coffeeWhether you love or hate summer vacation, I have news for you: If your kids are under 13, ENJOY it.  Clip out the newspaper’s “Things to do this Summer”. Bundle your kids up in jammies for movies in the park.  Drop them off at  all the vacation Bible schools you can find to get through it, but ENJOY it. I know it’s mind numbing. But they’re not teens. When they’re teens, you will want to spend time with them and the rules of summer break change.

Here’s a preview.

Week 1 – Sleep- in’s, sleep -over’s, no set bed time. Generally, this is 2am bedtime, and 11am wake time. Lunch is optional. Dinner is set after the last You Tube video of base jumping is finished. You’ll want to give them a break for working so hard in school all year. You offer total freedom.

Week 2 – The lawn gets mowed. You begin to second guess if total freedom now feels like taking-advantage. You have no clue. You want fun, peace, and for them to like you.

Week 3 – Used to be all vacation Bible schools available in the area. Now, your ONLY fall back is  either family vacation or a camp of some sort. Although they don’t get up until 11am, you’ve been up since 8am. Summer is wasting away. After all they are only here for another 3 years (or less!). Take rest of the week to figure out if this is going to be the summer of discovering the greatest brownie recipe or the most fun place to do freerunning. Quickly mark off brownie recipe.

Week 4- The lawn gets mowed. Sigh of relief that it’s 4th of July weekend– enjoy a picnic or fireworks. It’s not even halfway through the summer. Ask if they want to read a book, play Monopoly, or challenge an adult to any 80’s song in Rock Band. Listen to “No”. To everything.

Week 5 – Looking for teenage vacation Bible schools, places they can volunteer, give in to guilt of a “wasted” summer. Give up on museums, zoos, or concerts because you can not physically pile them into the car and you can’t think of a bribe. You stay home or find a community pool, or taunt yourself with being the worst mother alive because it’s a “boring summer vacation.”

Week 6 – Decide you’re not going down in loads of mother guilt and put an end to limitless freedom. Rise. Put a limit on ALL screens (2 hours a day). Demand they go outside to play (while confiscating phones they are trying to take outside with them). Lock the door for 45 min. so you can have a minute to think. Enforce a bedtime this week – 11pm this year. Rise up. After all, next week is camp.

Week 7- The childhood stage of free or low cost day camps (vacation Bible school, YMCA, etc.)  is grossly taken for granted until you don’t have them. The camps for teens know what they’re in for and charge accordingly. But God bless them. You too will send your son to a surf camp. Yep. “Don’t let the stingrays get you buddy” and off he goes. Think you could never do that? Wait until you’ve been home for six weeks with no schedule, no routine, guilt beyond reason, and trance music dominating every wave of motion. Yes, you will.

Week 8–  You’ll miss him/them from camp, and remain in the “I rise” state.  You will find local events, happenings, volunteering opportunities and line them up for the next week or two. Everything from an art museum “Come on, we’ve never seen this exhibit before ” to “The cafe is having a barista contest. I know you don’t know how to make pictures in foam, it’s for us to see what OTHERS are doing. I’ll buy you a snack.” You’ll bribe. You’ll engage. You will be mother and this summer will be awesome, dang it.

Week 9– This week every friend they know will be out of town at the same time. Happens. Every. Year.  Even if these people already went on vacation in June, they’ll go again this week. Bank on it. Continue the summer cultural foray. “I know you don’t want to go to the park. I want us to look at the history this time – because you know, Dad is from the south and I’m from the North and it gives an interesting history of our country. I’ll buy you a snack.” And the signature never-fail-place “Today you have your choice – the natural history museum we’ve never been to or the Farmer’s market?”  Yes. You hand on a silver platter  stories they will tell their therapist one day.

Week 10– Tired from the mental and physical energy of motivating teens to do anything but stare at a screen, you will give up. Here’s your new script: “I’m working upstairs see you at 3pm.” At least someone is out of bed.   You will have no idea what they will be doing on the internet,  trust implicitly the wifi security locks, and check the history later. You will tell yourself it’s okay. Bedtime is a useless theory. They probably won’t leave the house. You will get the groceries because they don’t drive yet. If they do drive, they won’t want to get the groceries.  Family summer swagger is in full force.

Week 11-On Wednesday this week, wake up realizing school starts in five days. Begin madly dashing for clothes, backpacks, health physicals, and haircuts. It all happens in four days because you’re an overachiever.

Week 12 – School starts. Face the mom guilt of did-I-do-enough, was it memorable, oh gosh! this was the only 15 year old summer I had, maybe we needed to go to Disney one last time… Hope to God school doesn’t start on a PMS week or at least have the back to school survival kit ready: tissues, any Pat Benetar song, chocolate, and the photos you took all summer long that prove you rocked it. You rose.

So, if you’re chasing your seven year-old at the pool with sunscreen, or taking your six and eight year-old to the children’s museum again, or sitting at the library with your five year-old for another read-along, know that I’ll be thinking of you. Envying you. Wishing we could trade places, because you might enjoy the break, and I might enjoy the chaos because a) I’ll know it won’t last and b) I know where the best vacation Bible schools are for the next three weeks.