Todd and I really enjoy camping. We own two tents. There is a bucket in our garage labeled “camping gear” located right next to our sleeping bags.
In the fifteen years of our marriage, we have been camping exactly three times. Nearly every summer, we make a promise to ourselves to go camping again. Spend more time relaxing as a family. Out of town.
And then, every year, real life gets in the way. The first five years we were married, I often had work commitments that tied up our weekends. The following seven summers were spent on remodeling projects at our old house. Bathrooms gutted to the studs, scraped popcorn ceilings, replaced windows, and complete basement remodels were our life.
Then we moved to our current home three years ago. I no longer have weekend work commitments. Our remodeling tasks are minimal. So why do we still fail to camp? Overscheduling.
This is my list of all the things that I would like to accomplish in any given summer:
- Raise a bountiful vegetable garden. Also grow pretty flowers.
- Camp several weekends. Go fishing, too.
- Send the kids to summer camp, if they wish.
- Enroll the girls in swimming lessons (and other lessons they may be interested in as well).
- Have the girls attend Vacation Bible School. Volunteer my time as a helper.
- Spend time relaxing on a regular basis with family and friends.
- Take a family vacation.
- Compete in 4H activities, including the county fair.
- Attend church and Sunday School on a weekly basis.
It is a pretty big list. And rather unreasonable, to boot. We usually end our homeschooling year the last week in May. School starts again for us the first week in August.
Two months is just not enough time to get it all done. This year, Todd and I sat down in the beginning of March to make a plan. It seemed early to think about summer, but I am glad we took the time to do it. Because of our foresight, we are already able to commit or decline opportunities coming our way for summer. So what did we do in our planning process?
1. We examined what was realistic.
The older our girls get, the easier it is for them to be bombarded with summer opportunities. Our teenage daughter can handle a busier schedule that our youngest daughter, but we still have to be mindful that we do not overdo things.
For instance, teen church camp is something out daughter is interested in attending this year. We are supportive of her attendance at camp, but the departure date is only a few days after we will get home from a major family vacation. Before we commit to anything, we have asked her to evaluate the pros and cons of such an adventure.
2. We scheduled the big stuff first.
I have a terrible habit of double-booking myself, especially in the summer. The best example is the year I ended up staying home with three small children over the Fourth of July. Todd traveled solo with another two kids.
I had agreed to provide respite care for another foster family over the holiday. Todd had already promised to head back to northern Minnesota and celebrate with family. A serious lack of communication provided an excellent lesson.
We almost always communicate with one another before making major commitments now. And the “big” stuff goes on the calendar as soon as we have a date. Examples include our niece’s graduation open house, the wedding reception for one of Todd’s closest friends, Fourth of July plans, and our family vacation to Disney World.
3. We eliminated non-essentials.
This was hard for me. I often feel like I am letting others down if I cannot meet their expectations. Looking at summer’s big picture, though, there was no other option. What are we not going to do this year?
- Teach summer Sunday School. I enjoy it, but it ties me down. We need the freedom and flexibility as a family to worship away from our home church because we prefer to travel throughout the summer.
- Enroll in swimming lessons. Swimming is important, but there are just too many scheduling conflicts this year. Instead, we will opt for Saturday lessons at an indoor pool sometime this fall.
- Plant a vegetable garden. I love homegrown veggies, but I have no interest in waging war with the rabbits and squirrels that prance around my yard this year.
- Attend VBS. This should probably have an asterisk. There is a possibility that VBS may happen for one of our children, but it will not be at our church. Our church hosts a lovely VBS, but it is a schedule conflict this year.
4. We made family a priority.
We really value spending time with our extended family members, but our crazy life often prevents us from having the follow-through we want. This summer, we have at least six times already scheduled to see extended family. In all likelihood, we will squeeze in a couple more meet-ups before the summer ends.
Our summer schedule is not perfect, but it is intentional. Our goal is to do what matters most to us. We want to spend time with family, have fun, and use our time with meaning and purpose. For our family, that means planning several months in advance.
What summer plans do you have for your family this year? Send me an email or comment below!