Working since I was 14 years old when I was first offered a job at a hospital after being a candy striper, life has always been go-go-go. It has never been slow. Work and school, work and then work, marriage and kids, deployment and then death, then the branches of trying to grow a new life. Life has been very fast-paced and I have mostly enjoyed it that way. As Ecclesiastes 3 says though, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (KJV). Pete Seger knew it, The Byrds sang it, and it rings true.
Summer for a parent is a beautiful opportunity to slow down and enjoy life like we rarely can in today’s world. Yet it seems for working parents that we see the year as one whole block of time and do not feel we have the capacity to enjoy the summer as kids do. It is the simplicity of being out of school and having a break to do nothing; to let yourself go where the wind takes you. I have the really amazing blessing most single parents do not of being able to stop this summer and take a break with my kids to enjoy them at this age. They will be six and seven years old tomorrow. This time will not come back to me. I know if you have to work full-time, or even part-time, you may not feel like you have the opportunity to relax with the kids this summer, but I hope you do. I hope no matter what your circumstances, that you find a way. As Winnie the Pooh famously stated, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”
I am notoriously terrible at slowing down and doing what I am talking about right now. That is exactly why I am so excited for this summer. It’s a fresh chance to be who I want to be; live the way I want to live. Each day, even if you work full-time, try to carve out a bit of do-nothing time. We all need more of it. That is where our creativity flourishes and our peace sets into our souls. It’s not in the mad dash to get everything done. It’s in the empty moments where we can really think, talk, connect, laugh, dream, and feel really truly alive. I used to think summers were about vacations…a chance to take a week vacation. Yet the rest of the summer was like the rest of the year, stressed out and nonstop. Instead, my recipe calls for daily doses, no matter how small, of soulful rest and relaxation.
Why during the summer then? Why not year-round? Well, I absolutely suggest we find peace as much as possible, but I am speaking to the summer regarding parents. I hope it is a chance since our children are out of school to connect with them, share peace with them, and reach them on a more simply joyful level since the weightiness of school responsibilities is off their chests. Even young kids now are overwhelmed with the schedules and daily tasks of the school year. We all need respite. A week vacation may break the bank, but what I am suggesting is completely free.
It reminds me of countries that culturally have a standard break time during the day where everything shuts down and many people take a nap. If you look at the life satisfaction statistics of those places compared to “nonstop” countries, it may make a statement. How about comparing the incidence of anxiety and depression between here and there? If money seems too tight to take a break, think about what changes you can make to add in some breathing room. For example, instead of saving up for one very expensive big trip, what if you instead use that savings to work a little less here and there, add in a few three-day weekends or half-days or whatever is possible for you that will allow you to stop and smell the roses.
Wishing you a peaceful, joyful, laughterful, otherwise empty summer,