Well, parents. Here it comes. You’d think I’d have seen it coming, but it snuck up on me like a snake in the grass. And like any logical person would upon suddenly seeing a snake, I panicked. Two words, friends: Spring. Break.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, there is a part of me that is ecstatic about having uninterrupted time with my girlies all day every day. School days are long, and I cherish the time we have to be together. Also, I ADORE my kiddos. They make me laugh and they make me smile. But sometimes, just ever-so-occasionally, they also make me crazy.
I’m sure you can’t relate at all. But just in case you’re also staring down a week of constant, unstructured togetherness with just a wee bit of anxiety, I thought I’d share some tidbits to pull us all through this.
So without further ado, here are my strategies:
Make a plan. Not only is it WAY easier not to panic when you have a plan, it turns out it’s actually comforting for the kids, too! Now I know every kid is wired differently, but I happen to have an incredibly type-A, plan-everything type of kid. The girl is obsessed with “the plan.” There is not a day that goes by when she fails to ask the question, “What's the plan for today?” And God forbid I not have an answer. I will be immediately assaulted with “But I NEED TO KNOW, Mom!” If she doesn’t know what’s happening, she does not deal. Period.
Your kids may be way more easy going, but all kids like structure, or so “they” say. (Who is "they" anyway? Are they the same people that say you can never give kids sugar and never put your kids in front of a screen? Because I have my eye on “them.” I'm not entirely sure I trust “them.”) These so-called “experts” say it gives kids a sense of security to know what’s happening and have an idea of what their week will look like.
For example, my plan for Monday is as follows: stay in our jammies and watch movies. It’s supposed to snow, ok? Quit judging! (Also, SNOW over SPRING break?! What is this nonsense?!) “They” didn’t say it has to be an involved plan.
I have to admit that my personal experience backs up the research of these specialists. I find that if I just stumble my way through a day at home with my kids and let things happen, they get antsy, whiny, and they start to bicker. And then steam starts to come out my ears and I find things flying out of my mouth like “You kids are going to send me to the funny farm!”
**You know you need to find a new phrase when your kids start asking where the funny farm is. I think they’re picturing some sort of goofy petting zoo, bless their little hearts.
Ahem. All that to say, I find it’s easier if I at least have a rough outline. I thought maybe you’d find it helpful, too.
Stock up on coffee. All the coffee. This is self-explanatory, friends. You wouldn’t go into battle unarmed. You wouldn’t go into spring break without caffeine. Stay safe, soldiers.
Balance down time and "activity" time. Our kids have busy lives, and their world demands a lot from them most of the time. Spring break is a great opportunity to let them rest and play.
Also, can we talk about this phenomenon we have going on in mom-world where we feel like we have to entertain, educate, stimulate their young minds at all times? Yeah. I’m calling bull. Did our parents have time for that? Because I seem to remember playing Barbies by myself, climbing trees, and also watching The Little Mermaid quite a bit. Anybody else? Mmmmhmmm. That’s what I thought. And I think we turned out ok for the most part—right? (Maybe you shouldn't answer that.) I think it's safe to say that it’s ok if every second is not filled up with stimulating, exciting, and educational activities. It’s spring break for crying out loud.
Having said that, it’s good to have some balance. So if you’re getting ambitious and planning to say, go to a museum one afternoon, maybe plan to lay around in the morning and read. Or if they're getting together to play with friends one day, let them have some alone time another day. It's all about the yin and the yang, folks. (Ok, I have no idea what I’m talking about with that, but just roll with it. Nod and smile like I just said something profound.)
Plan some alone time for yourself in there somewhere. If you’re used to having some quiet when your kids are at school, the 24/7 kid noise of spring break *might* be a little much to handle. You *may* find yourself wanting to scream the fifteenth time they tell you their brilliantly composed knock-knock joke. Not that I’m speaking from experience, here. This is hypothetical, obviously.
If you're an introvert like me, and need quiet to recharge, take a LOOOOONG walk or go to a coffee shop, pop your headphones in, and read (the headphones need not play anything, but can just be a little message communicating that you’re not up for small talk at the moment). If you're an extrovert, plan for a time to meet up with friends and get some laugh and chat therapy.
Whatever it is, just make sure you give yourself a little time-love this week. Your family will thank you.
Find a few free or inexpensive outings to sprinkle throughout the week, to break up the time. I’ve found that my kids are way more content to chill at home, and are way less likely to complain about boredom if they have something fun to look forward to. If you have a few special things planned, your time at home is likely to go a lot smoother. Here are some ideas:
-Utilize your public library. I plan to go at the beginning of the week and load up on books so my kids have no shortage of reading material for the week ahead. I plan to also get a few books with built in activities to keep them busy. Our library has plenty of “How to Draw this or that” books, or books about Lego building, or crafting books.
**Now that I’ve mentioned it, I might as well say that crafts are my NEMESIS. I loathe them from the very core of my soul. I love reading with my kids, playing outside with my kids, even playing (certain) board games with my kids, but I cannot handle crafts. They send me to a very bad mental place, so it is crucial that I limit my time in craft land to almost-none-at-all. That’s why, if crafts are brought up by my sweet, creative children, I will probably give them a designated time and space to do them, after which I will enforce a strict clean-up time. This is the only way to stay sane for me. You do you, though. You may relish glitter and glue sticks and glossy paper, so have at it. Plan an all-day craft fest. Just one question: may I send my kids to join?
-Utilize all your memberships. We have a pass to our local zoo (which, I don't mean to brag, has been rated #1 in the world, so go us!) so I plan to use that for an afternoon next week. Personally, The Children’s Museum gives me heart palpitations: I’m always certain I will lose one of my children in the utter chaos, and that we’ll all end up with the stomach bug and spend our spring break cleaning up puke. So, needless to say, I don’t have a membership there. But lots of people love it, so maybe you will too!
-Utilize the googles. Google “Free Family Fun in ____” (Insert your city name.) Our city has a ton of great free options for kids, some indoor and some outdoor, so I plan to have a couple of each up my sleeve. We’ll probably go to our neighborhood park, the big slides we have downtown, and maybe to the kids area of our local art museum.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If they have a little extra sugar, or a little extra screen time, or a little extra stall-time at bedtime, don’t sweat it. Spring break, friends. Live it up. This is the parents’ version of #YOLO.
Well, I hope this helps you on your quest to stay sane as a spring break parent. If it doesn’t, I’m so sorry, but I cannot offer you a refund at this time. I can only give referrals to the wine section of Trader Joe’s.
You are loved! Happy Spring Break!