Motherhood,  Special Needs Parenting

Summer survival: why moms need support instead of shaming

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It’s that time of year, when kids get out of school for the summer and everyone seems to have an opinion on the best way for kids to spend the next two months.

“After all, our kids need to be bored. It is the lost art of childhood.”My Kids WILL Be Bored This Summer

“I have fed the entitlement beast . . . Our children need to be bored. They don’t need a plan for entertainment. . . They can create their own. And that’s when summer gets magical.” – Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer

“Summer is now just another event in the rat race that childhood over-achievement has become. If your kids are NOT building an orphanage in Africa and attending a STEM, soccer, theatre, cooking, dance, archery, crossfit, mathematics, classical music, poetry, meditation, kayaking, and build-your-own-organic-garden camp this summer, then shame on you!” – 10 Ways to Give Your Kids a 1970s Summer, Part 2

“I was talking to one mother who said she had an activity planned each day or the week or else ‘her kids would drive her bonkers.’ My kids can drive me bonkers too, but guess what? They’re old enough to entertain themselves.” – WHY I WON’T BE ENTERTAINING MY KIDS DURING SUMMER BREAK

“Look at this summer as an opportunity to break your children from this cycle! Go on technology fasts and, while I love enrichment activities, think of holding a firm boundary on only one or two. Stay strong, don’t give into the whining, and watch what happens. Creativity will bloom before you know it!” – Your Children Need to be BORED!

“Parents nowadays seem to have children programmed into continual summer camps and endless enriching activities, to the point that we do not leave them enough time to just get bored. This generation of parents seem to feel that we need to entertain our children, and that it is our responsibility to make sure that they are being filled up with information and action all the time.” – Want To Help Your Kids? Let Them Get Bored

I get it. I really do. I understand the whole “kids need to be bored” concept, in theory. It makes sense.

I understand the pull of the idyllic, unscheduled summer.

I also know what reality looks like and how summer actually plays out, especially when you have special needs children. So here are my unsolicited opinions on the matter of summer.

Summer survival: why moms need support instead of shaming - I understand the pull of the idyllic, unscheduled summer. I also know what reality looks like and how summer actually plays out, especially when you have special needs children. So here are my unsolicited opinions on the matter of summer.

1. All kids are not created equal.

When I was a kid there was a lot of playing outside, trips to the pool, and running around with my brothers in the backyard. We all went to ONE WEEK of overnight summer camp starting in 3rd grade.

However, it was last year when I realized that out of the four of us kids, at least three of us are introverts.

You know what I wanted to do during my summers? Sit on my bed eating Jolly Ranchers and read Nancy Drew and Janette Oke books. ALL DAY.

No really. I vividly remember that last day of 4th grade when I came home, went straight to my room, shut the door and climbed into bed with my late grandma’s original dusty copy of The Message in the Hollow Oak and didn’t move until I had finished it.

But an introvert is not the same as an extrovert. Boys are not the same as girls. An only child is not the same as a child with siblings. A 5-year-old is not a 10-year-old. Neurotypical kids are not the same as kids with ADHD and SPD. 

Some kids need structure. Some kids need more social interaction than what they get with their (ahem, 10-month-old) siblings.

Twitter-blue 25What works for your kid for summer doesn’t necessarily work for my kid.TWEET THIS!

2. Newsflash: This isn’t 1970.

There was a time when kids roamed freely in neighborhoods drinking water from garden hoses and riding bikes without helmets. They left in the morning and returned at dinner time. Even in the late 90’s I remember playing two streets over and hearing my mom ring our dinner bell to call us home.

But this isn’t 1970 or 1999. This is 2016. This is the era where moms get the cops called on them for letting kids play outside unattended. Whether this era is actually more dangerous or is just perceived to be more dangerous, most moms aren’t nearly as comfortable with letting kids roam outside unattended as the moms of our preceding generations.

And that’s okay. It’s reasonable to want our kids to be safe. 

There’s idealism, and then there’s realism.

This is a scary world we live in. Thus, I think that we tend to look back on “simpler, safer times” with a sense of idealism. We view the generations before us with rose-colored hindsight that doesn’t always capture exactly how things were.

This doesn’t really do anyone any good. It marginalizes the struggles of times gone before as well as the struggles of the now (because these struggles are both very REAL in their own right even though they are different). It also puts unneeded pressure on moms of this generation to measure up to the past, rather than embracing where they are right now.

Twitter-blue 25Trying to create a 1970’s summer in the summer of 2016 is an exercise in futility.TWEET THIS!

Rather than telling moms they are doing it wrong by sending their kids off to summer camp and that they should be just letting their kids be bored and roam the neighborhoods, why don’t we support them in making the best decisions they can for their children?

3. Moms bear more responsibilities than they did in the past.

There’s enough space out there for people to argue the SAHM / WAHM / working mom debate somewhere else. I’m not getting into that here. But the fact exists that these days, moms wear a lot of different hats that maybe they didn’t 20 or 30 years ago. I can’t even imagine how working moms feel when they read posts about the idyllic 1970’s summer that they are completely unable to offer their children because THEY HAVE TO GO TO WORK.

My best friend Katie and I are both in college. Katie and my other best friend Kathryn also run home-based businesses and have clients to manage. I’m a blogger and a veteran caregiver. The three of us are special needs moms who have to drive kids to extra therapies and doctors appointments. Right or wrong, good or badthis is what moms are doing these days.

That’s why I’m so glad that moms these days have OPTIONS for their kids for summer. I’m thankful that places like the YMCA, local churches, and local recreation centers offer summer camps, day cares, and VBS programs in half-day, full-day, evening, and morning-out options so that every mom can get a break from her kids this summer to do the things that she needs to do.

4. There’s value in summer structure and routine.

Yes, there’s value in boredom and giving kids whitespace for creativity. There’s also value in giving kids a structure so they know what to expect and how to behave. Kids with special needs, especially, desperately need a steady routine to manage their struggles as best as they can. It is HARD for a mom to maintain a structure and routine at home on her own, especially when there are younger siblings involved. Having summer childcare options can be a life-saver for moms of this generation and a great constant for kids.

Summer camp isn’t school.

I think there are some people who view summer camp as this evil thing that is second in horror only to school – destructive to the minds of young children by keeping them from developing their imaginations and creativity.

Can I just call bullcrap?

Seriously, have these people actually looked at summer camp programs? Because I have spent hours perusing some of the offers in our area. And you know what I see? Long day trips to pools and parks. Arts and crafts. Music and dancing. “Free play” times both indoors and out. Trips to the movie theater. Games.

All of these great things exist within a structured framework where kids know their schedule, where kids can interact with peers their own age with adult supervision, and where tired moms get a little bit of a break. Is that really so damaging? 

{Awesome related post: The Scheduled Summer}

As for me and my kiddos, summer is upon us, and I am terrified. We have applied to get Ezra into another therapeutic day treatment program that runs for the summer. It is pending Medicaid approval. Our intake was 2 weeks ago, and it can take 14 business days to get approved. It starts TOMORROW, and I still don’t know if he is going or not. I’m waiting by my phone in anticipation. If he doesn’t get approved, I am very uncertain of our summer plans.


We are on day 3 of “summer” and we are surviving. There has been swimming (twice), morning cuddles in bed, jumping on the bed, a trip to play at the mall (that included 2 timeouts for shoving Little Brother), worksheets and mazes, 1 Chickfila playdate, 3 therapy sessions, story tapes and Legos, and wayyyyy too much Netflix. I have already struggled to be more “on my game” as a mom and not yell or get frustrated. Ezra is disregulated and far more hyperactive than normal, which is par for the course when he outside of his routine. The “freedom” has had its golden moments, but practically speaking, I have no idea how I could maintain this for the entire summer.




I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:

Cut it out, Moms. We are all in this together! {cue the dancing}

If you want to fill your summer days with Pinterest crafts and glitter glue, more power to ya. If you want to ship your kids off to an all-day program at the Y, then do it! If you want to drag your kids to every zoo, museum, and science center in your state – well then you are my hero, because ain’t nobody have energy fo dat. If you have a great group of friends, and your kids live at each other’s houses all summer, then that’s fabulous. If you and your kids live at the pool this summer, then I wish you the best (and don’t forget your sunscreen)!

Twitter-blue 25There’s no right or wrong way to do summer when you are a mom.TWEET THIS!

Do what works for you and your kids and enjoy the heck out of it!


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