Are You Having Fun With Your Kids This Summer?

This summer has been very unique for me. Fourteen of my last sixteen summers were spent, in some capacity, traveling and working summer camps. Those summers were memorable and life-changing, but they were also hard work and busy!

This summer I had one goal and one goal only for all my “free time” now that I’m off the road: to have lots of fun with my family!

I told my husband just this week that if he ever thinks to himself, “I wonder if my wife and daughter would like to go to the pool today?” . . . The answer is YES! Always, yes!

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At the beach in June. Fun!

I know as parents, we can grow so weary. Trust me, I know. Most days, I’m up at 5:45, at work by 7:30, picking Abigail up at 4:45, then we’re home to help cook dinner (I say help because let’s face it, I do about 25% of the actual cooking in our house), clean, do laundry, give a bath and somewhere in there I’ve got to try to work in exercise, time with my husband, time with friends, time in the Word . . . Whew! We’re exhausted. When is the fun supposed to happen again?

I’ve taken on a new philosophy this summer. In non-summer mode, I think our house generally stays pretty clean. On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being Martha Stewart and 1 being Obama just called in FEMA) I think we usually land somewhere around a 6 or 7. Hey dust bunnies, I see you. But the things are picked up and in their places, the dishes are done, most laundry is put away, the kitchen counter is wiped down and the bed even gets made most days (Thanks husband!). Enter summer. I think this month our standard level of clean has dropped to about a 4. Why? Because I hate being in a messy house and my kid loves to be outside, so what do you think we choose to do? Since I work, my hours in the day with Abigail are already short. Too short. I could spend those hours cleaning. Or I could spend them running, swinging, chasing, swimming and eating ice cream with my daughter. I’ll clean my house again, for real, in September.

Listen, I know summer can be stressful. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Well, guess what? In the summer, the days are longer. Longer! There are already days in the dead of winter where bedtime can’t come fast enough. Now the days are longer! What if the days being long wasn’t a bad thing? What if instead of seeing this as more time to “fill”, we saw this as more time to have fun? To enjoy our kids. To play and do crazy things – things we wouldn’t normally do when the sun goes down at 4:30 (Seriously, what’s up with that Middle Tennessee?).

I felt like I had a choice to make. I could choose to stick with my normal routine of coming home, cooking, cleaning, bathing, and putting to bed by 8:15 sharp. Or I can choose to sweep the dust bunnies under the rug and take full advantage of this magical thing called summer with all it’s warmth and extra long days and sunshine.

We chose fun. We bought fresh peaches at the farmer’s market. We swam. And swam and swam. We stayed up way past our bedtime. To watch fireworks and eat ice cream.

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

On several occasions, I have rushed home from work and thrown a random assortment of food items in a bag to head to the park for a picnic. Our child has gone down a slide no less than three hundred times. We got very dirty and very sweaty. We brought a lot of that dirt into the house. It did not all get swept away promptly. We survived.

We’re doing more than surviving though. We are having fun! We are enjoying each other’s company and laughing and making lots of memories. (Oh hey, and bonus: all that running and swimming and playing has burned quite a few extra calories!) (One other side note: I certainly don’t think it is a parent’s responsibility to entertain their children all day, every day. I’m not talking about entertaining. I’m just talking about getting out of your routine and getting the most out of summer with your kids. Or friends, or other significant people in your life, if you’re not a parent.)

I think this is what a child's knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

I think this is what a child’s knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

What about you? Are you enjoying your summer? Are you occasionally forsaking normal household responsibilities to play outside in the sun or have a picnic or take a walk? Don’t just send your kids outside to play. You, parent; you need to have fun too! With your kids! It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. The possibilities are endless. The days are long. But they won’t stay that way. Cooler weather is just around the corner. Schedules and bedtimes and regular bath times will all fall into place again. (Okay, maybe not overnight, but they will.)

The days are long, but summer is short. Make time to enjoy the precious people God has placed in your life. Make memories. Have fun.

Precious Moments (and we’re not talking little pastel colored figurines)

Well, I actually am going to talk about those little figurines for a minute. I’ll go ahead and admit that I own exactly one. It’s a nativity scene with a child kneeling beside the manger looking at baby Jesus. Maybe he’s giving a gift to baby Jesus? Anyway, it was a gift from Michael’s great-grandmother Alice who owns approximately 273 of the little figurines (give or take). I do faithfully take it out every year at Christmas and this year it looked pretty cute on the shelf in Abigail’s room, I must say.

If you’re not familiar with these little statues of smiling cherubs, here’s the deal. There are thousands of them to choose from. They are intended to commemorate special times in your life or the life of your child or perhaps represent some special interest or hobby. So you could find a little statue of a small boy fishing with his dad or a girl going off to school for the first time. You can choose from children building a snowman, skipping girls holding baskets or a boy throwing a football. And then you’ve got your major life events like graduation, marriage, first baby, anniversaries and so on. Since Abigail is coming up on her first birthday in just a few weeks, this particular one made me laugh out loud today:

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Why is this funny? Because this moment will never happen. There is no way that Abigail will ever sit that close to her cake without diving in with both hands unless mom and dad are literally holding her arms behind her back. And then she might just stick her face right in it. Yes, it’s sweet and cute. Just not realistic. This one is a little better although if you’ve seen Abigail eat this kid is still about ten times cleaner:

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Of course, there’s nothing at all wrong with these adorable little porcelain friends. They commemorate important moments in life that we want to remember! But when I think about what they represent, I can’t help but think that those types of “precious moments” can be few and far between. Birthdays are significant, but they happen once a year. Learning to ride a bike is a milestone but there’s a lot of life on either side of that day. Bringing home a baby from the hospital is one of the single most life-changing events there is – but it’s still just one day of thousands and it comes and goes surprisingly fast. You’ll have about 6,570 more of those days just by the time they turn 18.

I’ll admit, I’m often tempted to gauge life by what major milestone Abigail is accomplishing and then try to rush her on to the next one. You’re rolling over, great, now let’s start crawling. You’ve started eating finger foods and like peas and corn ok, let’s try steak! (This is real life.) Ok, you’ve been playing around with this walking thing for three weeks now, let’s take some serious steps! Hurry up and turn one year old so we can please stop buying expensive formula!

But then I have times like Sunday afternoon where it’s just us at the house and she’s eating black beans and corn (and, ok, maybe french fries too) and she’s loving every minute of it and waving her arms in the air after every bite. And we laugh and she throws corn at Amos the dog and then smiles at me because she knows she did something she’s not supposed to do. And that is a truly precious moment. And that is what makes up the bulk of our days. Eating, giving baths, reading books, picking up toys, playing with the dog, cleaning up after dinner, changing diapers…This is what we do day in and day out. It’s not glamorous. It probably doesn’t deserve a commemorative porcelain figurine. But it’s how we spend our days. And it’s precious.

So when I’m tempted to rush through to the next “big” thing, I’m choosing to slow down and enjoy each moment. Like changing the imminent diaper containing certified nuclear waste after the black bean and corn dinner. Maybe that’s a moment that Michael needs to enjoy…