Several years ago, I visited my friend Jen at the start of the summer. Like me, she was a mom to lots of little kids, and the summer meant the fun and daunting promise of lots of free time. Like me, Jen hoped to use some of that time to organize her house. She had posted sticky notes to remind herself to tackle the house projects. If I remember correctly, they went something like this: on the medicine cabinet: “Clean and Organize!” on the kitchen ledge: “Create system for mail!” on the overflowing bin of kids’ balls: “Organize and buy bigger box!”
As summer approaches, I’m tempted to make these same lists, or maybe post sticky notes everywhere. Maybe it’s a need to control all this unstructured time. Maybe I’m delusional and believe the sunshine will turn me into Martha Stewart and my kids into dutiful assistants.
But I’ve started summers like this before, and I know what happens. Nagging and projects drives everyone crazy.
I’ve also discovered that the free hours are good for us. The unstructured time uncoils something tightly wound inside all of us, and we are able to relax into ourselves. Neatly folded towels and color-coordinated linen closets seem like a good idea before I’ve seen how therapeutic fourteen straight days in the pool is. Ah, now I see, the point of summer is the pool, not the closet.
This is what I’m finally starting to discover. The real treats of life can never be scheduled, and they never come from hyper-organization. The memories I make with the kids are balloons, which have been inflated with our days of free time.
So, this summer I’m trying a list I’ve never tried before. The list of everything I’m taking off our schedule…..
1. No massive organization project that drags out for weeks. Finish it in a day or forget it. No nagging everyone to help organize the spice rack.
2. No hairstyling. We’re calling combed good enough. South Texas humidity makes everyone’s hair look ridiculous. Headbands and buzz cuts for the win!
3. Yes to road trips! No to overpacking. All those coloring books get squashed in the backseat and the crayons melt into the carpet. I’m starting to see that the obsessive prepping is just another control-freak tendency. If the kids get bored, they can look out the window.
4. No cleaning the house before we can invite friends over. We are who we are. If they don’t know about our trouble at getting the laundry put away, they’re about to find out.
I could keep going. We won’t invent activities for the sake of staying busy. None of us need to spend time who friends who complain constantly, even in the summer when we have free time. Especially in the summer when we have free time.
This summer I hope to be so filled up with our little family community, we can break out of the the cycle of “we should be doing…..” and into what we really want to do. I hope to feel secure enough in what we have to not always be looking for what might make us a little happier.
Mostly I hope to relax enough I can spend lots of time with my people, swimming, laughing, and memory-making–instead of nagging them all to organize the linen closet.