Summer Vacation in an Outbreak

Is it just me, or was the end of this past school year lackluster at best. Admittedly I was a mediocre homeschooling parent, but even then it seems like we slowly faded into summer rather than the grand explosion of excitement and frenzy that normally unfolds in our household.

Sure there have been the usual celebratory meals outside and bonfires. Hike through the woods and dams made in streams. But with so much attention on worldwide events right now, that at times can feel daunting and overwhelming as an adult, I am personally finding the need to intentionally create joy and enthusiasm for this special time of year.

With so few resources available, what can we as parents provide for our children at this time? I think the answer can be found in the poem Wilder Child by Nicolette Sowder. In stripping down the traditions of years past, we must replace them with something different perhaps something a bit wilder. In doing away with our social settings we are left with something a bit more unhinged, perhaps the forgotten bits of ourselves that we’ve tampered down to be more socially acceptable. Perhaps party dresses for big family events are traded it in for mangy locks the fly free as a child runs through a field. Perhaps in exchange for obligatory hugs with family members, we have feral wolf howls that sound through space and time. And perhaps instead of a perfectly thought out meal plan you just grab whatever is leftover in the fridge and eat off a blanket in the yard to watch the setting sun.

So here I will offer two gifts in navigating this summer break for you and your family. The first is the poem that I have drawn my own inspiration from, and the second is a list of guidelines that I have used to apply this to my own home. 

Give Me The Wild Children

give me the wild children

with their bare feet

and sparkling eyes.

the restless,

churning climbers.

the wild ones using their outside voices,

singing all the way home.

give me the wonder-filled, glorious mess makers

dreaming of mountains and mud,

aching to run through a field of stars.

-Nicolette Sowder, Wilder Child

McCarthy Guidelines for the Summer of 2020:

  • Have set snack spots that can be easily hiked to. When all of my children get up from their afternoon rest we always have a drink and snack. However, if it is a nice day and I don’t have any administrative work to do we will throw everything into a backpack and we will walk to one of our treasured snack spots.
  • Visit trees. Have a grand and beautiful and wise tree that you make pilgrimages to at regular intervals. My children have even taken up the task of regularly bringing gifts to the trees of flowers or rocks they find. The experience is elevated if it is a tree that can be climbed, or is a fruit-bearing tree that could also serve as a snack.
  • Retreat to water. Find some sort of water area that can serve as a recreation site. This does not have to be water you can swim in, it could be merely a stream that is damned up and you can sit in or make waterfalls, or hunt for newts, just a place where you can get wet. In a quick pinch, a sprinkler will also serve this purpose at times, like if I have a phone meeting so I can’t leave the house.
  • Take story time outside. There’s nothing quite so wonderful as bringing a blanket and a few books into some shade and sitting down to have story time outside.
    Let the kiddos go to bed later. I feel like this is a pretty simple concept, however, let the kids wear themselves out by the end of the day. After dinner and clean up let them go outside and play in the setting sun. On hot and humid days it is the most comfortable time to be outdoors. I have found that this has significantly reduced the struggle of getting the children to bed with longer days.
    Wake your children up in the night to show them something special. This could be gazing at the stars in finding constellations and planets, or could be catching fireflies, or listening to the howls of coyotes but whatever it is it will be a magical memory for your child.
    Make popsicles all day every day. Most store-bought popsicles have tons of added sugar and coloring and I can hardly get my kids to stop running long enough to drink some water. But guess what they do stop for? If you said popsicles you are right. If using juice I double the water, or if using frozen fruit and water I use minimal maple. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
    Let your kids be loud. While outside encourage Tarzan yells, wolf pack howls, scream-singing, and in general yelling out silly words. Kids have an ample amount of energy and need to be nudged to use it all up when it is appropriate rather than the middle of dinner (unless that is acceptable in your house)
    Get as dirty as you need to during the day. I don’t generally care how dirty my kids get during the day, short of rolling around in the mud (which did happen last week). They are often a hot mess when they come in the house and there is a rigorous protocol in getting ready for bed to make sure we are not ruining the sheets on the beds at night. Our clothing is sufficiently stained and loved.

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