Today is the last day of school in our home and it’s a very exciting day! The entire summer is ahead of us, lazy days, swimming, picnics, day trips and play dates. I can’t help but think back to summer when I was young and how wonderful it felt to know I didn’t have any real responsibility for months. I used to ride my bike to the local village store and buy candy and gum and then head home to watch TV or swim in the lake we lived on. I want my own kids to feel like summer is special and easy but we don’t live near a village store and I work full time and don’t have the luxury of planning lazy, summer days with my kids.
Whether you’re a stay at home parent or a working parent, summer is fun and challenging at the same time. Its so nice to not have to make lunches, pack backpacks, sign daily behavior logs and make sure homework is done. If you work, you may still be doing these things for summer programs for your kids if you still have to get to work on time – though, it usually feels a little more relaxed as you just have to focus on your own responsibilities and less on your kid’s.
In our home summer means hanging out. I let my kids indulge in the pleasure of ‘just being home.’ When asked what they want to do they say “hang out at home.” When I suggest going to the beach, an outing, a hike or some other ‘fun’ activity I get protests of “Mommmm, we just want to stay home.” I don’t mind letting them stay home and do nothing but, nothing turns into hours of time on their devices for music, gaming, Youtube, random apps, etc. and worse, toys all over the house, games on the tables, and dishes building up on every flat surface in the house!
For those of us who are ‘neat freaks’ (read anxious), having toys, games and stuff strewn around the house is a set up for stress and something very different than lighthearted summer fun!
Being home with kids is a lot of work! Did anyone see the article that came out a few weeks ago saying that if a stay at home parent earned an income it would be more than $160,000 a year?! Being home with kids when you are coping with anxiety is about constantly managing your own stress and irritation with the mess.
Whether its Duplos Blocks and Little People, trucks, Matchbox cars and Mr. Potato Head’s parts, or LOL dolls and LPS figurines, toys are everywhere! Crayons and markers manage to roll under the couch, Go-gurt is drying on the counter, and if your kids like art, glitter and playdough mange to show up on the toilet seats.
I can’t stand toys laying around! It makes me uncomfortable, cranky, tired and just plain unmotivated. I feel like I should walk around bent over or crawling because I’m always picking something up. Even when my kids finally got to the point that they could do some of this themselves, I’m still living among toys and stuff because the kids’ need to play freely and have their toys and activities ready to go is more important than my need for a clean house….to a point anyway.
I don’t believe that kids should pull every toy out and move from one to the next without cleaning up the ones they are done with, however, when you child has an elaborate Little People Town set up with airport and fire house and school and they want to play with it for a few days because they are lost in their own imaginative world -well, we have to tolerate that and let them keep that toy out until it loses its spark. For a child, being able to pick up where they left off later that day or the next morning is critical. That town they created (or art project, puzzle, dance routine, etc.) is as important as your effort to wrap up a project at work, clean out the garage, watch a movie in its entirety (or write a blog😉). Can you imagine having to start fresh every time you were able to make your way back to it? It would be awful! Our children are able to play deeply and passionately in their imaginative play or activities. They feel valued and supported when we set them up for success in the things they love and for a young child that is play!
This summer, when we are home more with our kids, with less structured time, let them just hang out a bit. Let them take out their toys, leave them out until they lose their lustre and breath deeply as you navigate the Legos, the caps to markers and Nerf darts that are the landmines of a happy child’s home.
If the anxiety of a messy house gets to you and you must clean up (like me), talk with your kids about a ‘clean up schedule’ and expectations for their toys. Maybe twice a week you have a family clean up time or teach them to push the little pieces to one area so you don’t impale yourself walking around or limit art projects to one area. Get creative. Youre allowed to clean up if you need to for your mental health, just try not to let your cleaning up disrupt their summer play.
Good luck! Ill need it too!