Monday, May 16, 2011

The Unreasonable Expectations We Put On Ourselves

A few weeks ago, we had to sit the kids down and warn them in advance that this summer was going to suck.  There weren't going to be lots of fun camps and classes, there weren't going to be expensive leagues to join and things to do. 

We'd be going to the pool and the library, the parks and the free events in town. 

So much for the promises that we made them last year about how awesome this summer was going to be. 

We're tapped out.  Spent a not-so-small fortune in all the trips we made back and forth across the country to see my father, then to get everyone out there for the services after he passed.  Then there is the matter of the most expensive three week long trip ever, the story of which begins here.  As if the fact that it happened during Christmastime wasn't enough. 

There's not much left to do anything extra. 

I felt bad about that for a while.  Really, I did.  The kids have had summers filled with camps and craft clubs and music lessons and swim teams.  They know how much stuff they can do.  They see what their friends do. 

Then I realized how ridiculous it all is and stopped feeling so bad about it.

I stopped apologizing to my children.

How ridiculous are we all as parents? 

How many completely unnecessary things do we deem necessary?

How high do we set the expectations we put on ourselves to be "good" parents?

How much do we push ourselves to make things perfect for them?

Kids don't need expensive craft camps to be happy.  They just need some finger paint or a few rolls of tape.

For the price that $250/week LEGO camp cost, you could buy a ton of LEGOs to keep all the time.

They don't need to join expensive swimming teams to get wet.  Give them a hose and see what happens in the backyard.

They don't need to go away to overnight camp to have a good childhood.  Plenty of us never went, yet somehow we survived.

I need, we all need, to stop believing that we can make our kid's lives better by paying someone else to entertain them for a few hours. 

We need to stop thinking that the only path to raising successful adults is filled with perfectly balanced schedules of enrichment. 

We need to stop.

Kids need time to just be kids.  They need time to play with their friends outside of these activities.  To just play.

They need time to build forts and go on nature hikes and chase each other with the hose in the backyard. 

They also need to know what downtime is.  What boredom is like.  How to occupy themselves quietly for hours at a time.  They need to read.  To draw.  To lay on their backs in the grass and find things in the clouds. 

We need to stop believing that we need to entertain them all the time. 

I don't want to start sounding like the crotchety old fart that I really am, but it's the truth.  When we were kids, how many of us had carefully scripted summer vacations?  How many of our parents made sure that our programs didn't overlap or leave too many gaps?  How many of our parents spent every day in the car shuttling us all over town every day for three months?

I'd bet not too many.  I know this because while I was home bored all summer, my friends were there with me.  They weren't hard to plan play dates with because of their schedules.  They were bored too. 

I'm hoping that there are at least a few people out there who will understand what I mean.  I'm hoping my kids might have friends around this summer who aren't always busy. 

Because we won't be.

We'll be hanging out at the pool.  We'll be playing in the backyard.  We'll be at the park.  We'll be reading every afternoon.  We'll be having fun chasing each other with the hose rather than focusing on who needs to go where when.

This summer isn't going to suck. 

In fact, it just might be what we all need right about now.


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