My boys wrapped up their spring semester last week, both college kids and my high schooler. My high school son even finished 2 weeks earlier than scheduled. Awesome! No more classes, zoom calls, papers, or finals. Textbooks are returned and summer can begin. Wonderful!
However, within 1 hour of one child’s last final, he turned to me and said, “I’m bored.”
I stopped in my tracks. Saying those words to a mother who has been quarantined with all her boys and her husband 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for more than 2 months, was a very dangerous if not stupid thing to do.
l paused, took a deep breath while choosing my words carefully, and snorted, “It’s going to be a loooooong summer for you, Boo-Boo!”
But the truth is, it is going to be a long summer for me too if I don’t give some serious thought to his statement.
WHEN THEY WERE YOUNG
When the boys were young, they preferred sitting around and watching cartoons or playing on their Game Boy all day. (Honestly, not much has changed… well, maybe the Game Boy part… but give them Netflix and their laptop and they’d disappear for hours.) So, the teacher in me stepped up.
During the summer I used to structure their day with various ‘centers’ around the house. These included a blocks/Lego area, a library area, an art, and Play-Do center and, of course, a computer center. They would get 30 minutes in each center, then rotate. Each day also had a different theme or activity. We had Music Mondays, Tech Tuesdays, (which meant we’d watch a movie) Wacky Wednesday, (think science experiments), Kids in the Kitchen Thursday, and Field trip Friday. We’d also have PE and ‘recess’ every day!
While this took some preplanning on my part, it helped manage our day in micro chunks. It bought me some sanity, (sometimes in the form of peace and quiet, sometimes in the form of a glass of wine), and it was a better alternative to losing them to screen time.
NOW THAT THEY ARE OLDER
Whether our older and ‘wiser’ kids know it or not, they still need structure. Heck, I need structure too! But it’s been a challenge. Hours have turned into days, which have turned into weeks, which have stretched into months with no end in sight to the blur that is 2020.
Even though they aren’t little kids, filling their day with a variety of activities holds the same benefit now as it did when they were younger. They can still create, build, and read something, practice an instrument, cook a meal, and have recess/PE for 30 minutes each day.
I’m confident by now they’ve mastered hand-eye coordination skills, (thanks to video games). So maybe it’s time to focus on other areas: occupational and financial skills, (get a job), domestic skills, (do some chores), creative and intellectual, (practice your instrument and read a book), and spiritual dimensions, (volunteer, meditate, pray).
I don’t schedule their time anymore, but we have discussed all of this, and what they can do to keep from being bored this summer. While on the receiving end of some eye rolls, the resistance hasn’t been too bad yet.
SOME HITS, SOME MISSES
2 of the 3 boys have applied for multiple jobs. One already has an interview. The youngest wants to be more of an entrepreneur and offer a neighborhood pet watching and plant watering service. You know, for all those vacations people are planning to take this summer.
We’ve all started incorporating regular workouts, (some of us more than others). But it’s a start. We’ve also encouraged recess, without much success. So instead, family recess included washing the cars, spreading mulch, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and cleaning the fire pit area. Funny how all of a sudden balling out with the bros doesn’t sound too bad.
The other day I gave my boys a chore to complete — clean your room. Now, “clean your room” to me involves, dusting, vacuuming, picking up and putting away all the crap on the floor, emptying the trash can, wiping down the bathroom counters and sink, cleaning the toilet, and maybe even spraying a little air freshener. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Not even close. We need to work on this a bit.
I’m not holding my breath that a book will be read or a symphony composed, and it’s not likely we’ll be busting out the Play-do anytime soon. We did, however, complete a scavenger hunt, told stories around a bonfire, and hiked to the top of a mountain. All of these required some teamwork, a bit of imagination, and a dose of determination.
This summer is sure to look and feel different than ever before. There are still restrictions, guidelines, and precautions in effect, and will likely be for some time. But with a game plan in place, it could end up being one of our best summers yet. Especially with that glass of wine on hand!