We chatted last time about the helpful tool decision making pyramid. If you have missed part one and part two of this series, I suggest to take a moment and go back and read. It should make what you are going to read next make a bit more sense.
The next three tiers of the pyramid is husband, mom and kids. Lets get cracking.
I know as keepers of the home, most of us, have been given freedom in how to schedule our days. We make have been blessed to be entrusted to make many choices while our husbands are off at work providing for our families. Perhaps in the busyness of life or the tremendous freedom allotted us, or maybe out of pure selfishness, we forget our husbands while summer planning. When we include our husbands in the planning process we show a willing submission to his headship, love, preference, attention and care for him. Now, if you family is anything like mine, my husband doesn’t take off much time over the summer. He might take a week if he has it or a long weekend here or there. But for the most part, it’s just the kids and me.
I always make it a point to ask Chris how he would like to spend his summer. I ask hi if there are any outings he wants to make it to or anything special he would like planned. For instance, this summer he wants to go camping for a weekend and he would like the kids to take two weeks of swimming lessons instead of one.
I then share what the kids and I have written down and provided him with a general idea of when things might occur over the summer. This allows him the opportunity to check his work schedule and/or book time off. I start asking early. Usually around the beginning of May. I have to be sensitive to the amount of time he must book his vacation in advance at work and give him time think how he would like his summer to look like.
I also ask whether or not we have funds for specific activities or outings. I tend to have different views on what things cost and if we can afford them. I have never been a good judge of time, distance, or how much things cost.
After asking him plans, sharing our plans, looking at finance. Chris has final say. Sometimes things have to change. Although at times it might be a bit disappointing and frustrating I know that by submitting willingly and joyfully to my husband I am honoring and glorifying God.
The next tier down is us, mamas. As much as I want to throw any and all responsibilities out the window over the summer and just enjoy the sun. I can’t. You all know what I’m talking about. Clothes need washing, toilets need scrubbing, groceries need shopping, meals need prepping and kids need correcting. I try and make things every clear up front to the kids. I inform them that there are responsibilities that mama has and just because they are on summer break does not mean these responsibilities stop for me. In fact, I let them know they get to partner with me in these things. For example, in our house, Mondays are laundry days. All day. With six people generating laundry it takes all day. On Tuesdays, we clean the house because we are a host home for Small Group. A weekly bible study from our church.
These are beautiful opportunities to teach and train home management and practical life skills. For instance, How DOES mom get grass stains out of my pants? What IS price matching? What can serving the local body of Christ look like? One thing, however, that does occur when you are working shoulder to shoulder with one another is that you are bound to rub each other the wrong way. Here is the added and probably ultimate reason I try and keep my kids close. It provides me with AMPLE opportunities for sanctification in my own life, as well as it allows for heart discussions, corrections, rebukes and teachable moments. It is difficult keeping your children close. There are times I would much rather make them someone else “problem” for a couple hours so I can have some down time. And sometimes I have done this. But I have been taught and seen the benefit first hand when I die to self and carefully steward the time given to me but shepherding the children God has granted me, the reward is great.
This all culminates to my last point before moving on to the last tier. Recognize your capacity. Everyone has different thresholds. When I see my attitude starting to taking a swan dive, I know it’s time to pull back and recoup. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34, English Standard Version). Your lips reveal much about the state of your heart. I have become stretched too thin when I become quick tempered and my words are harsh and unloving. Grace is found at the foot of the cross. Confess and repent and take action to slow down and rest. I have canceled plans to the disappointment of my children and myself. But I recognized that temporary disheartenment is valuable teaching opportunity for my kids to understand the world does not revolve around them and that there are times when needs of others outweigh their own desires or needs. It also gives them the opportunity to put feet to these biblical principles and commands we have taken the time to address when working so close with one another.
With prayerful wisdom, guidance from your husband and time spent in the Word of God, you can take on the summer joyfully and expectantly with your brood of children.
This takes us to the last tier. Your children.
As children in public or private school, they are only home with us for two months out of twelve. During the other ten, we as parents are competing for influence in our children’s lives. Before having my own kids I was determined, that if the Lord saw fit to grant me, children, I would make these short couple months special, memorable and intentional. I would use this time specifically for drawing my children back to my side, teaching and training them, studying who they are and just enjoying them. My desire is that they look forward to this all year. Even as they grow older, I want this time to not be a burden but a joy for them. I do not want them wandering away elsewhere because I have cultivated a home that they want to be free from. My desire is to spend as much time as the Lord wills to pour into their lives. I also, understand this can not occur just over the summer months but this must be an intentional way of parenting year in and year out. But summer allows for extra special moments as they are in our home 24/7 for a full two months.
I have young kids (7,5,3 and 1). Since my eldest began school, three years ago, I made it very intentional to ask their input into summer plans. When they were that young they had no idea what I was asking but it gave me the opportunity to begin listening to them and studying them. What they like, dislike, what makes them tick. Things that during the school year is a bit more difficult, not impossible, with busy schedules. It shows them they matter. It shows them you are excited to have them home. I try to accommodate even the craziest of suggestions. Like this year, my third born has asked to ride a whale. Riding a real whale is out of the question but if I take the time to look around I am sure to find a water toy she can ride on when we go to the beach. Another example is my second eldest wants desperately to visit Disneyland. Not an option but Canada’s Wonderland might be a compromise if she is looking for the rides or maybe the Disney Store (my very favourite store as a young girl) might be a solution if she wants to see characters and fun toys. Use your imagination and get creative.
I give my kids ample time to think about their summers. Just like my husband, I usually start asking in May. Ask a few times between then and when summer starts. With my young one’s, their choices change daily. I watch for repetition. Those are what really matter to them. We write it all down.
I have said it from the beginning, I love clear expectations and our summer brainstorming list is no different. Write whatever we want down. Make the list as long as we like. However, I make it clear that not all activities will be done. In our case, we have a baby in the house. That limits how long we are out and what we can do. Time is a factor. There are only eight weeks and five people with plans. Not everyone will get to do everything they ask. Money is a large factor, hence the creativeness. Also, the unforeseen, such as ministry serving opportunities, sickness, and mama’s capacity are just a couple things. However, you can make it fun by seeing how many of the things you can cross off your list.
Maybe you can relate that one of the challenges with having multiple kids in the house is the difference of preferences. My three eldest children are every different and currently have very different likes, dislikes. In our house, we use this opportunity to show love for each other and to think less of selves. We explain as we make our plans that “I understand sweetie that you don’t like this idea but your sister does. This is a wonderful opportunity to count yourself last and seek to place her first. Do you understand that next when we do _______ she won’t like it but she will have the opportunity to count herself as less and serve you. This is part of being a family and how we show Christ to each other”.
The last thing I tend to do leading up to the summer and throughout the summer is to be over-communicative. I don’t know if your kids are at all like mine, but they seem to have the memories of goldfish. Or at least they remember what they deem as important. Kind reminders of the expectations are necessary often.
I have alluded throughout these posts to allow for and embrace interruptions and changes. Often in these moments of unplanned interruptions, it shows my and the kids true heart motives. What comes forth when plans and expectations are not met? Is it met with joyful hearts that praise the Father who has planned and purposed it all? Or are you met with grumbling, complaining, anger or tears? Stop. Address the heart, don’t keep plowing forward because a schedule or commitment must be kept. See them as God planned and God controlled. Bow your knee as a family to our sovereign Lord. Show unplanned hospitality to neighbors and friends. Scrap a scheduled activity for ministry or gospel opportunity. I know it’s especially hard when you have paid for something in advance but greater joy comes out of obedience and seizing opportunities to teach your kids what faithful gospel living is like.
I hope this is helpful as you are moving forward planning and preparing your summer vacation. I would love to have a conversation with you if you have questions or comments. Just shoot me a message.
Next time will be the last installment of this series. I’ll lay out some practical resources and tips for how I get my kids involved and things they are looking forward to this summer. I hope you will come back and join me.