Without an activity-filled schedule, my kids and I will be free to do what we please for the next ten weeks, complete with plenty of beneficial boredom.
Every summer, I am reminded of the importance of ‘slow parenting.’ As my children near the end of the school year, and ten long weeks of summer vacation stretch ahead of us, I fight the urge to enroll them in extracurricular activities. On one hand, it would keep them occupied, but on the other, it would chain us to home, chain us with a schedule, restrict our movement, and limit us by commitments and payments already made.
That is why I opt for slow parenting. The term was coined in contrast to the ‘hyper-parenting’ that’s so common in North America these days – parents raising their children in a frantic state of devotion, exposing them to the maximum number of experiences, signing them up for every possible activity, keeping them busy to the point of near familial breakdown. It’s meant to stimulate them, but I think it ends up burning everyone out.
That’s not what I want for my kids this summer. I want their days to be empty, to stretch languorously before them, full of potential. I want them to be bored because boredom is not a bad thing. It creates time and space for reflection, for imagination, for creation, for invention, for questions, for relaxation, for unexpected discoveries, for spontaneity. It teaches them to be alone, to be independent, and to create their own entertainment.
I’ll be around, doing my own thing in the background, always extremely grateful for having a flexible career which allows me to be at home, all the while guiding our days based on the following principles:
Let the child take the lead.
Kids know what they want to do and, most of the time, it doesn’t take much to keep them entertained. For example, a nature walk for them is less about covering distance than inspecting sticks, leaves, and bugs. I will strive to pay attention to their interests and go at their pace. We may create a list of goals to accomplish this summer, i.e. build a treehouse, build a zipline, go camping, sleep under the stars, go fruit-picking, etc. but we'll keep it simple.
Always be outdoors.
Tension builds faster indoors, when the kids are tearing around, making noise, messes, and constant demands. Outside, everything is better. They are calmer, distracted, entertained. Whether it’s playing, picnicking, reading, biking to meet friends, or napping in the hammock, we will strive to spend as much time outside as possible. (It also wears them out so they’ll go to bed sooner!)
It’s important to get out of the house, but that doesn't require a detailed plan of action. Sometimes just getting in the car or hopping on our bikes and going somewhere is all you need to find an adventure, have some fun, break out of the routine, and create a lasting memory. One of my favorite things is lazy summer drives with my family to discover nearby little towns, ideally combined with a hike and ice creams.
People are the best entertainment of all. It’s important for kids to interact with people of all kinds in various settings, whether it’s entertaining at home, playing together at the beach, or striking up conversations on park benches. Human interactions build important foundations for children, making them confident conversationalists, less fearful of the world in general, more compassionate, and curious about other people’s lives.
Create time and space for myself.
It won’t be a successful summer if I don’t get my own work done on a daily basis, which is why the kids need to understand there are still boundaries, such as my regular writing time and early bedtimes. Drawing those lines help parents to maintain a sense of sanity, since having kids at home all day, every day, can quickly erode that.
We'll see how it goes. As is the case every summer, the first week will feel overwhelming, but suddenly we'll find ourselves at the end, wishing we had more time together to do nothing... and everything.