These days, there’s so much pressure to keep our kids active, entertained and engaged during the summer. But don’t underestimate the invaluable impact there is… in just being with you.
“I feel so guilty.”
It was 10:15 on a Wednesday. I was sitting on a plush couch on my friend’s backyard patio, and she’d just told me her deep, dark secret.
“I only took the kids to do one fun thing this week. Everything else was errands.”
The comment surprised me.
Not because my dear friend took her kids on errands.
But because she felt bad about it.
The thing is, Kris is one of the most creative, hands-on moms I know.
On a given day, she’ll pack up a picnic with her kids and go to the park. Or take them to the local children’s museum. Or the aquarium.
She plans fun activities with her kids with as much zeal as she did when she first became a stay-at-home mom. And unlike me, she hasn’t gotten lazy in the years since deciding to stay home with her kids. (Because. You know. Over time, you slowly lose the drive to do fun activities with the kids and find yourself doing the same park playdates with the kids, over and over. Or just staying home more. Yes, I’ve gotten lazy. I wish I hadn’t but I have. Because it’s easier. And getting 3 kids out the door is killing me and generally averages 2 hours. Sorry, I digress.)
Anyway, Kris is just great at getting her kids out of the house, doing new things and engaging with them. And even if they’re home, Kris is baking cookies with them, or playing some fun, imaginative game.
Kris an inspiration to me. (Because 9 times out of 10, when I’m at home with my kids, I throw on Disney Junior to just get a few minutes to myself. I’m working on it.)
I look up to her.
So it made me sad that, in that moment, she was so hard on herself.
And I couldn’t let her go there.
“Kris, you have got to give yourself a break! You are an amazing mom! Your kids have it so good. They are so lucky. They’re lucky you’re there at all. To take them to the store, the dry cleaners, the post office. Just being with you is the most amazing thing of all. All those little moments in the car, even if you’re going on boring errands, are so invaluable to their lives.”
Her face relaxed. I hope my words encouraged her, if even in a small way. Because she is amazing. And her kids, I needed to remind her, have it good.
But I couldn’t help but think about how much pressure we put on ourselves to keep our kids entertained. And occupied. And busy.
Especially now that it’s summer.
We continued the conversation, and eventually found ourselves comparing our kids’ lives to our childhoods.
We didn’t have annual passes to the children’s museum and the aquarium, like our kids do now. We were lucky if we went to Disney once every several years, and that was a huge deal.
We didn’t get to go out for frozen yogurt on a random weeknight, just because. Our most exciting dessert was getting chocolate cake on Dad’s birthday.
We didn’t go to the public splash pad in the summer. We camped out at home, waking up at 11am, watching TV and being lazy.
And you know what?
There was absolutely nothing wrong with it.
The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with… well, just doing nothing.
With letting kids rest.
With no activities.
And no entertainment.
And no schedule.
Just letting them be. (And just letting yourself be, too.)
Of course, there are wonderful learning opportunities out there, all summer long, and if that’s your jam, rock on.
But, if you can’t do that, for whatever reason, please, don’t beat yourself up.
Do me a favor and just give yourself a break.
Because your kids are just fine.
Sure, they’d benefit from summer camp. But they also benefit from you being there when they wake up, looking into their eyes and asking what they dreamt about.
Sure, your kids would benefit from a special trip to their favorite restaurant. But they also benefit from an impromptu cooking lesson in your own kitchen. It doesn’t matter if it’s mac n’ cheese or the most fancy organic lunch on the menu.
Sure, your kids would benefit from a trip to the aquarium. But they also benefit from reading their favorite fish book while they’re nestled in your arms.
And even if you’re not able to be there as much as you’d like, your kids benefit from knowing that you love them. That you are you.
Your kids don’t need science camp and gymnastics and swimming lessons as much as they just need you.
All those things are great.
But you are their ultimate teacher.
So, give yourself some credit.
And, don’t feel bad for lugging them to Target this week. Or the DMV. Or your OB appointment.
Where ever they go, they are with their most favorite person of all.