3+ME: Do’s and don’ts of stepparent staycationing

It’s good to have goals.

It’s also good to learn from, uh, messing up on those goals every once in a while. (Or if you’re ambitious, possibly more than once in a while.)

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about being intentional about our time with the kiddos this summer. Meaning: deliberately planning priorities, and not just letting the days “waste away.”

Then I had a week of staycationing with the kids and my husband, and I tried to live up to that goal I’d set for myself.

Because I wanted to Do All The Things with the kids:

  • Invite their friends over to hang out.
  • Have them choose a summer project.
  • Help them learn something new.

In general terms, those were my plans for Week 1 of vacation (Week 2 hasn’t happened yet — we get the kids for two non-consecutive weeks each summer). Let’s investigate how those plans panned out, shall we?

When you’ve actually exhausted your ever-energetic stepkids, you may have gone too far.

1. Invite the kids’ friends over.

We barely ever have other kids over at our house, so I was determined (DETERMINED, I TELL YOU) to make this happen.

And actually, this one worked.

I invited people over. Oh yes. There were people.

Saturday, it was my husband’s mom and sister for a tag sale.

Sunday, it was my husband’s friend (who’s like an uncle to the kiddos) to help us finish constructing our deck.

Also on Sunday, it was my friend and her son, to go to the trampoline park.

Monday, it was my stepson’s friend, for a hike and a sleepover.

Tuesday, it was an entire family whom we haven’t seen since last summer, for a game night.

“And tomorrow, we get to see Nana and Papa!” I told my stepdaughter Tuesday afternoon.

“That’s tomorrow already?” she asked. “Wow. We’ve seen a lot of people!”

That was when I realized I may have overdone it.

Because yes, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we did go see my family (including more kids) for the Fourth of July.

And then the week was done.

I’d planned All The Socializations — and surprisingly, I met my goal!

But maybe next time, I could space things out a little more. When Friday rolled around and we told the kids we had nothing planned, both of them expressed exhausted relief and happiness at the prospect of doing nothing.

2. Have the kids set a summer project for themselves.

This was a complete failure. (Blunt enough?)

As a goal, it sounded awesome in my head. But saying it out loud, and getting the kids on board with it? Significantly less awesome.

I mentioned it in passing, and when neither kid jumped on it, I just let it slide.

My bad? Maybe.

Failure? Definitely.

Lesson? To misquote Yoda: Do or do not; there is no half-hearted-ness when it comes to stepparenting.

3. Help them learn something new.

This was a mixed bag. Week 2 is still on the horizon, and I still have hopes of getting the kids to climb an actual mountain (which was one of my plans).

Another plan had been to have them help build the deck. That didn’t happen at all.

My third plan, though, had been to encourage them in running a lemonade stand, which my stepson had mentioned he’d wanted to do.

And that one could absolutely not have gone better.

My stepson was excited to run the endeavor, and my stepdaughter tagged along with selling cookies.

(My stepson even asked me to draw his cat character, Swooshes, and his sister’s cat, Sparkles, on the sign! Which completely made my day, let me tell you.)

They set up their stand at their grandma’s tag sale.

And a steady stream of people poured in.

Really, I was amazed at how many showed up.

My stepdaughter called out to customers, inviting them over; her brother took care of the production end, filling lemonade cups; together they figured out money and change.

Several hot hours later, both kids had gotten great experience interacting with customers, and also learning how much work actually goes into earning money.

It was a good learning experience for them — and the week was a good learning experience for me.

Every vacation — every day, really — is an experiment to see what works, what doesn’t, and what can be tweaked for next time.

We’ll experiment again tomorrow.

Originally published in The Herald News on July 14, 2019.

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