I looooooooove vacation. More to the point, I love travel. Ocean breezes soothe my stressed out mind. Exploring a new city lifts up my spirit. A long drive laid out on a road ahead of me makes me practically giddy with anticipation. Unfortunately, between scheduling conflicts with the kids’ activities and some unexpected bumps in the budget (thanks, dead trees and minivan repairs), a vacation is not in the cards for us this summer. I spent some time being cranky about it, but I have adjusted my attitude. Now, I’m excited about old-fashioned summer with my kids.
What exactly is an old-fashioned summer? I imagine we all have a little nostalgia for the summers we spent riding bikes into the dusk, catching fireflies (lightning bugs?) in Mason jars, and splashing through the sprinkler. My kids are older now though, so I have a few different things in mind.
Long, lazy days at the neighborhood pool. In eighteen years of our marriage, this will be the first summer my husband and I do not own our own private pool in the backyard. While that’s a little sad, I am so excited for my crew to have a place to hang out with all the neighborhood kids. Our local pool was my very favorite place as a kid, and I hope it will be theirs too. The pool is a perfect place to make new friends, a safe way to enjoy a bit of freedom (a lifeguard may be watching carefully, but parents probably aren’t), and of course, plenty of fresh air, fun, and exercise. If all they do this summer is hang out at the pool, I’ll be satisfied my kids’ summer was a success.
Camping. Honestly, in the past, I have liked the idea of camping more than I have actually liked camping. I have all the respect for those of you that take little people into the wilderness regularly. However, since the last time we camped, two kids have grown taller than me, and all three have gained enough skills to be truly helpful. While it’s no beach vacation, camping certainly counts as “getting away from it all”. We eliminate electronic distractions, we are surrounded by nature, and no chores nag me to do them. Whether we hike, kayak, fish, or just sit around a campfire and survive on roasted marshmallows and hot dogs all weekend, it is a win either way.
Overnight houseguests. When I was a kid, we went on very few actual vacations. I remember camping, one trip to the beach and Disney, and a spring break in Washington DC. That was it for my entire childhood. Summer was a time for visiting with family. Sometimes we would road trip to stay with family, and family would often stay a few days with us during their trips. Kids played, parents caught up, and the party lasted for days. This year, we are hosting friends from out of town at least two times. My goal is to make it like it was for me in the old days—filled with fun, relaxation, and reconnection.
A day (or more) down on the farm. During my childhood, I spent many days at my grandparents’ farm. It not only holds special memories for me, but it was also the source of things I still love today—gardening, cooking, enjoying the outdoors. While I can’t recreate that, I can give my children the chance to fall in love with a farm. For the fourth year in a row, my younger children will attend Benton Family Farm Camp in Walton, KY. There, they learn to take care of the animals, do farm chores like clean stalls, collect eggs from the chickens, go fishing, shoot archery, ride the horse, and so many other fun things that I even can’t list them all. Several farms around town offer similar experiences. Our Summer Camp guide is a good place to start your search if you want to find one.
Riding Bikes. Another thing I loved about summer when I was a kid was getting on my bike and disappearing for hours. While that makes me a little nervous now that I’m the mom, I do want my kids to enjoy the fun and freedom of a long bike ride and the satisfaction of being able to take themselves where they want to go. Thanks to cell phones, they can calm my anxiety by checking in regularly while exploring as far as their legs and wheels will take them. I still love a bike ride so I’m planning to visit some of the fabulous bike trails available to us in Cincinnati. The Loveland Bike Trail, the Little Miami Scenic Trail, and the Ohio River Trail are all perfect for a day of adventure.
Getting bored. I had no idea how quickly and dramatically the pace of our lives would quicken. It kind of takes my breath away. Despite the fact that we limit activities and only do one sport per kid, it can only be described as frantic most of the time. While I don’t have a solution, I am going to grab every opportunity to do absolutely nothing this summer. I’m going to smile serenely when my children say, “I’m bored.” I will calmly shrug when they ask for the forty-seventh time, “What are we doing today?” At least, that’s the plan. I hope they get bored and struggle to find something they like to do to fill their time. I want them to have time to figure out what they enjoy but don’t HAVE to do. Right now, one of them is upstairs teaching himself to play a song on the piano. He doesn’t take piano lessons and isn’t in any band or choir. Someone mentioned a recipe he found for a fancy dessert that he’d like to cook. I can only hope they continue being bored and fill our whole summer with more of that.