We are about halfway through the summer with activities in full tilt. My son, Ryan, and I are enjoying the change in schedule.
Now I am reflecting on what I need for me this summer while supporting my son’s best interests and making a deliberate effort to recharge my batteries that were drawn down from the beginning of tax season until school let out.
As I have pondered this topic, it occurs to me that I can incorporate these concepts throughout the year. In fact, these summer based idea are just an expansion of many year round activities. Additionally, as a single parent, I have many responsibilities that need to continue and others that can change now without the restriction of the school day schedule.
How can we have fun that is break from the school year routine? Simple by doing different things or the same things in different ways. Both Ryan and I thrive on structure. We excel when we know what to expect and love the anticipation of some upcoming activity especially activities that are annual events for us.
To bridge the summer academically and maintain the habits of learning and studying, we are doing a grade appropriate review book to keep his skills fresh and challenged. Additionally, I have enrolled him in Kumon to provide Math and Reading enrichment within a very structured methodology. This is the limit of the formal indoor time.
As a parent, I strictly limit screen time of all kinds-phone, TV, and computer. Summer weather really helps with this standard, I can have my son outdoors enjoying the fresh air, moving, and most important having fun. Getting him and myself outdoors more is one of the tenets of my recharging plan.
Getting outdoors has included two week long vacations. First, we attended a childhood summer camp reunion in Connecticut and visited my Dad in Pennsylvania. I am fortunate Ryan travels very well and that my Dad lives in the tourist town Hershey, PA. The location allows to mix fun and family. Admittedly it is hard on Ryan as he knows no kids in my Dad’s neighborhood. Second, Ryan and I have attended a week-long church family camp that takes place at a YMCA camp in Missouri. The wonderful camp provides a safe environment with structure activities for both of us. Ryan was able to play with old and new friends while I participated in adult workshops. It was a great time for both of us.
Closer to home, I am also doing some staycation type activities. We are using our memberships to the Lego Discovery Center, The Museum of Science and Industry, and most important outdoors at the Morton Arboretum. Ryan and I will take advantage of activities sponsored by our local government such as concerts and the “the Taste of Orland Park” event. We are able to enjoy activities that are harder to manage during the school year and especially during tax season. I plan to combine these activities with other families and friends so that I have adult interaction while my son has peer interaction. These experiences will help the mutual recharging for kids and adults alike.
Another way that I have been able to incorporate structure and outdoors into Ryan’s day to day life is the use of summer camps. The camps provide a structured day and activities that would be hard for me to replicate, especially the social interaction. First, we are repeating most of last summer’s schedule so it is familiar to both of us. Second, my son has regular schedule each day with his day camp through my village’s park and recreation department. The day camp provides many activities that would be impossible for me to provide him even if I took him to all the field trip locations. Third, as mentioned earlier, we attended the church family camp. This wonderful family camp provides a structured programs the for kids while the parents can take workshops or just experience some quiet time. All these provided a safe, social atmosphere for my son to enjoy his summer while permitting me to pursuit personal and professional activities. As an aside, the day camp is tax deductible as a childcare program for those meeting the tax code requirements.
I will also use the summer to chase down some long put off chores that have become eyesores to me. This includes my garage which is still a mess after the winter. The summer is a perfect time to start cleaning it out. I can have my son outside playing while I work so we can both get fresh air and enjoy the day. Maybe this year Ryan will have the confidence to finally climb the tree in the front yard. Other free inside moments will permit to clean out the proverbial kitchen junk drawer and clean out closets. To avoid school year schedule conflicts I have scheduled sone Ryan’s medical and dental appointments.
Finally, the most important thing I can do is recommit in word and action to my self-care. For me this includes exercise, enjoying fresh produce, and spending time with important people in my life. This can also include time to be bored. There is research that indicates that boredom allows the mind to reset and relax. Let’s see if I get bored.
This summer I am taking advantage of my veteran status and the time available to take a class on mindfulness (and meditation) through my local VA Vet Center. With this class, I am reincorporating my exercise of choice, yoga, into my life.
One of the single best uses of my time will be to spend time with special people both family and others that are positive influences in my life and who help me reset. I will go out of my way to avoid folks that bring me down. I have purposely chosen some social events to participate in during the work day while my son is busy in day camp to break up the routine of work life and add richness to my life.
I am considering other activities such as short camping trips though I need to be careful to not over stress myself by working to create so much fun that I end up zapping my energy and further drawing down my parenting batteries. So maintaining some boundaries on my limit of activities is important for my recharging efforts. After all, like in a phone, batteries recharge faster when they are not being used. Over activity will zap my batteries faster and not give me the recharge I desire this summer. Perhaps that is the lesson I need this summer and to carry into the future. Recharging by rest and change in schedule will help me be a better parent and person now and into the future.
I invite you to share how you recharge your parenting batteries.