2 Week Transition (a.k.a. Adjusting to Summer Vacation Mode)
My kids’ last day of school was this past week. It was a day for celebrating all that the kids have accomplished over the last year. A day to celebrate the end of waking up early and packing lunches. A day to celebrate the end of homework (for at least a few weeks).
But what about the other emotions? Being sad to leave a beloved teacher. Saying goodbye to friends that they might only see during the school year. Or saying goodbye to friends who might be moving away over the summer. Goodbye to routines that are so engrained that they can be hard to let go.
Both of my big kids came home from school on the last day of school, not the overjoyed pair that I expected. They both walked in the door sad. And of course, I was distracted by a phone call and the electrician that had just arrived. So I wasn’t able to offer the attention that they deserved immediately and that didn’t help. But after a little bit they cheered up and are now saying that we didn’t celebrate the last day of school sufficiently. Guess our tradition of donuts on their first day of vacation didn’t count. Lol!
Beyond that first afternoon of vacation blues, I’ve noticed a trend that summer vacation usually follows. I call it the 2 Week Transition. Here is how it breaks down: First 2 Weeks after school gets out, the Last 2 Weeks prior to school starting and everything in between.
First 2 Weeks
The First 2 Weeks of being home are the hardest. It is the time that the kids seem to go withdrawals of seeing their friends on a daily basis. This transition could be relieved by consistent interaction with their friends. Even though we don’t live far from friends, their close friends don’t live in our neighborhood and have busy families too. It usually takes some coordinating to plan play dates. But even with careful planning, there just isn’t a way to recreate at home the energy and the opportunity for a variety of friends to play with that school provides.
And of course there is the school routine. For some reason, the kids seem to feel the loss of being told what to do. Now, I’m very happy to step into that roll as necessary (ha ha!). I just don’t think I should be planning every minute of their day for them. And that is what they are used to with school. There is a routine and a plan of what needs to be accomplished that day. Once summer vacation starts, that goes away. And the kids say they are bored pretty often. Thankfully, my kids are old enough to make some decisions of how to spend their time on their own now. But it seems to take them a couple weeks to feel comfortable with the slower pace and being able to be more self-directed in their activities. During this time I try to plan some play dates and think through a list of activities they can fill their times with: reading, dusting, playing ball with the dog, folding towels, coloring/activity books, cleaning their rooms. You know, all kinds of fun stuff. 😉
Of course, this transition can be lessened or delayed by the kids going to camp or if you plan a trip right away. I have also noticed this transition to a lesser degree when my kids were in preschool. Since they were used to being home more often, it wasn’t quite as big a transition as it is for my elementary age kids. And of course, when I was working outside my home and my kids were in day care or in the summer session at preschool, it wasn’t such a big deal. The world just continued as normal for them. It seems to hit elementary school kids the hardest since they are used to that daily routine at school.
And that just covered the kid’s transition into summer vacation mode! I haven’t even gotten into the mom/caregiver transition. It can be a tough transition from having the kids in school half the day to being with them 24/7. I know by the 2nd day of break I start looking forward to school starting again… just kidding, or maybe not.
This is my 4th summer being a SAHM. I’m sure there are many of you out there that have this transition thing totally in the bag. Me… I’m still working on it. I’m finding that I need to plan play dates as much for me as for the kids. I need that slight break and the opportunity to talk to another adult more than ever. My favorite times are play dates with those other moms that are my friends. While most of my kids are old enough to go to a trusted friend’s house without me, I generally like the times that I can hang out with my mom friends. Truthfully, it isn’t quite as relaxing when spending two hours with someone you haven’t met before or just don’t click with. I still have those times, but to help my mental state during this transition I try to heavy up on play dates with my friends. Luckily for me (and my kids), many of my friend’s kids are my kids’ friends!
I also try to plan in some non-kid time. A trip to the gym with the kids in child care works well. And then I take my time after my work out to stretch, maybe catch up on my Facebook feed, read a book/magazine or just enjoy the relative calm. Another great option is a trip to the grocery store without the kids (aka paradise). Normally, I do my grocery shopping on my own or with just my youngest. But over summer, boy, oh, boy does the stress factor go into overdrive when going to the grocery store with all 3 of my kids. I think I’d rather be their target for a Nerf gun war than have to shop with all three kids all the time. My other favorite non-kid time is a night out with friends. I know not everyone needs it, but I know for me it is important to have a bit of a break every once in a while and especially during this transition period.
Once that First 2 Weeks has passed, they seem to have pretty much transitioned to summer vacation mode. That doesn’t mean they still don’t want to see friends or have an option of activities available. They just seem to be able to fill the time better on their own. They start remembering all the fun things they can do now that school doesn’t occupy all their time: building forts, playing cops and robbers, playing with Legos, coloring, riding bikes, Nerf gun wars, having a picnic in the backyard, etc.
Everything In Between
The time between the first and last 2 weeks of summer break are, in my book, the glory days of summer. I, too, have slowed down and gotten into the routine of not racing out the door for school every morning. By that time I am again enjoying being with my kids and itching to do fun stuff with them. I generally try to keep costs down for summer activities and so try to utilize free options like parks, the library, etc. And of course, we’re working to check off things on this year’s Summer Bucket List.
Last 2 Weeks
But then all too soon we are approaching Back to School season. The Last 2 Weeks of summer vacation are a more conscious, planned transition time. Even though the kids would happily continue on their laid back summer ways, I need to start mentally and physically preparing them to head back to school. I slowly bring their bedtimes more into line with what we do during the school year. Not that we go crazy over the summer and let the kids stay up till midnight every night. But bedtimes usually aren’t as strict, so I start moving bedtime 5-10 minutes earlier every night or two so they get used to being in bed at a decent hour. I start waking the kids up earlier too. No more sleeping in until 8am for us! (Yes, I know we aren’t really late sleepers in our house.) But the kids still need to be up earlier during the school year so they can be ready for school in time. I also try to taper off any long days out of the house, since the kids (and I) seem to need a day to recover after a full day away. I try do all of this (sometimes with more success than others) so the kids can be fully rested for when school starts.
The second part of the Last 2 Weeks transition is preparing for school. I don’t know about you, but at our school we get a list of school supplies from the teachers with a recommended list of school supplies needed for class. Each teacher is different. So this year, since my youngest is starting Kindergarten, I’ll have 3 separate lists of school supplies to purchase. Yikes!!! On top of that is any backpack, lunch box, shoe or clothing shopping that needs to happen. And believe me, ALL the parents are out in force. Last year I ordered (totally recommend this for your sanity!) a lot of the school supplies online for delivery (check out my Jump Start list here) or in-store pick up so that I didn’t have to brave the crowds in the Back to School areas of the store. The crowds and lines reminded me of Disneyland in the peak of summer, just without the fun rides or great atmosphere.
So while we are just currently in the midst of the First 2 Weeks right now, I think with a little preparation (and lots of deep breathing) we should be able to survive the Two Week Transitions a bit more gracefully this year. And, hopefully, you will too!