Summer is a season of rich afternoons and lazy mornings. It brings watermelons, peaches, cherries, nectarines, and other edible treats that are more precious than gold in their fleeting nature, their short season, their supreme deliciousness. Summer brings with it endless nostalgia of our own childhoods spent poolside, riverside, lakeside, beachside—memories of melting popsicles, road trips with mom and dad, bicycling with friends into the slow sunset.
Summer brings excitement to the hearts of our children. There is the inimitable countdown to the last day of school, and the vastness of summer vacation as it looms before their tiny eyes. And for us, too, it brings big opportunity: the chance to help shape their own nostalgia; memories filled with summer fruit, icy treats, adventure, and wide open days.
This is a wonderful time to slow down, if you can. Summer always moves fast and sometimes, especially as we get older, it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Set an intention to abandon some things, like certain errands or self-imposed deadlines that are mostly, actually unimportant. Take a break from lessons and classes for the children, and free up your schedule in other ways, as much as you can. Say "no" to invitations. Sleep in. Turn off the alarms and the telephones. Allow for slow, lazy mornings filled with casual breakfasts—like melons eaten with a spoon, bowls full of berries, and family-made pancakes. Let your evenings be easy. Stay late at the pool or the creek and make something simple for dinner. Let them eat only bread, cheese, and tomatoes, and call it a meal. Let movies be more okay more often. Pile your whole family in the living room and watch two movies in a row, and feed everyone popcorn for dinner. Let the children run around in their pajamas longer; avoid the car as much and as often as you can. Tune up your bicycles. Remind the children they can walk places, if they're old enough.
When I was a kid, my mom took us to the library with a canvas bag that seemed, at the time, enormous. I couldn’t believe she could carry it. There, each summer, my brother and I signed up for the summer reading program and then we filled the bag to the brim with books. All summer I read in every corner of the house, as well as on the porch, in the hammock, and at the pool. Even then, it felt so luxurious to know that I could read as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. (When I grew up, my mother passed the giant canvas bag on to me. Though it was certainly big, it was only average, and a flitting moment of sadness took over as I realized it was not unthinkably large after all).
As part of the relaxing protocol, consider chilling out a bit on the electronics rules. Don’t worry about it as much—give yourself a break on stressing about it. Your kids will be okay in the end. They will still grow up well, and smart, and loving. Maybe adjust the rules so they’re more accommodating, and remind yourself that a well-loved child will grow up wonderfully, even if he or she disappears down the e-rabbit hole (much to our dismay) at times. When I was younger, in the 1980s, my best friend and her sister were allowed to watch TV and movies whenever they wanted. It was like a dreamland at their house. They were also allowed to eat Kraft macaroni and cheese and Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (at my house we had neither of these foods, nor did we have a television. The torture!). Both of those girls grew up to be some of the most creative women I know, making livings as an opera singer and a ceramics artist. Even in the face of virtual reality, your core values will still prevail, I promise you.
Above all, remember that summer is a time of unmatched magic and simplicity. You don’t have to schedule trips and vacations and camps. You have permission to stay home and use the time to do absolutely nothing. Your children’s memories will be formed not by the summer activities you plan, but the way in which you create a life you love during these precious months. Popsicles are currency, dusk seems endless, and there is much space for joy. Let it in.