Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air,
drink the drink, taste the fruit.
-Henry David Thoreau
Summer is finally here! Take a deep breath. Drop your shoulders and feel a gentle summer breeze waft through the window and onto your face. Even if it's raining out, you have air-conditioning, or it's not summer in your country--pretend that a lovely gentle wind is swaying the hammock on which you are lounging. I'd like you to grab a glimmer of the slow moving essence of summer.
Summer, for many families, has become an extension of the school year, in shorts. Today's Thought for the Week is a simple reminder not to allow your leisurely summer visions to turn into frenzied schedules with no time for family connection. Create open-ended free time in your summer schedule, as it is truly those free-form times together that leave the deepest imprint on your child's soul.
The following 6 Tips are suggestions and a buffet of ideas to create a more connected family summer:
1.The Living is Easy
Make plans to downshift your rhythm into a slower pace this summer. Can you work fewer days a week rather than taking one long vacation? How about shorter work hours rather than days off? When you think of summer what comes to mind? Catching minnows at the local pond? Licking an ice cream cone with your dad? Take time out for activities reminiscent of your childhood, and create some new summer rituals with your kids. Schedule time with your family to just do nothing. Summer isn't a time for getting ahead, but for going into your head, to think, to dream, to wonder, to lazily love your family.
Let your kids loose in the kitchen to invent their own concoctions. Maybe they could create a portable summer menu using fruit on a stick, sandwiches, crackers and peanut butter--then pack it all up for an evening picnic dinner. One mother waits all year for summertime cooking with her kids: "My four kids and I plan summer feasts in the cold winter months. We don't go away on a fancy vacation but we pretend we're at the shore with our lobster bakes or in a Parisian cafe sipping iced tea. My kids are young but they know how to peel ginger and giggle over kitchen adventures."
3. Neighborhood Games
Set up a game table on your porch, deck, or under a shady tree--a simple card table will do. Buy a large plastic waterproof bin with a snug top to store puzzles, games, and a deck of cards. Maybe your house will be known as the "place to stop for a good game of chess or checkers."
4. Butterfly Adventures
Don't take butterflies for granted--any creature that smells stuff with their feet is pretty cool. Gardens, meadows, fields, and woods are great places for spotting these beautiful nectar feeders. Is there milkweed growing in a vacant lot near your home? If so, it's a sure bet your kids will find some Monarchs. Bring a sketchpad to draw the varieties you see, Mourning Cloak, American Painted Lady, Gray Hairstreak, and Great Spangled Fritillary.
Select a day to visit your town as if for the first time. Forget chores and routines, and instead strap the binoculars around your neck and head out to explore. Read some local history; eat lunch in a restaurant you've never tried, ask for directions even if you know where you're going. Take the time to talk to the waitress, speak to the family next to you in the park, and open your awareness to guide you on your explorations. One family who followed this simple advice reported, "It sounds silly, but it was awesome to walk down our own town's streets in the daylight without rushing."
6. Soulful Growth
Take time this summer to nurture your child's rich, vast, wise inner life. Pick up a copy of "10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting" and try some of the easy everyday activities. Maybe you will be inspired to create a God Box so your young children can drop in their letters to God or to give your teens a copy of "Just Say Om!" by Soren Gordhamer and encourage them to use this summer vacation to begin a meditation practice. You might take some long walks and challenge everyone to remain silent so they can listen to the stirrings of nature as well as their inner voices just begging to be heard. Purchase a blank book and call it "Summer Thoughts." Keep it in within easy reach--on the kitchen counter or family room table--with some funky pens so everyone can write their musings.
Don't forget the following wise words by Hal Borland: "Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January."
Summers fly by when our children are young--mark this one with the intention to grow closer to those you hold dear.
Happy summer, from my heart to yours.