“This summer is going to be different!”
“You say that every year,” said my husband from behind his laptop.
“Yeah, but this year I mean it!”
In the months leading up to June, every year I vow to myself that “this time, things will be different!” I promise myself that I will plan out my son’s schedule better. I will spend time with him, but also be ultra-productive at work. The garden will be perfect, I will make beautiful meals each night. Friends will drop by to chat in the evening, at which time I will produce Pinterest-worthy munchies and cocktails. And I will not be stressed or feel guilty, not one bit.
The truth is, summer gets completely crazy and out of control every single year, usually by the second week of June. My work-life-home balance goes right out the window as I rush to keep up with my child’s ever-changing schedule, work, my aging mom, guests, family trips — and still find time to get a haircut so I don’t look like a Wookie by July. (Full disclosure: I had a Wookie haircut in the 90s. I thought I looked great.)
To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with summer. The one season when everyone is supposed to be light and carefree seems to be the most stressful time of year for me. Part of this, I know, is lack of planning on my part. I should get my calendar out in March to start making the summer go more smoothly, but somehow I never seem to find the time to do that.
One of the great benefits of being in your 40s (there should be some, right?) is that you are better able to accept who you are. Lately I have come to terms with the fact that I am just not the kind of parent who plans everything out — though I truly admire those of you who do. No, I am more the fly-by-the-seat kind of mom who hopes there is still room in the day camp her son wants to attend. (Note: Must check on that tonight!) I am the kind of person who says, “Sure, come and visit–the more the merrier. Hope you don’t mind sleeping on the top bunk.” (Though I am getting smarter in my old age and now try to have at least one week in between groups of guests who come to visit us in Maine, aka “Vacationland.”)
So yeah, I am not a planner — I know this about myself. Since that’s probably not going to change, this summer I am vowing to do it differently. This summer, I am going to keep my wishes simpler. I am going to focus on love — loving my family and also being a little more compassionate toward myself, too. To that end, here are 5 promises I’m making to myself, right here and now:
1. I will spend at least one afternoon a week with my 10-year-old son doing whatever he wants. (This will no doubt involve a trip to our local mosquito-infested pond to catch frogs and turtles– his current version of heaven on earth.)
2. I will make time for the friends and family who I love and who “fill me up” — rather than the ones who give me that churn-y, anxious, “not-good-enough” feeling. (I will try to avoid the latter.)
3. I will carve out time with my husband at least once a week — for coffee, a date night, or just a walk after dinner.
4. I will not worry when the grass doesn’t get mowed and when the weeds take over.
5. I will let go of having a clean house. If there are dishes in the sink and the beds aren’t made when someone comes over, it’s not the end of the world. Just like with your kid’s room, you can always shut the door.
So that’s it. Wish me luck. And let me know — what are you doing to make the summer go more smoothly for you and your kids? How will you be compassionate toward yourself and spend time with the ones you love? Please share and post your own promises here — I’d love to hear them.
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.