(This was also published in The Huffington Post Huffington Post- Can We Just Relax Mom?”)

The start of summer is a bit disorienting for me as a mom, and I know for many other parents as well. What to do with the kids this summer, 12 weeks long. IMG_2036

     During the school year everything seems so pre-arranged and the time takes care of itself, and the kids are motivated to get done what they have to do with their school and sports and youth group and other activities. I realize I like structure and I think kids do as well.

And with that structure of course comes a lot of responsibilities — okay, stress — for parents.

     Making sure they are up in the morning, pouring milk on cereal, making toast or oatmeal, making lunches, signing permission slips, helping kids find clean socks, helping kids find matching socks, making sure they do not miss the school bus, getting kids to school if they miss the bus, picking them up after sports practice, asking kids about how school is going, helping with school projects, assisting with math that is way too difficult, reading essays, helping with other homework, checking on homework, checking on assignments, checking on grades, getting kids to and from evening events, attending events.

     I like to encourage my kids to have big goals and dreams in life. To be involved in school and in sports and in music and church and other outside activities. Yes, I have high expectations because I believe kids will rise to the occasion.

     I so love being an involved parent and I believe it takes an involved parent to help kids succeed.

     But, when summer arrives, we are ready. All of us. Though we need the structure of the school year, it sure is nice to have a break from it. You’d think parents are in school given the way I’ve read online how excited some are for summer vacation. I for one am grateful for a part time flexible work schedule in the summers, though I understand not all parents are as fortunate.

     Summer is here. Yeah!

     Then, why do I feel stressed right now? I cannot seem to let go. I cannot seem to allow myself or the kids to relax. Two weeks into it and I have not gotten into the groove of the summer months yet.

For some reason, this summer feels more stressful for me in terms of expectations. Maybe I am doing some soul searching after the wedding of my second child this year. My two oldest children were married in back to back years — at ages 22 and 21 — and I am so happy for them, and feel so blessed with the spouses that God has brought into their lives.

     I guess my soul searching comes as I now focus on my three younger children. Indeed, I “only” have three at home now. I am feeling a burden and worry for my three younger children, ages 15, 15 and 10.

It is not because they are struggling in any way at all. In fact, my twins are honor students at West Linn High and my 10-year-old is doing really well at school as well.  

     I’m just unsettled this summer, no matter the reason, but I realize I need to mentally change this.  

     The realization came this past week after I was giving my boys a hard time about playing X-Box IMG_2018or texting or using some other electronic device. Yes, electronics are a constant issue in our home with three boys. I had mumbled something to the twins about their excessive X-Box use or texting, asking them when they were going to turn it off and work around the house.

     But, then, one of the twins said to me:

     “Mom, can we just relax?”

     Oh, that hit home.

     I am grateful that I have a relationship with my kids where they can be honest with me about their feelings, in a respectful way, and this question, rhetorical as it was, was a wake up call for me.

     I started thinking about this in my life, that idea of relaxing. My kids being able to relax. At home.

     While I was growing up, I never felt I could relax at home. My parents had high expectations of me (as I do of my kids) and my mom was a very determined person to get a lot done.

     But, I never felt like I had done enough around the house sometimes during the day. Whether it was unloading or loading dishes, sweeping, wiping the counters, setting the table, watering plants, there was always more to do.

     Maybe it was my own perceived feeling of always having more to do, but I did not feel like I could relax very often in my home.

     And, now, with my kids home for the summer, I began wondering if my kids were feeling the same way I often did growing up. And, the question about relaxing from one of my twins confirmed that possibility.

     In our family, where we live in a very real-life world, I always say that my home is not a museum. We live there. And, with five kids, (now, three at home), there is always a lot to do, and when a lot is done, there is more to do.

     But, sometimes I have to just let go and let the kid be kids. And relax in our living area.

     One of my twins recently began going into his room in the evening instead of hanging out in the living room area as he usually did.  When I’d ask what he was doing, he’d say, “Just listening to my music.”IMG_2030

     I want him to be able to listen to his music in the living room. And play X-Box in the living room. And text in the living room. And, not feel as if he has to go to his bedroom for peace and quiet.

     So, as we get into the grove and rhythm of the summer, I am changing my mindset. I am trusting we are doing okay and that the kids do have goals and dreams, but that they also need down time.

     I want them to be comfortable relaxing. Being home. When we are home.

     To help change my mindset, we had a family meeting to discuss what the kids wanted to do this summer, goals, and what my husband and I wanted for the summer, so we could have some structure.

     The first thing on their list: “To Relax.”

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