I try to ignore the gargantuan corn on the cob, molded in plastic that floats above my head. As I stand in line at Target, I can almost feel it stirring up there, threatening to drop from the wires that suspend it from the ceiling. I take a few steps forward to get out from under it and then notice the enormous sunglasses—as big as a kayak—that hang from the ceiling twenty yards from the corn. (Are these decorations meant to deliver panic attacks to customers? Or is that just me?)
Summer is here with its bright, ordinary pleasures. I savor the break from packing lunches, unpacking backpacks, and keeping my kids on task in their schoolwork. I relish the sound of a Cubs game on the radio, the buzz of a lawnmower, the warble of the ice cream truck as it winds around town, playing tunes as crazily varied as “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “The Entertainer.” Fresh corn on the cob. Catching fireflies.
Summer, though, has been less about Popsicles and the smell of freshly mown grass for me the last few years. Now that they are older and I’ve become a full-fledged “working mom,” it’s been more about driving my kids to activities, coordinating babysitters, and trying to get my work done in as few hours a day as I can. But I want this summer to be different. I want summer to be a restorative time for myself, as well as for my kids.
Author Carla Barnhill grapples with the same issues. “I am trying to keep our calendar low on plans and high on free time,” Barnhill wrote on her blog. “That has meant a lot of saying no, something that doesn’t come naturally for me but that I find to be terrifically rewarding.”
Barnhill says no to camps or lessons that span over more than a week and activities that require most of the family to be observers, such as one child’s baseball games. She also keeps one day a week completely free of commitments. Her good ideas inspired me to come up with some strategies of my own. As much as possible, I register my kids for activities that they can do together. I make a schedule of working hours and force myself to clock out when the kids tromp in from camps, caddying, or an outing with the sitter. I wander around the library and check out books I wouldn’t normally choose. An Ethiopian cookbook. A book on reducing clutter. One on contemplative prayer. I want to be intentional about being present with my kids, and about making summer a restorative time for myself, too.
What are you doing to relax and be present this summer? In what ways are you connecting with your family and with God’s creation? Share your ideas here.
If you missed our June 11 program with Jennifer on Midday Connection, you can listen to it on our website.
Jennifer Grant is the author of Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter and MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family. Find her online at jennifergrant.com.