By Liz Pryor, www.lizpryor.com
Regardless of who we are, where we live, what we do, and how we run our day-to day lives, the arrival of summer inevitably brings change. Good, bad, or indifferent all of us alter and adjust to summer living. For most of us, the mere idea of the season elicits some sort of visceral need to fill the newfound time. What are we to do with school hours gone, longer days, less prearranged activities and all that time? Our instinct as a society it seems, is to “fill it”. Register, plan, join, sign up, enroll… get the kids on a routine, make it active, carpool, plan, juggle and schlepp ourselves in the oh-so-familiar way we know.
Yet, we need to embrace a new mentality: Adding do-nothing to our daily to-dos. I recently helped author the Keurig® Brew Over Ice second annual “Put the World on Ice” survey, which questioned nearly 2,000 Americans about the pace of summer, what is traditionally a slower, lazier time. A large majority of respondents, more than 85% said they feel summer’s pace has changed since they were kids, with more than two thirds (67%)of Americans admitting that they will not be able to take time off to enjoy the summer months.
It’s difficult as I tackle this topic not to think about my own childhood, growing up in the Midwest. My early summers all filled with a lot of “nothing to do”, and then remembering those few month’s every year with a whole lot of nothing, as some of the best in my life.
We seem to have collectively morphed into a “doing” consumed culture. Doing’s, somehow connote achievement, success, and productivity. The question is, are you living and giving your kids the summer you feel is best? And what do you define as productivity? Are the moments you’re living connected and memorable?
If you long for some down time this summer, if you’re not afraid to watch your kids roam around the house at first like Labrador retrievers searching for something to do. If you’re willing to trust that their imaginations, like ours did, will guide them to something you could never in your adult mind have come to plan for them. Take the risk and try it! Okay it may take a few tries, but do it.
Don’t be so wary of unfilled time; covet it. We crave it, during the year; we’d pay for it around the holidays. The fact that it comes with no price in the summer is of such great value, and so often overlooked.
If your family like most, experiences the positive seduction of technology at their fingertips; when you feel brave enough, make a choice to turn off all access to all technology unless you’re working from home. Decide for at least a few half-days a week, the best time to go tech-free, and implement it. If your days are completely dependent on technology, and time is filled to the brim, start small. Turn your phone OFF and remove games, phones etc… from the kids for even just a fifteen-minute car ride to camp and then back.
If you’ve hit the middle of the summer (which is right about now) and realize you haven’t found down time for yourself, remember the oxygen mask theory. You must put yours on first to be able to assist those around you. Carve out something that brings you ease, even if it’s ten minutes a day. A rest on your bed with the i-pod on, a bath, a chapter in your favorite book, a senseless TV show, a walk around the block. Find your own re-fresh button, and hit it. It will shock you how little it takes us to recharge.
Everything we do seems to be geared around the enjoyment of our children.
Could we be giving them too much? Reach back for a moment, and remember how our parents navigated their fun around their own interests? Maybe we could try and reach more for the middle. If a day at the waterpark doesn’t appeal to you, as it doesn’t to me, plan a picnic at the park or the beach. Bring a book, write a letter, do something for you, as the kids busy themselves; everyone wins! Most importantly let them figure a way to their being busy. Plan a stay-ca-tion at home. Tell the kids you have decided that for a day or two you will do nothing that is normally on the schedule. Instead, everyone will think of something they love to do at home. Board games, the sprinkler, baking, hide and seek, bingo, Ping-Pong, dress up. Having the kids use their own minds to create joy and fun is a muscle well worth helping them work.
Life is short, and summer is an opportunity for pause, thought and connection. Try and fill yours with moments both you and your children will remember as easy and connected. Remember, give your kids the gift of taking a moment for yourself!
Dare to add “doing nothing” to your daily to-dos? Happy second half of summer!