Well, it's sneaking up on us and soon will be here - summer break. It's so much fun to be past that enormous onus (hey, alliteration!) and just enjoying summer for what it is, fun; but for actively practicing parents, what a rush of activities!
When the kids were preschoolers, summer just blended into the rest of the year. I was a stay-at-home mom and didn't veer too much from our normal schedule. We planned our vacations around John's work schedule and traveled off-season. Once the kids were grade school veterans, I branched off a little and started taking classes at the local University, volunteered in the community, and eventually returned to the work place.
Sometime in 1993, with Peter 11 and Roger 9, I returned to work full time. Initially, both boys went to after-school care during the school year. This wasn't too bad, since my husband and I could flex our schedules a little to accommodate a minimum of day-care exposure. But ultimately, summer would roll around, and we'd be scrambling to keep things lively and interesting for the boys.
We'd look out into our community for educational opportunities for the kids. In Portland, Oregon, where we lived at the time, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) would host summer classes in areas where kids didn't always get stimulation in school. There were classes in computers, animation, etc. that my boys could enjoy. There were Boy Scout day camps, overnight camps, and the usual short term programs at the different community centers (YMCA) to consider.
Getting the boys involved in one of these programs was a major scheduling coup. John and I would have to juggle our work schedules to accommodate these activities. I saved vacation time during the school year to handle time off in the summer. On my "vacation" days, I'd drive kids from one activity to another. John would use flex time to do a driving duty in the mornings and I would reciprocate in the afternoons (or vice versa). During the years I worked full time, our schedule was a crazy quilt!
We used a large calendar white board to handle which person was doing what. When John traveled, I was a solo parent and seeing John's 'down' time was good for all of us, we kept outside activities at a minimum during these times. That board was a fixture on our refrigerator for at least 8 years. Talk about project management - parenting of school age children is a PhD program.
We soon became realistic and began limiting our kids organized summer activities. It is possible to over-schedule a child, and that isn't pretty for the parent, either. As both boys got older, they started staying home alone during the day and were given chores to accomplish during the day. Peter was a great little helper at home while Roger went to day care in the early years. Strict rules were set for socialization (no buddies over when we were at work etc.). Fortunately, the internet was just bubbling on the back burner and we didn't have to worry (much) about on-line relationships.
MS is a great equalizer in parenting, and eventually I had to slow down to part-time work if I was to be competent at both home and work. This did free up a significant amount of time for John to re-dedicate himself to work. By the time Peter was a senior in high school, I'd stopped working completely and was still able to function efficiently as a parent. This would not have happened without my husband's participation, both as a soldering co-parent AND as a primary breadwinner.
It is the end of May, and in weeks, you'll be hearing "I'm so boooooooooored" from your kids. This will happen whether or not you are working outside the home. So get busy, start scheduling, and accept the fact that when kids move into the school years, things change. Their world is bigger than their own backyard, and depending on the activity and the child's individual interests and development, this is a good thing.
I think this is a good time for a Super Power. It's the ability to empathize quietly. When the kid-let informs you that life isn't rising to his/her high expectations, reach into your memory and recount the boring summers you had, how you berry-picked for school clothes, how you walked to the bus that took you to the berry fields. Then bite your tongue. In no time at all, these years will be over and you all will have moved on. And someday, your kid will be telling his kids that in his day, all he had was the internet, Boy Scout camp, and a DVD player.