3 Things Our Family Learned From a Camp Free Summer

09/06/2016 09:02 pm ET

The emails were beginning to pop up in my inbox, some as early as March from summer camp programs and mom friends alike, all in an effort to schedule the summer camp season. I hemmed and hawed not committing to anything. I politely avoided making any plans, thinking I would have to schedule some camp time at some point. But I just never got around to it.

Then I asked my boys a question that I didn’t exactly know the answer to. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Jackson is 8 and Asher is 7. They are thick as thieves and if they can will usually choose to be together rather than not. (Praying they will always be close.) So I asked the question, “would you like to skip summer camp this year and just hang out with me?” There was a resounding “stay at home with you!”  “Okay,” I said, “this is gonna be great.” Actually, even though I was super excited I was also a little concerned, how will I work (granted I’m an independent contractor, so I do have lots of flexibility, but there are some commitments I cannot change. I’m lucky though, my dad babysits and the boys love it, it just means nine holes of golf with papa, who beats them every time) Probably, my most significant concern though, what are we going to do all summer? But we made the decision and I was unwavering.

The very first thing we did is ask the boys what activities they would like to pursue over the summer. They talked about playing soccer, baseball and golf as well as playing in a summer basketball league. I talked about continuing guitar. They added in lots of play dates and cousin sleep overs. I came back with just hanging out at home and planning a vacation. They said they were in! I followed up with a summer reading mandate: every day. They didn’t love that suggestion, but they agreed.

So now that summer has come to an end and back-to-school is in full swing, I look fondly on our summer together. It was a great summer, filled with love, joy, down-time, friendship, travel, play and yes, even some boredom, but that was always eventually allayed.

I am also filled with gratitude for a summer that was calm. We enjoyed our days, some were filled with early mornings through late nights, met with exhaustion. And others were just sleepy. Not a care in the world did we have. Kind of like the summers I had as a kid. So here’s what we learned, as a family.

 

We learned how to slow down:  The way it usually works in our family is that I not only make the schedule and keep us on track, but I verbally announce the schedule for any given day or week to my boys. Lots of times they will ask, “can you go over the schedule again?” They want to know what we’re doing. (It’s a teacher tool I learned years ago, it helps children understand what their day will look like so they can have a voice in it as well as feel secure.) So as we would schedule our days, we would have large gaps in between say a play date, playing golf, and reading. Those gaps of down time we found to be glorious. We could just be. We had nothing scheduled. Sometimes down time was just that, lazy time, watching a movie. But slowing down also led us to do things we really enjoyed, cooking up concoctions together (not everything was always eatable) and reading chapter books together, in bed, in the middle of the day. Don’t get me wrong, there was some iPad usage, but not a lot. In fact, for two weeks the familyiPad remained in my car, out of juice and the boys couldn’t care less. I will never feel afraid to slow down again. It’s a good thing, a really good thing!

 

I learned how to step back and they learned they are more capable than they think: When you have two boys at home all day long, sometimes fights can break out. In some instances, literally every other minute or so. But there are also those times when they can play together for hours, not asking for a thing. What I learned is that I don’t have to be involved in every single squabble or heated discussion. I let them hash it out. I didn’t just jump in. I couldn’t. Deadlines kept me from it. Sometimes I just had to focus and concentrate on the task in front of me. They were forced to work it out without me. It’s a lesson that I will continue to incorporate into our daily lives, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. It’s my gift to me and my gift to them.

My kids still grew and stretched their minds, so did I: I was a little concerned that I might be wasting three months to develop their brain more or give them the summer experience we are all now very accustomed to. But instead, my concern was short lived. I saw so many new ways for my kids to learn in an unstructured way. Yes, they had guitar, golf and even math tutoring in July once a week, but it was very low key. They did things that made them happy. They did things that they were interested in. Most importantly, they made lots of choices for themselves because they had to figure out how they wanted to spend their summer. They learned so much, only at a summer’s like pace.

I now find myself a little melancholy, I will miss my ‘tiny’ and ‘big.’ I know I probably sound nuts. I am happy that school is back in session, like most parents out there. It’s just I got used to our summer routine. But we do have the summer of 2016 now forever in our memories. A summer just for us.

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