In one of my favorite 80’s movies, One Crazy Summer, John Cusack plays the role of a character named Hoops McCann. The movie opens up with Hoops and his friend, George, graduating from high school. With no plans for the summer, George invites Hoops to go with him and his sister to the island of Nantucket to spend the summer.
Shortly after they arrive in Nantucket, where George’s grandmother and uncle live, George and Hoops go down to the local store where George’s friend, Ack Ack, works. When George and Hoops enter into the store, Ack Ack’s father, who owns the store, greets them by saying, “Another wasted summer, huh boys?”
Recent conversations with many parents whose children are just getting out of school for the summer, made me think back to this part of the movie. One parent I talked to was dreading having her kids home for the summer. From her viewpoint, it’s easier when they are all in school and she doesn’t have to worry about what to do with them all day for the next couple months.
She can already hear complaints from the kids saying they are bored. Trying to motivate them to stay outside for more than a few minutes (“it’s too hot out”) becomes a dreaded chore. Figuring out how to keep the kids from fighting and arguing is a full-time job.
This mom is not the only parent thinking this. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of parents who send their kids to school feel this way when the kids are home all day, every day for the next 2-3 months. Instead of seeing it as a blessing to spend time with their children (which they will never get back), and as an opportunity to teach their children, work side by side with their children, take fun field trips, have sporadic picnics at the park, etc., they see it is a burden.
But I want to encourage you, if you are this parent, who is dreading the next few months of having your children at home all day, every day, to change your way of thinking. Instead of dreading the next few months, I want you to think about how you only get 18 of these summers before your child starts going off on their own. When you are tempted to be overburdened or even annoyed at the daily grind, here are a few things to think about this summer:
- Time is limited. As a parent, you are fully aware that time flies by faster and faster each year. I’ve never once heard someone on their death bed wishing that they wouldn’t have had so much time with their children, have you? If anything, we all know the opposite is true. Most parents, who now have adult children, tell me to cherish each day with my little ones because it goes so fast.
- Create high expectations. When Ack Acks’ father said “Another wasted summer, huh boys?” he was suggesting that they would just waste away another summer by doing nothing productive. I think many parents take this approach with their children in the summer. One mom was telling me that her two teenage sons don’t get up before 1 p.m. in the summer. When they finally do roll out of bed, she said they watch movies all day. Why do they do this? Because this parent literally has no expectations for her sons. (Please remember parents, you are also raising up a future husband, wife, mother, father, and worker…. Whatever habits and expectations are formed in these early years will go with them in their future roles in life, whatever they may be.)
- Create Real Time Memories
That’s not to say there may not be long days when your children are driving you nuts. But when you pull back the camera and look at the big picture, these moments will come and go and will most likely be forgotten. You and your children will remember the memories that you created. The time you let them have a water balloon fight in their PJ’s while eating donuts will be something they will talk about later in life.
I’m not saying you have to run a boot camp at home (though some of you may want to give it a try), but create expectations for your kids. Have them help around the house. I’ve heard parents complain that their children won’t help around the house. Whose fault is that?
Make a daily chore list that they have to accomplish before they can go play with the neighbor kids. Make a summer reading list for each child and give them a reward for completing it all. If your child is an athlete or musician, challenge them to practice so much time or each day. Challenge them to memorize the books of the Bible and Scripture. Challenge them to memorize Sir Francis Drakes prayer (when my nephew was only 3-years-old he was able to do this).
When we were growing up, my Dad left each of us kids a chore list that we had to accomplish each day. It would have everything from weeding the garden to reading a chapter in a book to shooting 200 basketball shots. Not only did we understand that we were expected to get our chores done, but it taught us how to set and achieve goals. To this day all of us kids make lists for ourselves to help us accomplish what we need to get done.
Your children will rise to whatever expectation you set for them. Don’t cheat them by having little or no expectation of them. Set the bar high and they will rise to it (and they will thank you for it later in life).
What do I mean by this? It doesn’t take much to see how much technology has consumed us. But this is especially true with children and teenagers. Video games, movies and Facebook have replaced reality.
I had a conversation with a 13-year-old boy who literally couldn’t think outside of the video game world that he was allowed to be consumed by. He actually got visibly upset when I tried to tell him it was just a game and didn’t mean anything in the real world.
So what I’m suggesting is, shut off the video games, the computers, the I-pads, and cell phones and create family memories. Will your kids complain at first? Of course they will. But who cares.
Go for a family hike. Take a day trip to a museum. Go to a sporting event. Visit your local historical places. Volunteer at the local nursing home together. Bake cookies and give them to your neighbors. Offer to help an elderly neighbor with yard work. Babysit for an overwhelmed mother who could use a break. Plant a garden and donate the food to a food pantry.
Be spontaneous. Go enjoy a donut together. Have a water fight. Turn the music up. The house will always need to be cleaned. Laundry will always need to be done. But your kids won’t always be there. Enjoy them while you can!