I pride myself on being a good mom. A mom who is strict yet loving, who is fun yet sets boundaries. But this week, I learned that while my intentions might be great, the results can somewhat vary from the intended result.
I have a condition called “summer parent guilt”. My husband and I work full time and as much as we would love to take some time off to spend a few weeks with our kids during the school break, summer is busy for us – so we compensate by making sure the kids have plenty to do.
This summer, my son was registered to try two weeks of overnight camp and then was to spend two weeks at home before his next summer camp would start. Overnight camp was a huge success (not without its trials and tribulations at the outset, yup, I cried like a babyJ). When he came home from overnight camp I started to feel guilty that I had not scheduled anything for him for the next two weeks.
My mom kept asking me what I expected he would do with his time off and quite frankly I felt bad that he would be stuck at home. So on Sunday afternoon, two days after he came home from overnight, I signed him up to a camp that would start the next morning where he would spend most of his days on a lake. The only downside was that there was a 45-minute commute each way, daily. He needed to be up at 7 am and would not get home until 5:30pm. But, he would be spending his day at a lake so how bad could life really be? Three days into camp, I found out.
We had just finished dinner and were getting ready to go visit some family when my son asked me to follow him so he could speak to me. We got cozy on his bed and he burst into tears. Crocodile tears, the saddest type of tears. Apparently he was exhausted. He felt overtired, didn’t want to do anymore activities and just wanted time to sit and relax. I was stunned. My 9-year-old who couldn’t sit still for more than five seconds needed time to relax? I looked at him at first and thought he must be nuts. He was spending his days on a lake swimming, waterskiing and kayaking (I know, sounds rough!) and here he was complaining that it was too much for him. My gut instinct? This kid is seriously spoiled.
We spent a few minutes talking during which he told me that he would be so happy if he could just rest a little. Spend a morning in his pyjamas with nowhere to go. Spend some time with us just playing some games, relaxing on the couch and snuggling. Just having some mommy and daddy time.
It occurred to me how often I feel the same way. Okay, maybe not the whole mommy and daddy time thing but how often I come back from work exhausted, wanting to get into my comfy clothes and do nothing but read a good book or snuggle in front of the TV. How often my husband and I are thrilled not to have any plans on the weekend so we can simply relax.
My conversation with my son made me realize that summer used to be very different as a child. It used to be made up of days exploring and playing. Getting together with neighborhood kids and creating our own adventures. Not regimented schedules every hour of the day so heaven forbid the child has a moment of boredom.
Don’t get me wrong, camp is an amazing experience and my kids consider themselves extremely lucky that they have the opportunity to experience it (because we often remind them just how lucky they are!) but summer for kids needs to be a break as well; a break from the early morning school schedule and the hourly scheduled activities. It should also be a time for imaginative play, creativity and, yes, boredom. Boredom can be a wonderful thing and I know many adults who wish they had the opportunity every once in a while to be bored and have absolutely nothing to do.
So how did I deal with his outburst of tears? Well, when he came home from camp yesterday, (because let’s face it, camp was paid for until Friday so he had to go) we got into our comfy clothes, got out a deck of cards and a few board games and had an evening of bonding and laughing. Nothing scheduled, no electronics – just time for him to hang out with his mommy and daddy, listen intently to his stories and love every minute of our boring time together. Next week he will be doing nothing. Nothing except bouncing up and down on a trampoline, reading, playing with his toys and hopping on a bike. Sounds like his week is going to be pretty darn perfect.
I’m kinda jealous.