Oh what do you do in the summertime?

If you look forward to the summer break all year–if it’s your favorite time for work time and play time with your kids–if you’ve been looking forward to warm weather after a particularly wet winter and spring–if you’re all set to hit the ground running the moment school gets out:

Don’t catch  a terrible, persistent cough and flu the Friday school gets out that will remain with you for days and days and days. (It looks like I’m right on schedule to sneeze and hack my way through my 40th birthday this week, too.)

On the bright side, if I had to be sick, at least I’ve had big kid helpers around and no carpool turns, school events, or extracurricular activities to get to. And there’s a good chance I’ll be better before we start our two weeks of swim lessons.

I’ve seen a couple different blog threads filled with many impressive ideas for summer plans with kids.  (Probably too many ideas. I was amused by a young woman’s comment that her mom always had big plans for summer, “which lasted for about three days and then we did whatever we wanted for the rest of the summer.”) I’m very devoted to the idea of an unscheduled summer–but it does seem impossible to have a truly simple summer if you have a few children and  any plans at all. But here’s the basic plan I’ve adapted over the course of the last few years, which seems to work well for our family:

We do two weeks of daily swim lessons near the start of the summer, with the hope that the kids will be relatively water-safe for the rest of the summer. (I should probably supplement this with some indoor winter lessons, but haven’t been that ambitious yet.) We have our lessons at an outdoor pool and I choose sessions that are before 10 AM so we don’t have to apply sunscreen. (Putting sunscreen on my whole family is one of my most loathed summer chores.)

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are “family days.” The other days are “friend days.” Most of my kids’ friends have caught on to this schedule well enough that we’re not plagued by the doorbell and phone ringing ceaselessly on our family days. I came up with the idea of “family days” a couple years ago when I had really been looking forward to seeing more of my kids in the summer–and to my kids seeing more of each other–and then discovered that my kids were never home, or my house was always packed with neighbor kids, so my kids never played together. My kids have adapted pretty well to the concept of family days, and the big kids will do sweet things like take the little ones on picnics to the park (which is especially nice if I’m lying in bed sick and can’t take them myself).

The kids have to do 3 hours of chores every day. This year we’ve been breaking it into two chunks of 1.5 hours. I usually choose one of the kids to work alongside me and I give the other kids quite a bit of leeway in which chores they work on, as long as it’s something genuinely useful for our family. (I have to keep telling Rose that the porch doesn’t need to be swept every day.) My hope is that we’ll be able to use some of this time to finish big projects like cleaning out the garage and basement, but often the time’s gone and we’ve barely finished the maintenance work of dishes, cleaning, and laundry.

I also have much more than 11 weeks’ worth of ideas for fun outings and craft projects–we have, for example, a broken dollhouse that the girls and I have been meaning to fix up for at least two years now, and I’d LOVE to finally get to that this summer. But it looks like first I’ll have to lie in bed coughing for at least a few more days.

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6 Responses to Oh what do you do in the summertime?

  1. Megan says:

    I love the idea of family days and friend days! I’ll have to keep that in mind for when my kids are older.

  2. Jason says:

    Feel better soon Z. Happy birthday (soon)!

  3. marymary says:

    This post worried Jane a lot. 🙂

    I do think that designating family/friend days is an inspired idea.

    By the way, whoever gave you that idea to do morning swim lessons so y’all wouldn’t have to sunscreen up is a GENIUS! And I really, really don’t mean to gloat, but after many, many consecutive years of mom and tot classes, I’m so excited this year to not get in the water.

    • zstitches says:

      Hazel was actually too little for the tot class last year, and it *was* nice to not get in the water. I was going to spend these two weeks before swim classes making or finding a good swimsuit instead of lying in bed coughing.

  4. Ty Cruz says:

    In this part of the world, kids would just start school. I value family and friend time. Great post!

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