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Yes, today I cried.  I’m not ashamed to admit it. (Maybe I’m a little ashamed.)  It’s officially day 2 of the kids being out of school and I’m feeling the stress of entertaining them.  I spoke to Kevin on the phone and he gave me a “just because school’s out, it’s not your job to entertain them” speech.  But I do feel some pressure.  I feel a huge, gigantic monkey on my back and his name is Mr. Entertain Me Mom. Do you feel pressure to entertain your kids when school’s out during the summer?

Free time? What’s that?

Part of it may be the fact that they are normally so busy that I’m not sure what to do with this unusual free time.  Even in summer, they still have their sports.  Maizy is going to swim everyday and is in the middle of her long course swim season.  Weston has practice twice a week and more often than not, a tournament on the weekend.  Madeline has five days of gymnastics practice every week. 

But, Madeline’s team was given a week off.  What?  They don’t even get a week off at Christmas! (Although, it is different because Christmas is right in the middle of meet season. It really makes sense!)  I think it threw me for a loop.  And, threw Madeline for a loop.  Not only did we not have school, we also had no gymnastics to get to.  We had too much time on our hands and no plan!

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The Story

It all started this morning when I decided to take them to the pool.  SO excited!  Number one fun mom here!  But, it all kind of fell apart.  Weston’s friend wasn’t available.  I think he had slept over with another friend and wouldn’t be home in time.  The friend Madeline wanted to invite didn’t even have a swim suit yet. Then there was a discussion about inviting friends and brothers and sisters of friends and finally I’d had enough. 

Cue the tears

I know it doesn’t seem like something to cry about.  (I can hear in my mind my parents saying this wasn’t something to cry about. That they’d “give me something to cry about.” No one wants to have those words reverberate in their adult ears!!)  Of course, there were other stressors: messy house, unfulfilled obligations, deadlines etc. There are always other things going on besides the what appears on the surface. But, that’s a talk for a different day.

So, I called it off. 

We weren’t going swimming.  We’d plan it for a different day. Give our friends a little more notice.  I told them that it just wasn’t in the cards for today.  Too many obstacles.  It was just too hard.  Of course, now I had disappointed them. Ugh!  So, what to do?
 

Back To School

Talk to them.

So, I sat them down and talked to them.  In my experience, usually when people are unhappy or dissatisfied it’s because their expectations aren’t being met.  I explained again why the plan wasn’t working today.  I asked them what they really wanted to do this summer. Maizy just wants a trip to see Auntie Laura in California.  Weston would like to go go-cart racing and paint balling.  Madeline wants to go to the pool and spend time with friends.  I assured them that we can do these things over the summer. We can do fun things! But, we can’t do them all day, every day.

My expectations

I guess I had some expectations that I hadn’t really considered, either.  The expectation that they’d be happy with some down time. That I’d still have some time to do the things I need to do. I gave them a small/moderate lecture about how they need to help out around the house.  Pick their stuff up.  If they see something that needs to be done, do it.

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I don’t expect major help with chores, but I am going to give them an extra chore every day.  While this was met with some grumbling, I assured them that the chore wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, if that.  Vacuum, take out the recycling, take out the trash, empty the dishwasher.  Things that kids that don’t spend so much time on sports probably do throughout the school year.  If I can get a little help with that stuff as we go, we will  have more time do fun things. (And, they are going to clean their rooms.  Like, CLEAN.  AKA vacuum, go through drawers, toys, closets and give away, throw away or decide it is a prized possession to be displayed on a freshly cleaned shelf.  For this task I’ve given them two weeks.  I’ll let you know how it goes…)

Money

All of these fun and entertaining things cost money.  Honestly, during the summer, I feel like every time we leave the house we spend money.  We get drinks or ice cream.  Maybe lunch out.  Going to the pool/museum/water park/bowling/movies/etc all costs money.  It’s good to talk to them about this.  Give them a limit about how often we can eat out.  Or maybe let them pick one activity a week.  More importantly, just letting them know what my expectations are regarding the financial aspect of what we do and how often we do it reminds them that things aren’t free and we need to keep money in mind as we are planning our activities. 
My kids are old enough to understand money.  They can understand the concept of spending their own money.  For example, many times they’ve talked to Kevin or I about what they want to buy. About how much it costs and if they can afford it.  Or how they could buy two things if they get something cheaper.  This is budgeting and it’s an important skill.

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I think by telling them in a way that focuses on HOW we want to spend the money we have rather than saying “we can’t afford that” keeps them from worrying that we don’t have enough.  We have enough but we have to decide exactly how we want to spend it. We should spend it on the things that are important to us. Important life lesson here!
 

Could we call it summer break?


I don’t think it should be called summer vacation.  That is a total misnomer. It’s not a 3 month long vacation.  I wish it was!  I wish I got a three month long vacation from my responsibilities.  Kevin would love ninety days that he could relax, sleep in, go see Metallica, drink beer and not go to work.  But, really it’s just a school break.  The expectations of vacation mean total relaxation, all types of entertainment, eating out…No responsibilities.  But, reality check. They are not on vacation. They are on a break from school. There are still responsibilities, practice, chores.

I Get It

I really do understand how they could have built up this break (especially Madeline since she had a week long reprieve from gymnastics) in their intelligent and creative minds to be a -super fantastic, party all the time, soda drinking, staying up late and sleeping in, watching hour upon hour of Netflix or YouTube- summer vacation. However, I think in the back of their minds there was a little nugget of reality.  But, I needed to bring it forward.  They wouldn’t be happy doing those things.  Maybe they would for a few days but then, even the fun would get old. As parents, isn’t it our responsibility to keep them somewhat scheduled and find the happy balance between their busy school year life and a summer “vacation”?

So, let me sum it up. 

We talked it over.  The expectations were laid out.  They felt valued and listened to.  Honestly, so did I.  We had a plan. Not a perfect plan. It wasn’t set in stone. There will be some wrinkles. But, we got together and came up with something everyone was pretty happy with.

 

I’m finishing this post on day three and I’m happy to report no crying today from this mom.  Woohoo!  (Only 88ish more days to go!  Believe me, in 80 days or so you’ll see that I’ve written a post about how much fun we’ve had and how sad I am that they are going back to school already.  Yes, it will say already!)  We will make it through the summer.  Our budget will stay (mostly) intact and everyone will have gotten to do more fun things than they will remember.  (I plan on taking lots of pictures to remind them!) Hang in there parents!  You’ll make it through this summer BREAK, too!

If you are thinking about teaching your kids about budgeting, there are a surprising number of books on this subject!  It never hurts to start teaching kids these important lessons when they are young.

 

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