Summer is Long, Pace Yourself: How to Survive Your Tween’s Summer Vacation


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I love/hate summer with my kids. There. I said it.

Sure, I give thanks every morning that the alarm doesn’t sound. “Thank you, thank you, thank you benevolent powers that be, infinite universe, source of life and light, thank you for not making me drag these people out of their beds before 7 a.m.” Because let me tell you, they are monsters in the morning. Teeth snarling, claw-bearing, gloss-eyed, little monsters.

Also, I adore having the freedom to take them on random road trips to the coast, or the mountains, or the Columbia River Gorge (we’re topographical overachievers here in Portland). But it’s not all sunshine and sand. Navigating summer as a parent takes a special kind of courage.

What I’m about to tell you is really just a pep talk from me to me. But it’s OK, listen in. Everyone benefits.


Dear Me,

Summer is long, pace yourself.

Yes, it is frustrating that while we are no longer an agrarian society and most of us do not have farms to tend — nary a cow in sight — our children still have three months of vacation created for them to help with the non-existent planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. Be OK with the new rhythms — or total lack thereof — that come with weeks and weeks of unstructured days.

You will need to find non-farm related activities to occupy them.  Unless, of course, they happen to be at farm camp.

Unlike the Ingalls’ girls in those blessed Little House on the Prairie days of yore, your children cannot help with the work you must do every day to keep them from starving.

Here, in the golden age of technology, summer means a second job. Call it a volunteer internship. You’ll spend the next three months as an unpaid personal assistant managing a complex network of camps and carpools and playdates constructed to keep them occupied so you can continue to fulfill your moneymaking obligations. What I mean is, you will work all summer to pay for camps that allow you to work all summer. Embrace it.

Of course, they will not be at camp every week. They need unstructured downtime. And they will not always have friends to hang with. Notice my word choice: “friends to hang with.” The term, “playdate” is mortifying to your tween.  Take note. This information may be useful later.

There will be rainy days when your kids sit inside screen-hopping for hours. Sometimes they will not want to read books or do Pinterest-inspired art projects or hang with friends. Be OK with this.

You did it, too. Remember? No matter how many stories you tell them, no matter how many ways you idealize your summers in the 70s (and 80s) with those swimming pool days and riding your bike miles and miles from your home, the rest of the story is this: You also spent plenty of days in a wood-paneled basement, playing Atari and eating Ho-Hos by the box while your parents worked. This is OK.

Congratulations!  You no longer have to supervise their every homemade playdough-filled moment. Be grateful they are now old enough to stay home alone. Give them the opportunity. It’s good for all of you.

But don’t leave them home, too much. That’s not good for any of you.

And, one last thing. You won’t have them home with you much longer. Enjoy the summer.



P.S. Roxie, my 12-year-old, wants you to know that when your child says she’s bored, giving her a chore is NEVER the appropriate response. Take her to Ben & Jerry’s.

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