Summer parenting goals versus reality: Try being present, not perfect
Welcome to summer! This is a note to all of you moms and dads who are spending your summers home with your kids. When my three boys were little, I loved our summers spent together. I was the mom who counted down the days until school let out because that would mean my boys would be with me all summer. I was excited. I was thrilled. I had well laid plans. But then life would happen and all those plans would be forgotten.
Looking back, I realize I had a fantasy going on. The schedule was too rigid; I was raising children not soldiers. Here are some of the exciting things I planned for us:
We will have well-balanced meals three times a day. I even bought some special dishes to help us with our portions. Reality: I should have bought stock in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Now the thought of that meal makes my stomach turn. I served a lot of it, and often without a side of a fruit or veggie.
We will have only healthy snacks. I had fun snack recipes to make; bananas rolled in peanut butter and wheat germ and homemade fruit roll ups. Reality: Fun-sized Snickers are a healthy snack, right?
I created chore charts. This will be the summer that my kids learn to scrub the floors. Reality: The dog cleaned the floor of all the crumbs, and that chore chart was long forgotten.
I will make homemade popsicles with only the freshest of ingredients. Reality: I bought the molds and then bought my kids store-bought popsicles. Those homemade ones are messy, and by the time my kids want one they don't want to wait a day before they are frozen.
We will make fun crafts! Using the creative right side of brains is important, I told myself. Reality: I bought the supplies and rarely used them. My boys were not crafters, and just because you have the supplies does not make them want to take a pipe cleaner and turn it into a rendition of Monet's "Water Lilies."
We will embrace the great outdoors by going camping! Reality: I hate heat and the hard ground. We went once as a family, and it was a nightmare with severe storms and tiny creatures in the water that crawled everywhere! The camping gear has been donated.
We will do daily work in these nifty workbooks I bought! I really thought it was important to keep my boys school minds going. Reality: I had years of these workbooks with only the first two or three pages completed. I have donated the nearly new workbooks.
We will go to storytime at the library and check out new books every week! Reading is important, I tell myself. Reality: We went twice and then misplaced the books and had to pay the late fees.
There will be no playing of video games, except for on rainy days. At the first sign of a sprinkle or a large ominous cloud, my boys would come running in the house to play video games. Reality: I relented and allowed more video game playing even on days of sunshine. I rationalized they were working on hand-eye coordination!
We will stay active by going on bike rides and going to the park. Spending time outside to exercise is important in the summer. Reality: We drove to the park and I packed a picnic lunch of fast food.
Looking back, if I was going to give one piece of advice it would be to be present. It really doesn't matter what your schedule looks like. If you are with your children and having fun without screens in your hands call your summer a success! I was too caught up in trying to be the perfect mother that I failed to simply relax and enjoy the summers. So, throw those summer chore charts away and grab a blanket and a few apples and head to a park! Don't try to be that perfect parent. They don't exist!
Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger is a professional organizer based out of Fargo and author of "Organizing in Simplicity: Kitchens." Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.