I wish I could say that my summers are full of hot days, popsicles, watermelon and stress free living like everyone else on social media. But for me, that is far from reality. Although one of the perks I have as an educator are the summer breaks, the downfall is that my summer doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to my children. Instead of a teacher during the summer, I am a bus driver.
My children really don’t know life with me working through the summer. Since they started attending school I have been in the teaching field in some capacity. So I have always had summers off and each summer presents its own wish list or to do list. Most of which my children create and I am supposed to implement.
Most summer I give in, convincing myself that I can somehow make up for all those lost mommy moments I missed out on during the school year. But, I have learned that I can’t. I can only focus on doing better now, and that’s a struggle enough in itself. So although I love keeping my kids busy for the summer, it’s no longer because of self pity. Now it’s to keep me sane.
Mom’s, you know what I mean.
My goal is to find ways to keep them busy so they don’t drive ME crazy from what they call “Boredom”. We all know that there shouldn’t be a dull day during summer, so our children think. When it’s hot outside, I think they believe that on some street or at some park or playground, ALL the kids in the world are playing and they are the only ones missing out on all the fun. Not just any fun, the unthinkable amount of fun. If you’re a parent then you know what I am talking about, the fun that they won’t even remember the next moment they are bored.
So not only am I the summer “Fun & Stuff” guide, I am also the cook, the camp counselor and referee, because fussing and fighting MUST be a requirement to make the summer complete. The truth is they spend more time together during the summer than they do all year long (and heaven forbid they actually use that time to bond).
Last summer, I noticed some qualities in a few of my children that I was not fond of at all. For example, one of my kids tends to have a mean streak like nobody’s business. It is worse than just a bad attitude. Another one refuses to take accountability for anything that is done wrong. This one, although always the primary culprit, is literally never the cause of anything that ever happens, EVER!
One day over the summer, my child that doesn’t like to be accountable, tried to blame everyone in the house for him not brush his teeth. I mean the kid clearly owns HIS teeth, yet everyone else was the reason for him forgetting to pick up a toothbrush, apply toothpaste, and use his own muscular strength to push the toothbrush back and forth. In his mind, it had nothing whatsoever to do with the intense attention he was paying to the video game he was playing on his DS. That was in no way a distraction to him..
It was after a chain of events were one person got angry and reacted wrongly, and the other didn’t take accountability, that I realized I needed to make some changes to our summer plans. They needed to spend some time getting rid of some of those negative traits.
When the idea first came to me, I had a list of things I knew I wanted to work on with each of them. I was going to have new kids by the end of the summer! Yeah right! Reality quickly set in and I decided that I wanted to beat the odds of accomplishing nothing by having a more realistic goal. I needed to focus in on one thing I wanted to work on with each of them.Everything may not change overnight but something could certainly change over time and that was my ultimate goal.
So I picked one character trait that I wanted to focus intensely on with each child over the summer (and let me tell you, narrowing it down to one was no easy task. They pick up these traits from a ton of places and they seem to come in abundance as they grow older). I selected what seemed like the most pertinent one to start addressing with each of them and hit the ground running.
Here are some things I did to get the ball rolling:
- Googled some good books (paper or audio) that talked about the importance of good character
- Found some videos that they could watch or cd’s they could listen to in the car that would draw them in and teach them a lesson in that area
- Helped them identify the situation or emotion that causes them to exhibit the negative character trait
- Provided 2-3 practical ways they could respond that would help them better handle situations and emotions that caused them to exhibit those traits
- Helped them identify times when those negative traits presented themselves and helped them learn to use the tools we talked about
- Praised them when I saw that they had used, or had tried to use the tools that we talked about
- Extended them grace when they fell short, and was constantly willing to go back to the drawing board to develop new tools that may work better
My father once told me, “Your reputation goes further than you do”. These words stuck with me like glue. Character is what helps to build your reputation and it is our job as parents to identify those character traits that could ruin or reward our children later in life.