“There are no rules in summer, right, Mommy?” This question came from my 6-year-old, The Professor, as we munched on our Subway sandwiches after school.
The question gave me pause. Now, we are not necessarily a household overflowing with rules. If anything, I may need to step up the regulations around this place – things have a tendency to get off course and a little too loosey-goosey around here. Yet, there are definitely laws of the land, and with summer vacation starting in a few hours, it makes sense that my little soon-to-be-first-grader would have questions about how summer will compare with the school year.
“Well, lovebug, there are definitely fewer rules,” I said with a smile. “We still have to eat at the dinner table, and brush our teeth every day, but some things will be a little different.”
“Like what?” He looked at me with thoughtful eyes.
“We won’t be in such a rush all the time, buddy.” I said, without thinking. I don’t even know where the thought stemmed from, yet it seemed crystal clear all of a sudden. “I won’t be nagging you to hurry up, or yelling at you that we have to leave. We can relax a lot more. We can take our time. We can just have fun.”
The Professor nodded in agreement, as if that sounded pretty good to him, while his 4-year-old brother said, “And we’ll go to Thomasland? And to Target on allowance days?” Just like that, the two of them ended the conversation in favor of a discussion about Limited Edition “Cars 3” Ooshies and I was left with my thoughts about what I had just said.
We can relax a lot more in the summer. It’s true. We can take our time. We don’t have to rush to school or to extra-curricular activities. We can take an extra ten minutes to finish breakfast or read a whole “Magic School Bus” book, sidebars and all. I won’t be so stressed out about getting everyone in bed by a certain time so they aren’t disasters the next day. I won’t be a nag.
But … do I ever have to be a nag?
Why can’t we have a relaxed life, rather than just a relaxed summer?
I’ve always felt an enormous amount of self-inflicted pressure to do things with my days. I have often lamented that there isn’t enough time or I don’t have enough hands to truly do things the way I want to … in other words, I’ve whined about not being able to be perfect. I may not always admit that I’m a perfectionist, and sometimes I’ve bragged about it being a good thing, but perfectionism is a sneaky thing. That little voice that tells me, no matter what I’m doing, that I could do more or be better, often impedes me from the happy, fulfilling life I truly crave – and blocks the relaxed, joyful childhood I most definitely want to give my children.
Everyone is given the same 24 hours a day – it’s the fairest thing in the world. Most of us humans are given two hands, though some don’t even have that. My problem is not that I don’t have enough time or enough hands, it’s that I often try to do too much. While ambition as a character trait is certainly laudable, it can also be destructive, especially when what is so often in the center of its path of destruction is a relationship.
Summer is a great season of reflection and relaxation. It’s true that there is a slower tempo to summer in general. Yet, it’s not necessarily true that we don’t have to rush or hurry to anything. Most people still have jobs to go to and kids to drop off at a certain time, and even with a stay-at-home parent on duty, we have appointments and soccer camps and airplanes to catch. There are still schedules. We still need food and sleep and a few rules to keep things running smoothly.
It’s not that we don’t have things to rush to. It’s just that my attitude will be different. And my attitude is something that is entirely, 100% under my control. If I can have a relaxed and stress-free attitude during the summer, I can have it all the time.
So why don’t I?
I made a rule for our summer break: We are not going to be in such a rush all the time. Instead of applying this rule only to summer break, I’m choosing right now to use the summer as our practice time. We’re going to practice relaxing this summer, and continue that spirit of serenity as the rest of our lives unfold. Because this rule is one that is definitely worth keeping forever.
“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” ~Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes