Make time to just do nothing this summer

BY ELLIE S. GROSSMAN

Welcome to summer when the kids are out of school, and many of us parents are out of our minds already. The mixed emotions that mothers in particular experience this time of year don’t come close to the euphoria our children feel on the last day of school when they empty their desks of all the broken crayons and crumbled worksheets that they bring home to us as presents. Students from grade school to college are on a high right now, and I’m convinced it has something to do with breathing in all those pencil shavings.

Sure, I’m relieved to slow down the hectic pace of the school year and look forward to some down time with Jack and Sari. Best of all, I don’t have to wake up early and shove another frozen waffle into the toaster before the tardy bell rings. At the same time, I’m worried that too much of a good thing and all this family togetherness may lead to fireworks before Independence Day even rolls around.

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I want summer to feel different than the rest of the year, so my goal is to practice the essence of Judaism’s time management. And that is to plan nothing one day, and see what happens. If Jack and Sari want to stay in their pajamas until lunchtime because they have nothing better to do, then so be it. When they get restless, I will invite them to lie in the grass with me and imagine animal shapes in the fluffy clouds that float over our heads. After they look at me like I’m crazy, we’ll figure something else out, like unravel the garden hose and go from there. Even our Jewish religion is more carefree in the summer, with no major holidays and many opportunities to worship in casual, outdoor settings at area temples. In fact, an easy way to introduce or reinforce the concept of prayers and the spirit of the season is to take my kids to casual Friday night services and then go for ice cream afterwards.

In my own childhood, I was content to play four-square until the crickets came out, pop tar bubbles in the neighborhood cul-de-sac, chase the ice cream truck, and catch lightning bugs. I want my kids to derive the same pleasures from doing nothing. I want them to remember the taste of watermelon juice all over their faces and know what it feels like to count sticky quarters at a lemonade stand.

The challenge for parents, as always, is to balance free time with structured activities. Sari has plenty of time for playdates and sleepovers in between softball games, swim team practice, Girl Scout day camp, art classes, magic lessons and maybe tap dancing. Jack can sort out his baseball cards and relax all he wants when he’s not scheduled to play in baseball tournaments, race laps in the swimming pool, perform the latest hip hop moves, and conquer rock climbing walls at sleepover camp.

As for myself, I plan to work on my suntan, clean out closets, and worry how I’m going to wake up my son for middle school. I also will continue to write my “Mishegas of Motherhood” column, but on a less frequent summer schedule. So in case you don’t find me in the St. Louis Jewish Light one week, it’s not like I’m on a permanent vacation. Either my head is in the clouds, or I’ve temporarily lost my ability to think straight.

“The Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Her stories are inspired by the real life of her family, including her two children, toy poodle named Luci, and her husband, but not necessarily in that order. Feel free to send any comments, prayers or recipes to [email protected]

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