Avoiding kid related pain

The art of life is the art of avoiding pain; and he is the best pilot, who steers clearest of the rocks and shoals with which it is beset.

–Thomas Jefferson

This week has been Spring Break from school and at our house that means that I go from dealing with one child all day long to dealing with three.  Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids and it’s great to spend time with them.  That being said, the little one and I have our schedules and ways of doing things and having three home instead of one changes that.  Plus the weather is getting warmer and we can be out in it more.  I like to think of this week as a sample of what summer is going to bring.

Here’s what I learned this week: 1) No one is really interested in Rest Time.  At almost 9, 6, and 3, they feel they are far too big to have something called rest time.   2) For every super fun morning experience I plan for them, I need to plan an equally engaging afternoon plan or it all devolves into massive amounts of screen time (computer, Wii, iPhone, TV).  3) The more people I involve in these plans, the better.

So how do I avoid spending each and every afternoon totally wiped out (as I’ve done this week)?  That’s where all the planning comes in.  I know, it’s only March, but around here if you don’t have a plan set in stone by May 1st, you may as well kiss summer fun goodbye.

So yesterday I spent part of my dead-on-the-couch time calling around all the swim places in town to see about pricing.  Our one and only non-membership-required pool is a) on the bad side of town and b) overcrowded beyond words.  I can’t handle that.  I’m willing to give up my one day a week of MDO in the summer to have a summer pool membership.  Two of my three kids swim well and the third one does okay as long as he has floaties and a mommy who watches (and with my anxiety issues, I watch like a hawk).  The second part of this plan involves my mom friends that also have pool memberships.  I found out this week that it is far less exhausting to take three kids to the zoo or the science place or the park if I have other moms to help supervise (I knew this, really I did, but it’s so easy to forget after winter & all that sick time).  So we’re going to really make plans this summer to make sure that I’m not at the pool on my own.

Another part of my plan involves VBS (Vacation Bible School) and camps and family vacation time.  Our church doesn’t do VBS, but we live in a town where you can’t go a block without seeing a church, so I know that there are plenty.  The kids are always being asked by some friend or other to come to VBS, so this summer we’re going to take some of them up on it.    One kid is going away to church camp and one kid is going to a cub scout day camp (where I have to follow him around the entire week, but they have childcare for my other kid).  My husband is taking a week of his vacation time over the summer so we can do a family trip around Texas, exploring places we’ve never take the kids before.

The last part of my plan involves something I do every summer, which I like to call Theme Days.  I do a lot of preparation for this, but the gist of it is that for each non-camp, non-swim lesson, non-VBS, non-vacation day of summer, I plan a craft, two snacks, two activities, a few worksheets, a few interesting books, and some songs all according to a theme.  Themes that were big hits in past summers: volcano day, National Tailor’s Day, Medieval Day, etc.  You can look up summer months on my regular blog and see what all we do.  We usually discuss the day over breakfast, spend the first few hours of the day outside, come inside & do worksheets & music & reading while it’s too hot out, then go back out for another activity & some art in the late afternoon.  Last year I took a lot of ideas out my oldest sons Cub Scout book of Academics & Sports activities, so we could kill two birds with one stone.  We’ll probably do that again this year, as my middle child will be starting scouts over the summer.  The important part here is coming inside when it gets too hot.  I am really susceptible to heat exhaustion and my meds say to avoid sunlight, so we do stuff inside for a while so I don’t pass out.  These days are also really fun if you invite people over to share in them.  The other moms appreciate my planning and the kids get more excited when they can share happy fun times with their friends.

All of that is well and good and makes the summer go, but I think there’s one more thing to be aware of: not feeling guilty when you have to ditch your plans and just let the kids have a screen-filled day.    Sometimes this happens.  Sometimes it even happens twice in one week (but that’s where our love of Netflix Instant Streaming comes in).  A little TV or time planning their own games is not going to kill them.  In fact, my kids like planning their own games.  I let them browse the web, find a new-to-them game, and away they go (earlier this week it was four square, which I played nearly daily for 10 years, but never taught my kids to play).