This week officially kicks off our summer vacation! My kids are both elated and scared—elated to be done with early mornings and rushed evenings; scared to lose touch with close friends and favorite teachers. I’ve been working on connecting with parents of friends and getting teachers’ addresses so we can all stay in touch.
Even as we start winding down from the hectic school year, the summer schedule is ramping up. We have VBS, swim lessons, a California trip (or two), and even a surgery for good measure. There were more opportunities for adventure, but my spouse and I agreed not to over-schedule ourselves.
Here are our family’s top three priorities for summer:
#1: Time to rest
Shortly after moving to Texas, I met a lady who was originally from South Africa. As we discussed vacations, she remarked, “Americans just don’t know how to rest. They take vacations to work on their houses, or try to cram too much stuff into their trips. No wonder they are always tired!”
There is a lot of truth in this, especially for parents. Sometimes I don’t even want to go anywhere because it would be far more restful to stay home than to spend a week cleaning and preparing for a vacation.
Exhaustion often leads to short-tempers and damaging habits. Intentional rest allows us to perform at our best.
Be more intentional about your busy time and your rest time.
Make time for reading—especially the scriptures. Make time for sleeping. Set aside quiet days for your children to simply be children. In our house, we do “quiet time” after lunch for about forty-five minutes. I set the kitchen timer and we all go into separate rooms either to rest or do some quiet activity. It’s amazing how this small chunk of time reduces bickering and fighting. When the children were smaller, this used to coincide with nap time. I would read quietly in their room until they drifted off to sleep.
#2: Time for friends
My daughter is concerned about losing her best friend because of the long vacation. I’ve already connected with her friend’s parents and we are determined to get them together as often as we can. This wouldn’t be possible if we had scheduled all the free time out of our summer.
Life-long relationships don’t develop by accident. I have a handful of friends from my childhood, and it grew from spending time together. We got bored together. We chatted for hours together. Sometimes we just sat around watching movies, but we did it together. Coordinating schedules may be a little inconvenient, but good friendship is worth it!
#3: Time for family
During the school year, the bulk of our time was spent in transition from one place to the next. There were only snatches of time to visit, read, or play. As you plan vacations abroad or staycations at home, be intentional about quality family time. Go on individual “dates” with your children. If your prayer and bible reading fell off the tracks during the school year, this is a great opportunity to restart. Use camping trips as an opportunity to disconnect from the world and reconnect over campfires and trail hikes.
One of my close friends sat down with her children and worked on making a family bucket list of small summer activities. Their list included camping in the backyard, sending paper hugs, and learning to play flashlight tag. Your bucket list doesn’t have to include theme parks—create some homespun fun together!
Last year, another friend made a list of service activities for her kids. She dubbed it “Summer of Service” and it included picking up trash at the beach, helping out at the animal shelter, making cards for the elderly, and bringing cookies to firemen. Her goal was to teach them not to be selfish with their time, but to take time for both leisure and service.
We only get so many summers with our children. Let’s set an example of moderation for our children by being prayerful and intentional about our commitments. Ask the Lord to guide you as you make your summer plans so that both you and your children will be refreshed for the approaching school year. Above all, remind them that every season should be used to focus on the Lord who blesses us both in work and in rest.
Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com