Lots of mothers relish the last week of school and the wide-open, sun-filled days that follow. I sort of freak out. I do love summer, don’t get me wrong. The late mornings, the long days, the beach, the camping (well, a little of the camping). But the schedule disruption is still crazy-making for me. Suddenly we lose the reliability of the school rhythm: Some weeks, we have camp; other weeks, we have a different camp. There are new carpools to form, babysitting to arrange, vacation details to wrangle.
We need to balance the desire and high expectations for fun with the continuing responsibilities of work and life that don’t end in June. Did you pack the sunscreen? Oh yeah, we’re out of sunscreen — and off to the store we dash.
It’s daunting for me to think about the massively disruptive — and ultimately über-rewarding — adventures that the families in this month’s feature took on when they left home to live abroad. I get a little uncomfortable with just a change of bedtimes. But oh, if I could bottle these families’ gumption and willingness to take risks and pack that elixir in my picnic basket! What they discover by leaving their regular life and building a temporary new one in a foreign place are the kinds of lessons we all want our kids to learn.
In that vein, “Embrace disruption” is my theme for this summer. I’ll try to take a page out of the gap year families’ books, and also heed the sane advice of author and cultural guru Lenore Skenazy, who reminds us that what our kids really need is not fancy tennis lessons or structured soccer camps, but freedom. When kids are allowed free play and unstructured time, they naturally hone their interpersonal skills, develop patience and cultivate empathy. I will try to remember that on the days I’m not rushing my kids onto the camp carpool conveyer belt.
I might not be quite ready to put up the house for rent and pack my trunks for a year in Costa Rica, as most of us likely aren’t. But I can, and will, remind myself to unplug and tap into my family, to make use of the time we do have to reconnect and totally enjoy that special brand of fun only summer inspires.
And while I swing in the hammock or relax on the beach, I’ll imagine myself jetting off into the sunset on a magical gap year adventure.
A mom can dream, can’t she?