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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Which is Harder: School or Summer?

Those of you parents who struggle every school day in getting up the kids, finding their homework and shoes, and rushing them off to classes, tend to love, love, love summertime.  And those who luxuriate in the slower pace of summer, I have news for you:  the schoolyear cometh with its harried schedule.

Which is easier for your family?

Lots of our post-institutionalized children don’t do well without a finely-honed schedule.  Tell them that “Today is a free day!” and they can “hang” or “chill”, and it will most likely send them, or you, ‘round the bend.  Creativity is not their forte’.  In the orphanage, they were always told what to do, and when to do it.  Free time spelled trouble.

And it often does even years, later.  Particularly on our free days, few though those may be, I try to make a semblance of a schedule, or squabbles break out among some of our kids, not all.

“Okay, everyone,” I give them their marching orders after breakfast.  “Let’s brush our teeth, then we will fold laundry and do our spelling test from 8:00 am – 8:30 am.  After that, you have free time from 8:30 – 9: 30–.”

“What should we do?” one asks.

“Whatever you want to do.  Hang from the rafters,” I suggest, informing them of our other activities of the day.

I know what they want.  They want me to list their menu of possible activities du jour:  bicycles, scooters, badminton, insect-capturing, fort-building, weeding in the garden, playing with legos, reading a book….  I refuse, because it turns their brains to mush.

“Just tell me what to do!” another begs.

Be still, my heart.  I’m very good at that.  But they’re very bad at thinking thoughts of their own, and hence, I stifle any urge to order them around.  So for the next hour I’m plagued with kids “popping up” to ask this or that, trying to tighten the trailing umbilical cord.

They feel lost, and adrift, and incapable simply because I have not outlined for them 1, 2, 3, 4.  It’s the post-instititutionalized issue of choices, and not being able to make any for themselves.  With time, the PI child outgrows this, but the older they are, the harder it is.

“I think I’ll go outside and play,” Sashenka declares.

“Fine,” I agree.

Within five minutes, she’s back inside, asking for a drink.  At almost 11, she is quite capable of opening the refrigerator herself, and pouring a drink of filtered water.  It’s not that I don’t cater to them.  Three meals a day, they are waited on hand and foot.  One hour on their own is too much “svabod’naya vrehm’ya” (free time).

“Do you know where the drawing paper is?” asks Pasha.

“Probably the playroom.  Look around,” I suggest.

“Okaaaayyy…” he moans, the weight of the world on his shoulders because I didn’t poof! solve his problem.

I realize during these episodes that I am not so much “Mama”, I am the State, and the State takes care of you.

Consequently, during the summer, I tend to stick to a schedule, along with the occasional free time, letting out the fishing line, before reeling it back in.  Do your kids do well with unstructured, free time, or are summers rough for you, too?

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7 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Winnie says:

    The little guy though only 4 wants/needs a schedule laid out for him. Nightly he asks about the day ahead. Really we are really laid back with as little scheduled as possible so sometimes it happens where there is nothing on the calendar. My replies of “I don’t know” send him into a tailspin. Luckily he has a brother that is very creative at getting them into trouble!

    • avatar admin says:

      I know what you mean, Winnie. There are some obsessive aspects to it, too. Our first son had to know each day what was scheduled for the next 3 meals. I had never exactly “planned” meals before. He was afraid of starving. So we starting planning more, while easing him through the “need” to know, to realize that we would take care of him. Maybe you can get a dry-erase board and jot a few ideas there when inspiration strikes. Then when he asks, you can just read it to him. 🙂

  2. avatar Lisa says:

    I just make a list and my daughter has to refer to it to decide what to do. If that seems to be too hard I always have plenty of chores available. She has done much better this third summer….they used to be completely miserable.

    • avatar admin says:

      Oooh, chores… I like, Lisa, I like! My kids are generally fine with chores, the few they can do, since they need supervision on the others. Lists are smart, lists are my friend.

      Anyhoo, I think I’ve tired them out for the rest of summer. Tonight hardly any of them can walk after 7 hours of non-stop activity, so at least they’ll all sleep well….

  3. avatar Kathleen says:

    Yep, this is exactly what life is like with my children. I love summer for exactly those reasons, but we also have to have a predictable schedule. Within that schedule there is free time and the kids still need lots of guidance with free time, but it is in the schedule so they accept it as part of the routine. So, when we all get together at your party house, I’m thinking totally spontaneous could be an exciting change to my life 🙂

    • avatar admin says:

      Hah, that’s true-! We probably all need a change of pace and a little spontaneity. I promise that there will be no enforced craft time, nor shuffleboard….

  4. avatar Hala says:

    I like your post…Thanks for the great info

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