It’s that time of year. You are either jumping for joy that you can have lazy days with your kids and not worry about spelling words, times tables and homework - or – you are gripped with dread at how you can possibly entertain your little ones for 90 days! Probably a bit of both.
I was talking to an adorable 8-year-old (almost 9!) last Saturday and asked her what she was going to do this summer. She said one word. Swim. I asked what else she might do. Her answer: swim. I asked her what she might do after swimming. She was unwavering. “Swim.” We moved to Florida at the beginning of June 1987. John was 5, Philip 3 and Edward 2. I had absolutely insisted we purchase a house without a pool. None of the boys knew how to swim and I was petrified of having a big body of water right there in my own backyard. If you don’t live in Florida, you may not know that many homes have their own pool. It is almost hard to find one that doesn’t but per my instructions, we did. So, there we were, three little boys, in 100 degree weather, no friends, no way to cool off, nothing to do but unpack boxes and eat ice cream. The beach you say? Yes, we did a fair amount of that – but those ages at the beach isn’t the best either – by the time we had schlepped everything to the water’s edge, not letting anyone wander off, slathered everyone with sunscreen, wrestled six little arms into swimmies, Edward would start eating sand while John wanted to jump the waves. About 15 minutes later, someone would need to go to the bathroom – not the kind you can do in an ocean wave. Or someone is hungry or someone is too hot….I am starting to whine just thinking about it.
OK, I needed a plan to survive this summer in my new home. First things first – Miss Pat was who “everyone” took their kids to for swimming lessons- sign all three boys up – check. Next, I picked up the yellow pages (B.G. – before Google) and looked for some place to go - with a pool! I found a little bath and racket club where we could swim, John could take tennis lessons and we could even get a sandwich and cold drink. Check. Vacation Bible School is God’s gift to Moms with little ones. What a great way to check out different church communities and it is usually free or really cheap. You might have to volunteer one day but even that turns out to be fun. And here’s a little secret – you can go to more than one! Every church is thrilled to welcome a possible new member.
For the Crouse boys, summer was also about day camp. What a great concept camp is! The kids meet and play with other kids. Someone else is applying sunscreen for a few hours. The kids are happy and come home ready for a nap. John’s day camp was even at his school, so he made some lifelong friends the summer he was 5. And so did I! Hanging out with other Moms and their kids can pass a summer afternoon in the nicest possible way.
Something else we did that people think is kind of weird is change rooms around. We had three bedrooms for the four boys for a long time (before we changed a sleeping porch into another little bedroom) so two had to share and they thought it was fun to either get a room to themselves for a year or to move in with a “new” brother. So, at the beginning of summer, we would spend a day gathering clothes (pulling things out for Goodwill as we went), trophies and boy junk and move it across the hall. Who doesn’t love a fresh perspective once in a while? We did this every year until the boys started decorating their own rooms with posters and such. We laugh because William had his walls so decorated with concert ticket stubs and photos that he wouldn’t let me change his planet wallpaper until he went to college.
So, you’re flat out exhausted, can’t think of a single new idea to keep the troops entertained – ok - next time you are at the dollar store, pick up some little cans of shaving cream. We were lucky to have kids of the same gender so I would pile them into the bathtub together. Bubbles are probably enough but shaving cream can be extra fun. Of course, don’t leave them in there alone but you can get a comfy stool and laugh at their antics while the time passes. Shaving cream and a hose in the backyard can be a blast as well. In fact, our boys loved playing with shaving cream so much that I gave little cans of it as a birthday party favor one time. Other moms must have thought I was nuts!
As the kids get older, I think summer becomes easier. One of my favorite summer tricks was 2 to 1 reading time. If your kids love to read, consider yourself a successful mother. Only one out of four of ours kept his nose in a book. So, we set up a program where reading was required for TV time. You had to read twice as long – for instance, an hour of reading would earn you a half hour of TV time. And during that reading time, do not do the laundry or breakfast dishes! Find a nice cool spot, sit down, put in your earbuds for some of your favorite music and maybe even close your eyes for a few minutes. And think of how awesome it is to be a Mom to those great kids and be thankful.
Bottom line: summer can seem long and sometimes tedious but you can be making memories of fun times that your kids will talk about for the rest of their lives.