun. Thank you for joining me today.
Tracy: Yes; thank you for having me.
Michelle: We're talking about being intentional in our summers. You had talked about how you guys were talking about relaxing days and letting the kids in on your decisions for what the summer is going to look like. I'm just wondering, “Do you set up a calendar and write certain days in?—like: ‘Relaxing day’ or ‘Day at the pool”—or do you kind of map things out that way for your summers?”
Tracy: We do—especially this summer—because it's our first summer living far away from family. I know I mentioned that we're having several visitors, so we have to have that on the calendar already; so that kind of set our trajectory for summer planning. Along with my work schedule, I do have to plan very specifically around that.
There are certain days that I'll be in the office and certain days I'll be working from home, so those mean we can do different family activities on those days. We all know that Mom’s “in the office” days are Monday, Thursday, Friday. So Monday, Thursday, Friday, I try to help Matt come up with some different ideas that may be fun for him and the girls. And then, he also knows—like those are kind of his free-for-all days—like where is he going to need to save more energy on a Tuesday or Wednesday for the Thursday/Friday, together, with the Daddy Day Care.
Tracy: We do a lot of planning; yes. I really, personally, just feel like it's the way I'm wired. Planning is really the key to relational success, I feel like,—
Tracy: —and being disciplined by finding time for what I want to invest my days in. If I don't plan it out, I look up and it's like noon; and I haven't even eaten that day, and I'm still in my PJs; and I don't even know what happened. [Laughter] I’ve probably scrolled Instagram® for way too long.
Michelle: Ah, yes! That's just—that's my life! [Laughter]
Tracy: Yes; we have to plan a lot, also, because one of our daughters takes medicine three times a day.
Tracy: We really do plan—like day to day. We kind of do plan our day in segments, too, based around morning medicine. We call it “lunchtime medi”—I don't know why we say “medi” at lunchtime—but morning medicine, lunchtime medi, nighttime medicine. Those kind of carry us through the blocks of our day.
Michelle: Now, why are you having a medicine routine for your daughter? I know you've explained it in the past, and we have some listeners who understand that; but for anyone new, why are you scheduling time around this medicine?
Tracy: Yes; so our daughter, Annie, is five. She was born with a severe heart defect, and she's had several open-heart surgeries. She lives a normal life right now, which we're very thankful for! Part of the way that she lives that normal life is—the term would be—she's “medically managed.”
In our family, there is always that tension of planning, very hard core, the intentional moments but, also: “How do we balance that with relaxing in the blocks that we can relax?” because that's a lot of stress to carry all the time if you're managing your whole day around the 1:00 p.m. lunchtime medi.
Tracy: You have to know how to do both.
Now, when you were here, at FamilyLife, you worked very closely with Barbara Rainey. I know she talks a lot about summertime and being intentional with your summers and everything. You are talking about blocked days, where you relax. Is that—are we intentional in relaxing? I mean, is that a thing that we need to do to help our kids as they grow and as they mature?
Tracy: I think so. We would not be naturally inclined to set aside all the things that we feel like we're committed to/all the people who ask things of us—even the slew of text messages you get, that may or may not really even need to be responded to—like I probably don't need to send a thumbs-up to of planning text message, but we all feel that need! [Laughter]
I think we've trained our kids to feel that need to respond/to be busy. During the school year, they’re like ultra-programmed. Yes; we have to plan to give ourselves the freedom and to teach our kids to enjoy the freedom of relaxation. I don't think that, in our generation and in our culture today, it's something that we naturally go to.
Michelle: No; that's right. I feel that, in my in my life—that if I am taking a day off, and relaxing outside, or going for a hike: “That can't last all day! I have other things I need to get done!” You almost feel like this, sort of, you know, kind of like the hyperventilation mode of, “I’ve got to show that I have something that I'm producing.”
Tracy: Right; but if you plan for the relaxation to be what you produce, it helps people like me and you, who think we're accomplishing something. Well, we are accomplishing something by relaxing. But if that's the thing you want to accomplish that day, it feels a lot better to achievers, like totally me.
Tracy: I'm such an achiever, so I do have to shape my mind around that. I do want to teach my children that, because there's so much that God can teach us when we still our schedules/we still our hearts and we just enjoy what He's given us and the people He's put right in front of us. Even, like I was saying—we love to be outdoors in His creation. If we're so busy to even stop and do that, we’re missing what He has to teach us.
If I can teach myself/model that for my children—and implement that in their regular routine now—I hope that’s something that they can carry into their adulthood, as well.
Michelle: And I'm also hearing that, in your relaxing days, you're building relationships as you communicate, as you talk, as you laugh and have fun. You're building your relationship with your neighbors, whom you're inviting into your relaxing day. That's what God is asking us to do—is to build relationship with each other and, also, those around us.
Tracy: Yes; it's really hard for me to be person-focused. I'm much better at doing things. I'm a great do-er—like I could do something so good, and so fast, and just right! [Laughter] But if someone wants me to sit—like my five-year-old does, often. and play a game with her—I’m like: “Umm, no! That's a being; I'm great at doing. Would you like me to pick up the cards that you just dropped?—I'll be happy to do that! Sit and be with you and play this game is very difficult for me.”
Tracy: So to pull back and require that of myself—it's almost a way to turn the being into doing for someone, like me, who needs to think of it in that way. I don't feel so bad, either, when I plan it; because I can look at the blocks in my week.
We do a lot of block scheduling, even on our calendar. If I know that, from 9 to 4, I'm going to get my work done—those are my office hours—and from 4 to 8:30 at night, I'm going to be with my kids, I don't feel bad about the work that I've done; because I know my children time/home time—family time was coming. And when I'm with my family, I don't feel like I'm missing out on the work email, because I have the block coming, again, tomorrow: “At 9 a.m., I can open my work email.”
If we plan, even like the day of relaxation that we're talking about, I know I'm okay.
All of my things to-do have actually been done, because I planned them. [Laughter]
Michelle: —and then, truly relax.
Tracy: Yes; my relaxing can happen with a clear mind. I can be present with my children and my husband.
Michelle: —which I think is important—is that we are present with those who we’re talking with, or having conversation with, or being with.
I'm also wondering: “You have this relaxation time. Where do books come in?—activities like chalk on sidewalks or board games? Does that come into play, at all, in your summertime?”
Tracy: I feel like you've been to my house! [Laughter] Yes; so our first grader is just like this crazy book-lover, which is really fun for me, as a writer; because, obviously, like what could be better?! [Laughter] We do weekly library trips.
Tracy: That's part of our weekly, penciled-in, and a lot of reading.
Our five-year-old can't read, like totally on her own, yet; but she still gets her stack of books. The girls have reading time in their rooms. Most days, especially our first grader—again, like she will be reading in the grocery cart. [Laughter] She has to ride so that she doesn't run into the end of the aisle.
But that is all—like you've, literally, been in my house—just things for my children to create—that's really important to me. I do think—at times before, I thought, “I have really creative kids!” And now, I'm like, “No; I think we're all creative.” I think that we have made the space in our home for our children to explore creativity.
Tracy: I don't think that my kids are just like ultra-creative, because I think we all have that in us. We are made in God's image, and He is a creative God; but we've got to give space for that.
Michelle: I'm going to throw a little wrench in this. There's a mom, who's listening, right now, who says: “I'm a single mom, and I have to work during the summertime. How can I make it intentional?” Does she look at after hours? Does she look at Saturdays? What kind of advice would you give her?
Tracy: Yes; so obviously, as a working mom, there are many days this summer that I will not be the one with my child. Many days and summers before, it hasn't been my husband either—we've had a nanny.
If you're the working mom, get a great nanny and get a nanny, who agrees with your philosophy of parenting—like all of our nannies would be out in the backyard. They have the sprinkler going; the girls are out playing—same ideas as us. That's helpful—you know, someone is supporting you in what you have to do to provide for your family, and your kids are still having the fun you want them to have—like it's not a total miss.
It's actually not a miss at all, I realized; because the nanny, a lot of times, has energy and ideas that I would have never had. [Laughter] It was a gift to my kids, really, to have another person in their life.
But, yes, you're not going to have every minute you want to have with your children. Let go of that guilt; because if that's what you're worried about, you're going to miss the minutes you do have. And so, once you get home: “Yes! You're on!”—it's okay.
Michelle: That’s important.
Tracy: You're tired, but it's your time—I think understanding the significance of it, too, is helpful for a tired, working mom.
Tracy: Whether she's single or married, moms are tired when we come home from work! And the kids are hungry, and they're waiting to attack you; because they've missed you all day.
Instead of, like I said, your natural inclination to be bothered by that—if we could just step back for a second, maybe decompress on the drive home—like, sure, it's okay to feel the stress; but if we can decompress for a minute and come to a place of realizing what we're getting with our children, we can approach it from a different heart attitude and be grateful for the moments that God is giving us instead of feel[ing] worn out by them.
Yes; make use of your Saturdays/make use of your Sundays. We all have busy schedules—we can be busy from work; we can be busy from what's going on in our own minds; we can be busy for a million things that we make up. Sometimes, they feel like excuses and, sometimes, they're legitimate. But realize that, if you are busy, you are choosing something over these moments you have; so make the most of the ones you do have. Don't beat yourself up over the ones that you don't get, because you're probably providing for your family in the moments that you think you're missing. You're, actually, contributing to your family, too—just in a different way.
Michelle: And that's a good point; because if we're not—if we're feeling guilty, that's what's on our mind—but if we can let that go, then we have more space for creativity and more space for enjoyment.
Michelle: So, Tracy, I want to thank you. I know our time is running short. I—oh, I hate that; because I love our conversations. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Tracy: Thank you for having me.
Michelle: Wasn't that some great advice?—and just a great conversation with my friend, Tracy Lane, on how to relax this summer. Make it count and have fun with your kids!
Remember, last week, we talked with Arlene Pellicane about how to be connected and how to be calm, you know, with our phones? Next week, we're going to continue that conversation on how to be calm and connected with your kids and their phones. We're going to hear from David Eaton and a couple of other surprise guests. I hope you can join us for that.
Thanks for listening. I do appreciate you. I know that this half-hour is valuable time of yours, so thank you for spending it with me and with Tracy today.
I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today®, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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