Tuesday, June 15, 2010

POP QUIZ: Summer + Planning = ?

Becoming a parent introduces you to a new kind of math involving equations where the answers change. In normal math, 2 + 2 is always 4. In parenting math, let's say in the equation "milk + laying down in crib = ?," who knows what you'll get. You can't expect the answer to be "sleeping baby," even after you've gotten this same answer 20 times in a row, because you may get "total hysteria" on the 21st.

Summertime is one of these open-ended equations for me. I want to plan summers out, and then I want freedom from plans. Also, I know that no matter which way I lean, I still won't know what to expect from day to day. (So what else is new, right?) In the past, we've planned out our summer weeks one by one, writing up a loose schedule of what to look forward to on Sunday nights or Monday mornings. This year, we are doing one big Summer List. The kids and I came up with all the things we want to do this summer and wrote them on a big piece of poster board. It is hanging by the front door, reminding me that it is a kind of equation to which I don't have the answer.

The List begs these questions for me: Do all the boxes need to get checked off? Does the number of checks equal my level of success at something? I am soooooo tempted to make a math problem out of it. A real, predictable one. I want to count up the boxes, divide them by the number of weeks of summer and figure out how may per week I'd need to check off to cover them all. Man, do I want to do that. But I am NOT letting myself because I know I need to balance my intentionality with flexibility. All the boxes don't need to get checked. And certainly I need to abandon the list if it ever starts to take the place of other better or more important things. I have to remember that my success lies not in the number of boxes checked off, but in maintaining a daily understanding of and sensitivity to the needs of my family.

I'm pretty good at being intentional with my kids - setting into motion a variety of fun, educational, spiritual, and artistic experiences for us to have together - making sure we maximize not only our summer, but our lives. However once I set plans into place, I'm not so good with flexibility when the equation equals something I don't expect. That's going to be my challenge this summer. Rolling with the punches. Laughing at the small disasters. In a word, GRACE: for my kids who act up; for circumstances that thwart my plans; and especially for myself on days when I just can't give anymore.

Next year's list will have one additional box at the end: "Be flexible and keep smiling." This year, you'll just have to remind me, starting next week when the fun begins. Wait and see...we have many happy activities in store and I can't wait to share them! (I didn't even put any crafts on the List - it is too much of a given around here. But I do want to talk about craftiness in a post soon.)

Oh summertime, how I love you. You know you're my favorite.

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