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Letting Go of Parenting Standards in the Summertime

Why I'm Totally Setting the Parenting Bar Low This Summer

Some parents have their kids' Summers all mapped out, jam-packed with activity and awesomeness. They've already gotten their precious peanuts signed up for t-ball, enrolled in swim lessons, and registered for camp. They've set reminders for all their community happenings — fairs, festivals, and fireworks displays. They're making an effort to ensure that their children have a fun, memorable break.

Unfortunately for my kids, I am not one of those parents. The fliers containing crucial sign-up information for summer sports and other activities got lost amid the 16 tons of crap they brought home on the last day of school. Sure, I want my kids to have an enjoyable break, too. But the beauty of Summer is that it's a stretch of unscheduled time.

Keyword: unscheduled.

As in, the routine we so rigorously followed during the school year can be shelved for a few months. No more racing the clock to get the kids into bed (as they act like I'm trying to get them into the electric chair). No more racing the clock to get them up and ready and out the door by a certain time (as they act like drunken, semicombative sloths). Basically . . . no more racing the clock. And to a mom who has spent the entire school year struggling to keep everything tightly scheduled and running like a well-oiled machine, that sounds like absolute bliss.

So this Summer, our break is going to be a break from all the things we feel obligated to do a certain way during the school year. Including, but not limited to:

When they sleep. I know my kids are tired of my strict in-bed-by-8:45 policy, especially now that it doesn't get dark until nearly 10 o'clock. So screw it. They can go to sleep whenever they get tired — it's not like they'll last past 11 p.m. anyway. Because this Summer, I also don't care about . . .

When they wake up. I'm not holding my breath that my kids will master the fine art of sleeping in — not yet, anyway — but I'm definitely not in any hurry to get them out of bed at any certain time. If they're even in bed, that is. They could actually be anywhere, because as of right now I'm unconcerned with . . .

Where they sleep. I will never understand why you'd prefer a hard floor with a teeny-tiny blanket over an actual bed with actual bedding, but my kids are forever begging me to let them sleep somewhere else. During the school year, I make them sleep in their beds (and they'd better be there at 8:45!). But summertime is a different story. I don't care if they sleep on the couch. I don't care if they sleep on the floor in the hallway. I don't care if they sleep in a fort in the living room or in a tent outside. If they think they'll be comfy there, fine. Just as long as they've had their baths first. Ha! Just kidding! Because another thing I'm gonna let slide this Summer is . . .

When they bathe. Don't get me wrong, they're still going to get baths (sometimes). Nobody's going to be running around here looking like they could grow potatoes in their ears. But let's be real: I don't care right now if they're squeaky clean every night. When they're in school, they've got to look like they have a conscientious parent who makes them bathe regularly — uh, I mean, they've got to look presentable. Which brings us to the next thing I'm not caring about for the next few months . . .

What they wear. My son just came in from a bike ride. He's wearing red and blue Superman shorts (his little brother's, from last year, because kids think that if they can squeeze into an item of clothing that "it still fits, Mom") and a blindingly bright orange t-shirt that says "ALL I DO IS WIN" across the front. His stylish ensemble is capped off with navy blue Crocs. It's an outfit that I would swiftly veto during the school year, but now, all I do is wave as he rides off in his ridiculous mismatched threads. I didn't have to pick them out, and I didn't have to be on top of the laundry to make sure he had a decent outfit clean, so I call that a win. Besides, I wouldn't want his good clothes to get all Popsicle-stained, because I'm also not worried about . . .

What they eat. Hey, I buy sugar-free Popsicles, OK? But I buy them in bulk. Because they fuel my kids' Summer adventures. Those and cereal, which they would happily eat at every meal. And it doesn't bother me a bit right now because to tell you the truth, planning nutritionally complete meals on the daily is exhausting. If I can have a couple nights a week when I pull the "too hot to cook" card and they get PB&Js or some ramen noodles or something, hey, that's fine by me. That's why I give them multivitamins. Normally I'd be busy stressing myself over whether their food intake is enough to keep them sharp and focused at school, but for the next little bit, that's entirely off my radar. Because it's summertime and they don't need all that much brainpower, seeing as I'm also temporarily taking the restrictions off . . .

How much screen time they get. As a kid, I spent much of my summertimes outside. But I also spent a ton of time parked on the couch ogling the dudes of Saved by the Bell (I'm team Slater, BTW) and watching Judge Judy give the people in her courtroom the verbal smackdown. Both were fun. I know my kids are going to have plenty of active play, so I'm not going to bust their chops for being on the tablet or the computer a little longer than usual. That's the great thing about Summer: there's time for everything.

If it's 7 o'clock in the morning and breakfast consists of a pudding cup, whatever (calcium, right?). If it's 10:30 p.m. and the fireflies are just getting into their full, sparkly swing outside, we'll stay out and catch some. If afterward they still haven't had a bath, I'll just toss them a baby wipe and tell them to swipe over the important parts and call it good. And if they're still lounging on the couch in their PJs watching YouTube at noon, I might just grab a Popsicle of my own and watch with them.

Because they don't call it Summer "break" for nothing.

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