Well folks, we’ve survived.
As I walked Abby into her new 4-year-old Pre-K class this morning, she promptly dropped her backpack and made a beeline for the Barbie table without looking back.
Summer break is over and every member of this family is thrilled!
Back in May I wrote a post about how I was preparing myself for summer (if you missed it, you can find it here.) So today I thought I’d follow up and let you know what worked, what didn’t, which grand plans I ultimately abandoned, and what unexpected things I actually loved about summer.
The last thing I wrote about in my preparation post is the first thing I’m going to talk about here, because preparing my heart and mind absolutely made the biggest difference in how we fared this summer, as compared to last.
Yes, we still had a lot of togetherness.
Yes, I still felt overwhelmed from time to time. (In fact, yesterday things almost went completely off the rails.)
But overall, I’m ending this summer in a much better emotional state than I was in this time last August, and I know my outlook at the outset of summer was key.
The biggest mindset shift I established was making the intentional, deliberate choice to savor this last summer of having an only child. I didn’t do it perfectly, but keeping this One Thing as a priority helped me put down the phone and read another story when I really wanted to mentally check-out. It kept me looking for ways to get us out of the house, even if just for a quick run to the library.
When I did get frustrated, overwhelmed, tired, or annoyed, reminding myself of this priority helped pull me back. I didn’t always do it perfectly, but I do believe I made progress.
Practically, the time I took to schedule things in advance also served me well. The items already on our calendar (Abby’s two visits to see her grandparents, her swimming lessons, the mini-vacation Dave and I took, etc.) became my sign posts along the road of summer, and helped me keep moving forward.
Along the way, I discovered that my go-go-go extroverted girl also has her limits. So leaving white space in the calendar, especially in the weeks immediately following her two big trips, was beneficial for all of us. Having time to be home, read, play, and just relax helped balance out the busyness.
What Didn’t Work
I had high hopes for instituting Quiet Time with Abby this summer, and unfortunately, we seem to be no closer to that goal becoming reality than we were in May. Her capacity for playing alone in her room has increased some over the past few months, but the routine is still not where I’d like it to be before the baby arrives.
Now, I’m working on thinking through two things: 1) what is my actual goal? What do I envision when I think “quiet time?” and 2) how can I make that a reality in a way that works for Abby, rather than trying to fit her into the “quiet time” boxes I’ve been attempting to borrow from other people?
It’s a work in progress.
I also have to confess that while our well-laid plans in June and July worked out well, I left August a bit too open and flexible, resulting in more frustration and less patience (on all our parts,) and the unfortunate tendency to utilize more screen time than was really advisable.
We are attempting a course correction. She had several days’ break from screens this week, which resulted in a shockingly quick reversal of some behavior and attitude issues which had cropped up in the past couple weeks. (It’s one of those things that we knew…but we didn’t really know until we saw it play out in front of us…ya know?)
As easy as it is to just let her watch something or play on her Kindle, we are experiencing firsthand how much happier our whole family is when we don’t give in to that quick-fix as often. Definitely something I will need to remember come December when she has another break, right as we will be in the thick of newborn parenting. (Maybe I should set a reminder in my phone…)
What I Abandoned
Two of the things in my preparation post didn’t play out like I planned and were eventually abandoned.
The first was using visual cues or a calendar/schedule system for Abby to see what we would be doing each day. On the one hand, I still think this could be a great thing for the child who constantly wants to know “what are we doing today?” immediately followed by “what are we doing tomorrow?”
On the other hand, my perfectionist-procrastinator tendencies got in the way of me creating such a system and I think that could continue to be an issue going forward. We’ll see.
The second plan wasn’t so much abandoned as it was curtailed. We did pull out some chairs and clear off space for Abby to play on the deck, like I intended. She also received a cute little playhouse from both sets of grandparents for her birthday, which she enjoyed for the first part of the summer.
But we didn’t utilize the deck as much as I thought we would due to two factors. The first was the weather. It got SO HOT this summer, and Mama is just not a fan of the heat. Then, when it wasn’t brutally hot, it was raining. Not ideal for playing on the deck.
The second reason we’ve not been out there lately is a renovation project which is currently underway at our house, temporarily blocking our easy access. Daddy has been working hard!
Which leads me to…
The Unexpected Things I Actually Loved About Summer
The first on this list might sound a bit harsh, or like backhanded compliment, but don’t worry, it will not be news to my husband.
I have been pleasantly surprised by how nice it’s been to have Dave home every day since the middle of July.
Historically, I don’t do well with my routine being upended, even if it’s to have the love of my life hanging out at home with me.
And there has been added stress, since he’s home because his job with the Army is ending, and a new job hasn’t opened for him yet despite his diligent job hunting.
Also, there are challenges we’ve had to work through around differing approaches to parenting Abby in the day-to-day.
I’ve had my moments of longing for our regular routine, and we’ve had to help Abby work through how to appropriately express her own feelings around things not being “normal.” (ie. saying “Daddy, you need to leave!” is an example of mean words, and we don’t speak to each other with mean words.)
But we’ve also had the chance to enjoy more family time together. Two of my favorite things ever have come from this season: Abby’s and Daddy’s new morning routine, where Daddy meets her on the stairs for big good-morning bear hug (she will sit and wait at the top of the stairs until he notices her…it’s adorable) and the new addition to Abby’s bedtime routine, where they both lean close to my belly and sing “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck” to the baby.
I also have been able to embrace slower days, with fewer items on my to-do list, since someone else is here to help with making the bed, cooking, and cleaning up dishes.
Abby also naps for Daddy much better than she does for Mommy, so even though Quiet Time hasn’t taken off yet, we’ve had more days than not where all of us enjoyed a midday siesta.
The renovations Dave is working on in this unexpected free time will allow us to shift some things around to prepare for the arrival of the new little one. And in the process, we are finally (after 3 years) making some changes to make our home feel more our own. Sacrificing a bit of inconvenience now is going to pay out big in the long run.
Progress Over Perfection
The summer hasn’t been perfect.
As I mentioned in the beginning, all of us have eagerly anticipated this day when routine and structure would return.
I also haven’t yet mentioned the other unexpected change this summer: the decision that I’ll be taking on significantly more interpreting work in the next few months before the baby comes, taking a short maternity leave, and then returning to work after the first of the year. (My feelings around no longer being a full-time SAHM are complex, and will likely warrant an entire post of their own…eventually.)
But when I look back on the emotional exhaustion I felt at this point last year, I’m pleased with how far we’ve come.
I don’t think I cried once just because my daughter was talking to me this summer.
So while things might not have been perfect, that’s certainly progress.