Ah, summer and part-time custody.
If you’ve got a blended family like ours, chances are summers toss a few curveballs over home plate. Or at the very least, over home itself.
I guess that’s generically true for any family — but for blended families in particular, scheduling takes an interesting twist.
Our twist isn’t very extreme. We only have two full (non-adjacent) weeks where the kiddos are with us instead of at their mom’s. I’ve heard of stepparents whose stepkids spend the entire summer at their house, or alternate one week on, one week off.
We don’t have either of those scenarios.
Which, as usual, has both good and bad sides.
The primary downside is that we try to shove a whole summer’s worth of STUFF into the two weeks the kids are with us.
However, I guess that means the upside is we get a chance to really plan it all out and make an effort to be intentional over a short period of time?
Yeah, let’s go with that.
Being intentional with our time. That’s something most adults can probably use a little more work with, in any area of our lives, not just being Adults With Kids.
But these two weeks for us are a microcosm of that, of having a definite beginning and end point, and being deliberate about what we’re going to do with the space in between.
Yes, I realize it’s summer, and the ideal we’re supposed to cater to is the whole “lazy days of summer” concept.
Which, to a degree, we do. The kids aren’t signed up for any camps or programs or scheduled activities. The entire summer is pretty darn open-ended.
But what do “open-ended” and “lazy days” actually look like? When you have an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old, they don’t spend hours lazing about lying on a hammock reading a book, or relaxing in the pool on a floaty, or chilling on the beach quietly building sand castles.
If we let them, they’d spend those “lazing-about” hours — playing video games and watching YouTube.
So it’s up to We The Adults to provide some structure. And that requires some intentional forethought.
Otherwise before we know it, our two weeks will be gone, and the kids will have spent way too much time in front of the Xbox. It isn’t like the glorified “good old days” which would have us living in a neighborhood overflowing with similarly-aged kids where our two minions can go out and ramble til the sun goes down and it’s time for dinner.
That would be nice, but it isn’t how our particular lives work.
If we want the kids to hang out with other kids, we have to set up the dates. That isn’t up to the kids; that’s on us. We have to bring the kids together, because they don’t live right near each other.
If we want the kids to accomplish something this summer, we have to start them thinking about a goal. Make a stop-motion video. Run a 5K. Learn how to play chess or soccer. Sew a stuffed animal. Read an entire chapter book. Write a non-chapter book. Whatever they choose, but we can get them started.
If we want the kids to learn a thing, we have to plan for that. Helping build a deck, for instance. Or climbing an actual mountain. Or exploring entrepreneurship with a lemonade stand.
So I’m trying to go into this week (which is Week 1) with a plan! Or at least, some general guidelines my husband and I want to hit.
We don’t have to be super strict. We’re not trying to outlaw all ramblings and spontaneity. We’re not even trying to eliminate boredom, because that has its place, too.
But even though it’s summer, we still want the kids to grow as human beings.
And unless we set out a goal now at the beginning, we won’t magically hit it somewhere along the way. The kids’ friends aren’t going to magically appear on our doorstep unless we intentionally invite them over. The children won’t magically get through summer reading if we don’t intentionally go to the library to get their books. They won’t magically be ready for soccer in the fall if we don’t intentionally encourage them to go outside and run around.
I’m trying to be more intentional, at least in some small ways. Life (and summer!) is what you make it, right?
Originally published in The Herald News on June 30, 2019.