We aren’t going on a trip this spring break. For many people, spring break is a chance to take a small vacation, but not us, not this year. No. Our spring break is two weeks of empty days waiting to be filled.
There are two sides to the stay at home parent cliché. On one side is the Project Parent who always has something exciting planned, and whose children are constantly involved in a project or a class of some sort. For these parents the problem is never filling time, it is finding enough time to do all of the Pintrest projects they want to do. These are the parents who are devastated when school starts, who may even choose to homeschool in order to have more time to get things done.
The other parent never knows exactly what to do with their kids. It’s not that there aren’t fun ideas, or trips to take, or things to learn. They simply don’t plan them out. They let the day take them wherever it chooses, even if it chooses to let the kids run through the sprinkler and then color outside with chalk. This parent is likely to be relieved when school starts, not out of a lack of love for their child, but to have the stress of entertaining and engaging transferred to a professional.
Both sides have their strong arguments. Project parents know their child is learning. They have the great memories, usually with great pictures, to put out for everyone to see. Their child is never bored, because there is always another project coming. This is not the child who will sit on the couch watching cartoons. Every minute of their day is filled.
Relaxed parents swear they are giving their child the freedom to have a childhood. It’s not about where they need to be or rushing to get them there on time. It’s about enjoying the journey. Sometimes the journey will take them on a trip, sometimes their project will be to marathon watch a movie series. The child might know more about SpongeBob or learn their second language from Dora, but they are learning in their own way.
I’m not going to advocate as to which one is better. I will just leave it to the parents and the children to decide how their family should work. For my house, well, I am not a great Project Mom. I did fine planning projects when I taught preschool. It was part of the job and I got things done. However, at home I don’t tend to plan often. I don’t want to write lesson plans for my house; I have enough work and homework as it is.
I take the relaxed approach to our time out of school. But there is a part of me, buried deep inside, who wants to be a Project Mom. I want to have cool ideas to do with my kids, and actually remember to buy the supplies to do them. I want our days to be filled with more than ‘I don’t know what to do’ moments. I don’t need the kids to be busy all the time, but when school breaks come, I want to be enough of a Project Mom, that I have a plan to fill our days.
This spring break, I’m trying to have a plan. It’s not a strict schedule, more of a list of ways to keep us all busy. We need something to do today? Great, here is something I already have planned. I suppose as a how to, it might have worked better before spring break started, but you can always save it for summer. I’m pretty sure I will be.
Plan 1) Find community events.
Our base is small. There aren’t many things happening in general, but the base does try to plan a few things every month. For our spring break, there is a playground opening, an Easter egg hunt, and a field day. Three small things, each only half a day, but they are something to do, with other kids, where I don’t have to plan and organize the event.
Plan 2) Take a day trip.
I don’t travel much without my husband. Partly because I hate driving, particularly in Europe. (Not to be unkind, but the roads are small, the driving is fast, there are two lane roads that hardly fit one car through, and I am terrified of the tiny parking spaces. It’s enough to give me an anxiety attack.) It used to be harder, when my children were younger. Now they are old enough I don’t need a stroller, they can carry their own stuff, and they can speak up when they need to eat or go to the bathroom. I’m not brave enough for an overnight trip just for fun, but I can handle a train ride to another city to visit the zoo and the aquarium. It’s fun for the kids, it’s fun for me, and it’s one day where the plan is set.
Plan 3) Put off big projects.
I have been warning my children for a month, their rooms are getting a deep clean. Storage spaces are starting to hold junk instead of toys and books, and their wardrobes are full of clothes they either do not wear or do not fit them. I could have started on the cleaning while they were at school, or turned it into a project to tackle one weekend. Instead I saved all of the big projects for spring break, and a two week stint of spring cleaning. Together my girls and I are cleaning their rooms, my closet, the garage, and getting the garden ready. Is it unkind to make their school break filled with cleaning? Maybe. Is it a realistic idea of something that needs to be done? Yes. Why pretend that these kinds of projects are easy? I let them join me in the fun and the hard work, to give them an appreciation for how hard I work all the time. Their parts are easier than mine of course, but I don’t want to hide the overall efforts from them.
Plan 4) Be lazy.
Yes, I know. I’m planning to entertain my children, not make them bored. This isn’t a plan to leave them laying around the house like lumps. Some days I need a break; it’s crazy to think they never need one. Take out the pool and let them swim around. Pop in a movie and have that marathon. Bake cookies, not because you need something to do, but because you want a cookie. It’s nice to have a day or two without a plan, to decide for yourself what you want to do. Last summer, my kids and I decided to try watching as many of the Disney movies we hadn’t seen before as we could. We didn’t get through them all; watching one a week meant there was never a chance we would. It was simply a thought to keep us from doing the same thing over and over, something I’m sure all of the parents who currently close their eyes and see Frozen playing on repeat can appreciate. One day a week, we made popcorn and popped in a movie they hadn’t seen before. Some they didn’t care for, others became new favorites.
In the end, the entertainment is your business, and your choice. Plan a lot, plan nothing. At the end of the break, you will know if you did it right for you.
So, how about it? What is spring break for your house?