Family life

Help! My kids need a break from summer vacation

There is such a thing as being too busy. One mom discovers the downside of over-scheduling her kids during summer vacation.

mom bowling with kids

Jennifer and Gillian at the bowling alley. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

It’s 8:30 a.m. last Thursday morning and my seven-year-old son Isaac is sitting in his underwear in the middle of our living room floor. A half-eaten waffle, a dog-eared copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and a bin of Lego are spread out around him. With a scowl on his face and a whine in his voice, he announces that he wants to quit the art camp he’d been attending all week. I’ve pleaded with him for the last 45 minutes to put on pants so we could get to camp on time, which starts promptly at 9:00 a.m.

“But I’m tired! I haven’t had a chance to play Lego all week!” His voice is cracking and I can tell he’s close to tears.

My daughter four-year-old daughter Gillian is not doing any better and is sobbing in her bedroom, incapable of making a decision about what princess dress to wear for the day.

It’s only three weeks into summer vacation, and I’ve already broken my kids.

Read more: The do’s and don’ts of summer vacation>

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One of my biggest worries about my kids this summer is that they would utter the dreaded “B” word: bored.

So, for the 22 days since school let out, I relentlessly planned camps, clubs and play dates for them, all in an effort to avoid the destructive shenanigans they get up to when I let them play freely in the house. We’ve gone swimming for hours at our public pool, bowled, picked berries, attended library reading clubs, fished and hiked. The week before Isaac’s art camp we ventured out on several long distance bike rides and he played two rounds of golf on back-to-back days. My kids certainly never complained about being bored.

Read more: Using free play to keep kids focused>

Whenever I anticipated a few spare hours, I texted my friends to find new ways to fill our time, arranging a fresh set of play dates in a desperate attempt to avoid the off-chance my kids would tell me they were bored.

Up until last Thursday, my kids woke up fresh-faced and eager for another day of adventure. It was on Thursday that they crashed, done in by my misguided attempts at giving them the most un-boring summer ever. The irony of me planning out our entire summer vacation is that we are a family of non-planners who eschew routine and organization. My kids (who are used to me flying by the seat of my pants) were unaccustomed to this new hectic summer schedule and their tantrums were their way of letting me know. Probably, if I hadn’t been so busy staying busy, I would have picked up on their warning signals before their epic morning meltdowns.

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Isaac eventually got dressed. We tumbled into art camp 10 minutes late, Isaac wiping his sticky face on to his freshly washed camp t-shirt. For the rest of the weekend, we didn’t plan a single activity, save for a birthday party where he ran around barefoot, a water gun in one hand and a bag of pinata candy in the other.

Not once did he say the “B” word.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.