Summer is a great time of year for parents — no school, homework, or projects to monitor, and no report cards to review. You get a little reprieve from the stress of keeping so many of your kid’s balls in the air. Right?
Well, not completely. For many, summer is filled with its own challenges. Structuring a week without the routine of school can be complicated. Working parents need to figure out where their kids can go and how to get them there. Stay-at-home parents look for fun activities, but they also have to fulfill their everyday responsibilities
Dinner-time, bed-time, play-time, and individual down time are all affected by the arrival of summer. Older kids look forward to longer days, later nights, sleeping in, and chilling out — not exactly a schedule parents feel comfortable with. Summer offers many wonderful opportunities to relax. But you may also find yourself even more concerned about where your kids are and what they’re doing. The demands of parenting aren’t seasonal.
Providing children with a secure home base has huge implications. Your ability to be thoughtfully present in your kid’s life is vital to their developing feelings of confidence and an overall trust in the world as a safe place. Whether they’re in school, at camp, home alone or at a friend’s house, these responsibilities of parenthood don’t change.
Children also need their parents to be good role models, provide structure, and set reasonable limits. What makes this so difficult is kids don’t know that they need these things. They have their own agendas. “It’s summer, why can’t I stay out late?” Or, “There’s nothing to do here. Everyone is going to the mall.” They will pressure you over and over to give in, change your mind, and compromise on what you think is right.
Another problem you’ll run into is you won’t always be sure what’s right. You want them to have fun and fit in. But you also want them to be safe and stay away from trouble. Being consistent under the barrage of their daily requests isn’t as clear cut as parenting books suggest or as you may have imagined when they were little and didn’t ask for very much.
Plus, in addition to understanding and explaining the ups and downs of growing up, you have to bear their anger when you do say, “No.” Inevitably, you get tired and don’t feel up to these seemingly never-ending tasks of parenting.
So eventually, your best self doesn’t prevail. You say the wrong thing. You want to be left alone. You also get your feelings hurt when you want to spend time with your kids but they aren’t that interested in spending time with you. Family life is messy. Your expectations aren’t always realized. Parenthood sometimes feels unfair and burdensome regardless of how much your children were wanted and are loved. This is parenthood!
Good naturedly managing the particulars of family life takes dedication and emotional generosity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were simple solutions to the pressing challenges of parenthood? Tried and true rules you could follow that would help you know when to say yes and when to stick with no. Anything simple and straight forward that would help you feel less overwhelmed when you’re confused would be a appreciated, I’m sure.
Conscientious parenting is a deeply rewarding experience, but there isn’t anything simple about it. Sometimes parenting will knock your socks off! Not because you are a bad or inadequate parent, but because this is the nature of parenting.
The good news is that inside these trying times are meaningful opportunities. They’re a chance to attend to your family’s emotional development. Slowing down allows you to think about what’s happening, to consider why you feel the way you do, and to figure out what you might need to feel better or make the right decision.
Summer is a great time to take stock of things. Is home an emotionally safe place for everyone? Are you teaching your kids to be critical and judgmental or interested in themselves and in the world around them? Are feelings respected or ridiculed?
And what about you? Are you taking care of yourself – not by going to the gym – but by working on your most important relationships? Have you known that you need help but have been afraid to seek it out? These questions are tough and uncomfortable to think about. Nevertheless, how will you become the parent you dreamed you would one day be if you sidestep them?