How are you enjoying — or, er, surviving? — the summer months with kids? Here’s a survival tip from many members of the TODAY Parenting Team: Try a summer mantra!
We asked contributors to share their secrets for enjoying the Best Summer Ever, and a whole bunch of them offered up the refrains they keep repeating in their heads to set the tone for the ship. Some are silly, some are poignant, but all have this in common: They can help the summer months go by with considerably more laughter than tears.
Please feel free to join in this ongoing conversation by becoming a member of our team, and stay connected to TODAY Parents updates on our Facebook page. If you’ve got your own summer mantras to share, we’d love to hear them! Here’s what has come in so far:
1. ‘Is it worse than cholera?’ (Kelly Suellentrop)
Mom Kelly Suellentrop has concocted a single, simple answer to summertime complaints from her kids:
“‘I don't want to go outside and play. It's too hot.’ ... ‘Is it worse than cholera?’
“‘Grilled fish again?’ ... ‘Is it worse than cholera?’ ...
“‘She broke my Lego car.’ / ‘He ate my brownie.’ / ‘She won't play what I want.’ / ‘He keeps burping in my face.’ … ‘Is it worse than cholera?’
“The beauty of this mantra is that whatever they are complaining about is NEVER WORSE THAN CHOLERA. Ever. These five little words may not really convince my kids to appreciate how good they have it as much as I would like. But at least I don't have to hear them complaining further about all the things they shouldn't be taking for granted. And THAT is enough to make me hopeful I will indeed survive the summer ... and not die of cholera.”
2. ‘Yes.’ (Jamie Taylor)
“Can we make a fort?
“Can we get the craft ‘stuff’ out?
“Can we play in the sprinklers?
“Yes, kids. Yes, you may.
“You may take up residence in my family room with excessive, messy force.
“You may fill my dining room table with an assortment of papers, markers, stickers, and glue.
“You may fill my backyard with shrieks of laughter, and my laundry room with extra towels to wash, dry, and fold.
“Because I love you, I am giving you permission to expand the territories of your imagination. Truthfully, I am giving up a small corner of my sanity for your satisfaction.”
3. ‘Suit up!’ (Angie Goff)
“How many mom friends do you have that go to the pool with their kiddos but never get in? They might dabble their toes in the water but don't dare bare the suit because they're worried about what somebody might think of their body. ... I love the challenge (Jessica Turner) has put out to us moms this summer: Put on that suit.”
4. ‘No having fun!’ (Siri Pinter)
“Before my kids get too old, and actually desire to be at those month-long camps with their friends, we have a fake summer rule: No Having Fun! Say it to your kids — they will giggle and most likely respond with: Yes Having Fun!! While they still want to be with Carson and I, I'm trying to make summer about us. About putting my phone down, and picking up the bubble wand, or the outdoor chalk. About putting on my bathing suit (who cares!) and swimming with them until we all prune up. About hearing the hum of the ice cream truck and chasing after it with them instead of cursing the man under my breath (I mean, 5 p.m.? Really??). About letting the popsicles drip down their sticky arms, and not caring.”
5. ‘Embrace the summer slide.’ (Rebecca Dube)
“Kids these days have enough structure in their lives. They start high-stakes testing in third grade and their recess and playtime have been steadily whittled away. They're over-scheduled and under-exercised.
"Summer is the time to leave all that behind and run wild. Let them eat popsicles for dinner and stay up past their bedtimes. Let them run through sprinklers and spin until they get dizzy and fall down in the grass. Let them count fireflies, not decimal points. Let them flip on trampolines, not flip over flashcards.
"Let them get (gasp!) bored. Let them fill their time with silly games and even (double gasp!) mindless TV.
"Let's give them a break — and give ourselves a break, as parents. We don't need to fill EVERY moment with educational, enriching, stimulating, authentic growth experiences for our children. Let's give ourselves permission to let some things slide this summer.”
6. ‘Do nothing.’ (Jill Simonian)
“Like most parents of my generation, here's what I did during the summer as a kid: I watched TV. I did cartwheels with my sister outside. I spent all day in the pools of neighborhood friends and cousins. I remember making homemade snow cones with this cheap ice-shaving machine my mom bought from our local department store (she let us put as much syrup on them as we wanted).
“I remember feeling free. I remember laughing. I remember happiness.
“I don't ever remember being 'bored' — but maybe that's because my mom hated the word 'bored' and prohibited us from saying it at all. ‘If you're bored, find something to do!’ So we did. And it'd be FUN.
“What should we be doing this summer with our kids? Nothing. We should all be doing nothing together ... as families.”
7. ‘Enjoy it YOUR way.’ (Thriller Mom)
“I think I was more excited about the arrival of summer break this time than I’ve ever been before. I was desperately in need of a change from our routine and the monotony of our dreaded schedule. The weeks prior to my family’s last carpool line for the school year, I read a plethora of articles and blog posts about what to and not to do over the summer. I read about some parents letting their kids run free and other parents who wouldn’t dare. After a while it all felt judge-y, misguided, and completely wrong for my family.
“You see, I strongly believe in doing what works for you and yours. I’m adamant about that policy for me and mine and I wouldn’t dare tell YOU how to enjoy your summer. I can tell you how my family will be spending our summer and some of my ways, as a mother, to keep it all together. ...
“Whatever you do, just enjoy it YOUR way!”
8. ‘She may not remember this summer, but I will.’ (Erica DeSpain)
“At 27 years old my idea of Heaven is sitting poolside on a hot summer day sharing a lounge chair and quartered strawberries with my 1-year-old daughter. She’ll never remember this summer, but I will. ...
“I simply cannot get enough of actually swimming with my daughter. Her belly laughs when I ‘disappear’ under the water and ‘magically’ pop back up are OVER THE TOP ridiculous.
“I absolutely love using my toddler as an excuse to go down the water slide 12 times in a row. I mean, if she keeps running back to it we HAVE to go down again, right? ...
“God willing, I’ll get 18 summers with my daughter to make beautiful memories before she launches as an adult, and though she’ll never remember these first few, I know that I happily will.”
9. ‘Let them be BORED!’ (Behind the Lemon Door)
“I have five kids. And they are all under the age of 8. And my children have learned that mommy only has two hands. I am one person. And I am obviously and painfully outnumbered.
“We don't have a lot of money so we don't take vacations. We live in a small house where my children share two bedrooms among themselves. They have a lot of reason to be bored. But they aren't.
“Here's the thing: It's not my job to make sure they are constantly entertained. Of course I will play with them, and have fun with them. I might even give them a little nudge of an idea. But they have learned to keep themselves busy. ...
“I would rather my kids tell me they are bored and then have them realize a short while later that building a fort or simple hide and seek can be so much fun.”
10. ‘Put your pants on!’ (Britta Merwin)
“Here is a Houston summer through the eyes of a 3-year-old boy: ...
“After a quick dash to the potty: Me: ‘Babe, put your pants on!’
“My son: ‘I don't know where they are.’
“I guess it is too hot for underwear let alone pants.
“I love how kids are so honest.”
11. ‘Thank you, ice cream truck drivers everywhere.’ (Yeah...So That Just Happened)
“I stand in the front window ... behind the curtain, and send them off to the truck alone. They both look for cars, and approach the truck. I see their happy little faces hem and haw over their choices, ultimately deciding on a treat. They hand the lady driving the truck their grubby wrinkled up dollar bills (wait ... a buck for a popsicle!?!) and head back home victorious!
“They were not kidnapped, or hit by a car. I think they even gained some confidence.
“So thank you, ice cream truck drivers everywhere. Thank you for helping me remember those lazy summer days, spent with my cousins, governing ourselves all summer long. Thank you for helping me to let go a little today, and letting my kids have a sliver of the freedom that I enjoyed over countless dripping frosty treats.
“Also ... thanks for not being a creepy kidnapper ...”