Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Summer Conundrum: Freedom vs Structure

Today marks one week since my children were excused from school for Summer break. So far we have had a blast swimming until we are prunes, getting suntans despite our liberal application of SPF50, chasing fireflies, staying up late, too much screen time and more ice cream than usual. Even as I type we are on a quick adventure with our grandparents. Summer memory making is in full swing.

I feel like I have watched my children age six months in the last six days and I can't help but wonder about its root. Is it because I am now referring to them as '8 year olds' or '2nd graders' leading them to rise to the occasion? Is it that they are thriving in these new experiences? Is it because I am around them all day each day to observe things seven hours a day of school time causes me to miss? I have a feeling it is likely a combination of all of the above.

I am trying to make this Summer a healthy balance of freedom and structured growth. I tend to swing too far one way or the other. Usually it is structure, because I am a fan, not of rigidness, so much as guardrails. I have written before about my attempts at getting out of character to be more like the cooler Moms I know. There was a distinct meltdown moment last Summer that involved finding my exhausted, overstimulated son face down eating chips from a throw rug with no hands at 9pm. I realized then some sense of schedule and structure were necessary for my crew.

 Freedom from some of the burden of structure, rules and responsibility can feel euphoric...but ultimately, like most everything in life it is best enjoyed with balance in mind. Structure doesn't translate to a loss of freedom--it can actually create the right space for freedom to flourish. It can be hard to believe, but even ice cream at 8pm every night or unlimited screen time each Summer day would lose its luster eventually.

And as much as I, as a parent, want to arrange a childhood that is full of adventure and happy memories, I am ultimately tasked with raising a human beings who live and love to the glory of God. That requires a bit of structure, responsibility and sacrifice. That means helping them learn limits and that the world is not solely here for their pleasure and/or entertainment.

So, next week I have big plans for us to get into a rhythm that involves some structure--while still being fun and leaving room for spontaneity and play...but tomorrow? Tomorrow we are going swimming with dolphins. :-)


Jan said...

I struggle with this as well. Not as much with my 2-year-old (structure not negotiable there) but with my almost-8-year-old. On this first week off of school, I find him wandering about, bored and looking for mischief. While obviously doing things together is a part of our day, I don't feel I need to keep him busy all day, either. Independent play is important. We'll probably settle into a nice summer routine about...August.

Lucy said...

'Structure can create the right space for freedom to flourish.' I am grateful for the way you expressed something that was tickling at the edge of my thoughts the other day! I couldn't describe exactly what I felt, so thank you for doing it for me!