Summer is often seen as a season of relaxation, yet for most parents it can be a time of stress. The days of a reliable, regular school schedule are gone and replaced with a patched-together schedule of camps, activities, jobs and volunteer opportunities located throughout the region, starting and ending at different times.
Between all of these commitments, most parents also try to squeeze in a family vacation—if everyone is available.
Baltimore City resident Bridget McMahon has two boys, ages 16 and 14, and a 12-year-old girl. The oldest is heavily involved in the theatre while her two youngest are on year-round swim teams. Her daughter is also involved in theatre and will be attending an Episcopal camp in Frederick, while the boys will be going to a Quaker camp in New Jersey.
The McMahon family is planning a long weekend vacation to Chicago with the hope of a family vacation week in August to see family in New Jersey. But plans have not been finalized yet as her oldest is job hunting. Last year, they were able to go to California later in the summer after McMahon used an Excel sheet to see when everyone would be available.
Each child has found their outlet where they enjoy themselves and are physically and creatively active, so she wants to encourage them by putting them in camps, teams and activities. “The hardest thing is getting them places,” she says. “The timing of everything is really tricky. My husband and I just plan our evenings and weekends around when they need to be places. … Some weekends, it is just divide and conquer.”
Squeezing in time
Mary Jo Puglisi, of Pasadena, has three daughters, ages 23, 17 and 15, and a 20-year-old son. All four children work part- or full-time jobs and do volunteer service to different organizations. Since her children are older and most can drive, scheduling is a bit easier. “Still, I have to have a sense of where (my kids) are going to be and when,” she says.
Summers have always been a busy but fun time for the Puglisi family. “Kids who are bored have time to get in trouble,” she says. “That’s definitely my philosophy as a parent. We have always kept them very busy and they have chosen to keep themselves very busy. We are just an active family.”
Puglisi is an educator so she has to take her vacation when school is out. With her kids getting older, it is harder to find a vacation date. She looked to see if they could do two consecutive weeks at a time share they own in Hilton Head, South Carolina this year, but couldn’t find a date to meet everyone’s needs. So, she is hoping they can find one week in August when the entire family is free.
Pikesville resident Michon Zysman believes in under-scheduling and having free time for her kids, yet with a 15- and 12-year-old girls and a 5-year-old son, schedules can get hectic very fast. Zysman looked over her summer graph recently and found one week in August where everyone would be available for vacation, but they are still working on their destination.
Parents have to plan for easygoing summer days, “which is the irony of it all,” Zysman says.
“Summer is just a different beast,” she says. “It’s trying to have (children) be happy and rest and recuperate for what is to come, but also trying to facilitate creativity and not let them get too bored.”
As schedules get busy and family members move in all different directions, Janet Gers, a counselor at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, suggests maximizing the quality time that you have—whatever time that is.
Here are some ways to do that:
• BE REAL “Think about your day,” she says. “How can you maximize those moments in being real and being present with them and being authentic? Because that is the biggest stuff that the kids care about — adults being real with them and caring.”
• BE TOGETHER Gers suggests when you are having breakfast, ask them to join you once in a while and try to eat dinner together as much as you can. If children feel like their parents are up to speed on their life on a constant basis, they won’t feel it is as much work to connect with them.
• BE PRESENT While you are traveling in the car, don’t let them get lost in their phones. Likewise parents shouldn’t be thinking about all the stuff they need to be doing. “When you are with your kid, be present with your kid,” she says.
• BE PERSISTENT Ask that follow-up question. “What happened to make your day fine?” Open-ended questions are also good to elicit more than a one-word response. But be careful to speak to your child in a way you would normally speak. Teens, in particular, “can see through fake-ness really easily,” she says.