Can you believe it’s already almost May? Where has the year gone?
With only eighteen and a half days of school left, I’m suddenly wondering what I’ll do to keep my daughter occupied over the next three months. As a stay at home Mom, I do feel it’s my duty (and privilege) to be the social & activities director of the summer. Since she’s twelve and has an intense fondness for screens, I’m faced with the dubious task of finding other entertainment that gets her out of her room and into the world around her.
I could try my old go-to’s, but the reality is that we’ve both outgrown them. When your child is small, you go to the zoo, and the park, and your in that head-space where you can face the expectation of doing those things endlessly because that’s just what you do when you have little ones. Now that we’re nearly in the teen years, the park isn’t at all alluring to her and I’ve come to readily admit that I don’t actually like the zoo. (The smell!)
Every year as summer nears I’ve vowed to keep my daughter learning throughout the break. I’ve gone into it armed with a library reading program, a math program, and numerous educational field trips planned. Do you know how much of that actually pans out? I’m ashamed to admit it, but very little. (Am I alone?)
It seems that just as my daughter finds it refreshing to wake up and wing it without a redundant schedule, I do too. We both relish in the lazy mornings, and try not to make plans too far out, lest we change our fickle minds. Whereas I’m inclined to feel like this is bad parenting, I’m suddenly wondering: Is it? We all deserve a little R & R. We all like vacations and this is, after all, Summer Vacation…but on the other hand, this lack of structure does nothing to keep her sharp and mentally focused for when school starts again in August.
So there it is. We won’t be visiting the park. We likely won’t go to the zoo. My dream would be to laze about in the shade on the back patio, each with a delicious book in our hands. No screens in sight, no sounds…just relaxing time spent together. But will my near-teen child agree to this? In reality, possibly for twenty minutes one time a week, but then what? Camps are excessively expensive, and public pools are often over-crowded and, quite frankly, gross. Our local pool doesn’t even have lounge chairs, and I’ll be honest, I’m too old to lay on a towel on top of the cement. Call me a spoiled princess and I’d have to agree…but I put my food down on this.
So, aside from the other obvious choices, (amusement parks, movies, sleepovers) here are some of my anti-screen, and mostly (with the exception of two) anti-schedule ideas:
- Volunteer. Find a cause she’s interested in and give our time one day a week.
- Try classes or lessons in something totally new. Something she hasn’t done before but could dip her toes into over the summer. (Golf? Dance? Acting?)
- Set a day aside once a week and have her wake up and pick a field trip destination. Maybe if SHE planned the excursions, she’d hold me to actually following through?
- Teach her how to clean the house! Once a week have a cleaning day. She learns how to clean…and I have cheap labor. (Win!)
- Learn to sew. We do have a sewing machine, so maybe it would be fun to dust it off and learn how to use it. I may be being a little bit aggressive with this one, but hey, it could happen.
- Take regular walks. I sure could benefit from a little more movement, and maybe this would get us up and moving in the morning?
- Give in to TV on rainy days (which never happens in Southern California…wait, wasn’t there a song about that?) and pick some classic movies to watch. You know, those movies that everyone spanning generations can discuss? (Gone With the Wind, for instance.) I’ve never gotten into old movies, so this could be beneficial for both of us!
- Learn to cook. My daughter can be a very selective eater. She likes what she likes, how she likes it. For example, chicken breast is fine on it’s own, but you stick it in chicken noodle soup and she wants absolutely nothing to do with it. However, we have found over the years that if she helps make something, she’s much more likely to eat it. Maybe now that she’s old enough to use the stove/oven, she can set out to learn a few new recipes. Maybe she can make dinner once a week? (Win, again!!)
- Write a book. I know this sounds potentially ridiculous, but why can’t she write a story geared towards younger kids, complete with artwork? It would certainly keep her busy, and give her a goal. Will it be published? Who knows, but if you never try, you have no chance and what’s wrong with dreaming big?
- Let her enjoy (haha) the same boredom that I endured as a child before the days of screens. From boredom comes creativity and sometimes it’s ok to just stare at the wall and think.
Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear your ideas too!
Actress, writer, and Mom living in Burbank, California.