Friday, May 11, 2012

Slow Summer

Well, it's that time of year again. My heart is filled with equal parts excitement and dread. The kids are just filled with excitement. That's right, summer vacation is around the corner. When I was a kid that meant long days playing in the yard, bike rides to the ice cream shop, outings to the farmer's market and the library, and some boredom. It meant writing stories and watching movies and playing cops and robbers in the neighborhood and going to evening concerts at Memorial Park.

I don't think that's what it means to my kids. To them, summer is a week of this vacation Bible school and a week of that music camp and two weeks of summer camp. Playdates with friends are often hard to schedule between our summer activities and theirs, so those have to be scheduled in advance. We usually get out for a few of the evening concerts and ride our bikes to the popcorn shop for classic car night, and we certainly don't miss opportunities to go to the farmer's market. But by and large summer is busy. And expensive. And scheduled.

Now I don't think there's anything wrong with all those activities I sign my kids up for. In fact, I just signed them up for something last night. But somehow I want to get summer back. My kind of summer. Long, lazy days spent playing and reading. Impromptu outings to the zoo. Slow living.

How to do that? I'm not sure. One thing that seems to work for us is to schedule vacations. And not just Williamsburg/Disney kind of vacations where we're constantly on the go. This year we've rented a house in North Carolina for a week, and it's pretty remote. It doesn't even have an internet connection. We think it'll be good for our family just to be together, away from it all, doing outdoorsy activities for a week. We also have a couple of beach vacations on the calendar, and those are great for helping you slow down. When the only thing on the schedule for the day is going to the beach, you've captured a great summer day.

My strategy for summer has changed this year too. I used to feel pressure to get my kids involved in things, to hone their talents and interests. I didn't want them to miss out on something their friends were doing. Secretly I think I didn't want them to fall behind. But this year I'm letting go of that competitive spirit and trying to give them a nice summer for the least amount of money possible. Yes, there is a great music camp they could go to. Maybe it would move them along in their piano lessons. But we're not going, and our calendar and our pocketbooks thank us. There's a great drama camp they've done before that they want to go to again, but when faced with the choice between spending 300 dollars for a few kids to do that versus going to our family reunion for free, I'm choosing the family reunion this time around.

Now, lest you think my kids will be sitting around all summer, we are sending two of them to camp. It's expensive, but so worth it. The spiritual development and independence they gain there just can't be duplicated in any other setting. For us, that's money well spent.

Maybe slowing down in the summer is mainly a state of mind. Making time for what you want to do instead of succumbing to the pressure to keep up with the Joneses. Making lists of ways to spend time together instead of lists of activities the kids could be involved in. Quieting the voices in your head that tell you a good mom would take the kids somewhere instead of sitting on the hammock and reading a book. Trusting that if you slow down the kids will learn to be content with less activity rather than fearing endless days of "I'm bored!" Finding simple things to do at home or at a park instead of making every outing elaborate. Letting the lawn mowing wait another day to make time for s'mores in the back yard.

I don't know how to do this slow summer thing, but I know I'm going to try a little harder to figure it out this year. It seems silly to say that my goal for the summer is for all of us to learn to slow down, but that's what I'm going for here. How about you? How do you slow down?


  1. Speaking as someone who has packed entirely too much into this summer, slowing down sounds like a very good thing. (My summer feels like it's over before it has begun.) Anyway, I think some people fill their kids' summers with activity because they just can't stand the thought of trying to figure out what to do with them. But to me, a day that involves waking up without a plan is one of the best days ever. Your kids will be so happy that they aren't going to be shoved from one activity to another this summer.

    P.S. Hooray for summer camp! My oldest is counseling this summer--maybe we'll see you up there.

  2. We've had to learn that life is about rest, and that Rest in Jesus is His goal, not always ours. "There is a Sabbath Rest for the people of God." (Hebrews) I think we sometimes think it's for us, to rest or slow down, but it's actually about worship and receiving in Jesus, and sinful to activate all our desires and getting and spending all the time on us, or even "for others." It reflects a deep mistrust when I am unwilling or unable to get a handle on my anxiety and just relax into Jesus. Bedrest and adrenal fatigue in pregnancy have taught me I am "prone to wander, Lord I feel it..." and that I need to allow God to tether me to rest, to Jesus. As I say, I'm so lucky! I have a Savior who loves me and who allows me/asks me to REST IN JESUS! Amazing. How I long to rest in Jesus, and to find my hope in HIM. LORD Jesus allow me allow me to ask you into my day and put you in the first position! In Jesus' NAME. AMEN. MB