When life seems to be going so fast that I feel I can barely catch my breath, its usually a hint that we’re too busy. I’ve said yes to too many things, albeit good things. As Greg McKeown claims in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, there are trade-offs. When I say yes to something, I’m saying no to something else. If I say yes to activities and events every day, I’m saying no to having time at home, when my kids can play uninterruptedly for hours and build grand play houses and have adventures that a little down time can lead too.
After the busyness of May, with school ending and then a week of travel, we’ve stayed home the last couple of days. My children certainly do their fair share of arguing and fussing with each other, but after a couple busier weeks, they have played better than the days when we were dashing here and there. Its like they need the time to get started playing and see where it goes. And I’m not quick to rush in when they’re bored. When they’ve been bored a few minutes and face the fact that mom (or dad) isn’t going to find something quick to entertain them, usually their most creative ideas strike and then they’re off on that whim. I just love that freedom that comes with days of summer.
How often do we long for summer days throughout the year, only to have it pass by faster than anything? Its true that time flies when you’re having fun and summer is and should be about fun. But are there things we can do to slow it down? Can we stretch out those days of longer sunlight? Can we relish the days of sweaty kids who smell like sunshine?
Here’s five ways to keep summer simple.
Resist the Urge to Go. This is probably one of the hardest for me. I’m a people person and love being out with a crowd, but I’ve also come to see that having some time at home is good for all of us. Not to mention the time that going somewhere takes up. I try to plan errands all for one day, so that I don’t feel like there’s something I need to go do every day. We plan some outings through the week, like the library or an event like ballet in the park. But as for staying home, we read, we put up a kiddie pool (even my oldest still loves it), we do some crafts, we explore our backyard and neighborhood. And often, I just tell them to “go play” and let them have that freedom.
Explore Your Local Area. This may sounds like it goes against, the first one of staying home more, but I’m not saying to stay home all the time. There are times when we need an outing. There are also summers when we couldn’t go away on vacation, but stayed home. While its easy to find generic entertainment at the cheap movies, or a water park, consider exploring your local area. Museums, children’s theatre groups, parks and hiking trails. One perk I love about exploring locally, is that usually there’s not the excessive consumeristic messages. Many times these events are supported by small local businesses and it can make even a big city feel a little more small town-isn by getting to know and learn about some of these places.
Allow Boredom. I mentioned it earlier, but I’ve learned to not be so quick to find something for my kids when they say they’re bored. When they push through that wall, they often find something glorious to make or do. If you need to give suggestions, my top two are to read a book and to go outside and try to discover something.
Relish Nature. There’s nothing quite like a few minutes spent in nature. When I’m in the woods or sitting by a pond time seems to slow. I slow my thoughts, I think about my breathing, I say a prayer. I realize how small I am. Its good for me. Its also good for my kids in so many ways. Their senses are stimulated and sharpened with smells and sounds not found inside. Their curiosity is piqued with the array of new things seen. Their knowledge increases with each new thing we find and their wisdom grows as they see facts of life played out in finding a dead thing or the wilting of a flower they picked a few minutes earlier. So whether a few minutes spent in your back yard or a trip to a local park, get outdoors.
Eating and Cooking Fresh, Real Foods. Though not convenient, cooking and eating fresh and real foods slows us down. It makes us mindful of how we care for our bodies. We are also giving a boost to our local farmers and artisans (if you can find bread and cheeses). We have a small garden in our backyard and we all love picking and eating from it, knowing that we helped it grow. Plus, I love to see my kids running around snacking on sugar snap peas right off the vine.
Though summer has begun, its never too late to take a few moments to consider what you want this summer to look like. Keep that thought in mind as you go through your days. There are always places to go and things to do and people to see. Consider the pace you want and choose your yeses carefully. But most of all, soak up every moment and have a wonderful summer!