Some context: The two big kids (nine and six) have been home since July 22 (but who’s counting?). In Israel, most “kaytanot” (summer camps) run for three weeks in July, and then you’re pretty much left to your own devices. Some years I’ve signed my kids up for after-camp camp. Since I work from home, though, I don’t have the same pressure to find childcare as my friends who have to actually have to show up for work every day, alone, dressed in something other than the same denim skirt they wore yesterday (and the day before that, and the day before … okay, I should stop now.) So I figured I would save the money, squeeze in some work time when the kids were occupied/asleep, and otherwise try to entertain them, gulp, myself.
More context: It is SUPER hot in this country. Israel’s summer is the USA’s winter—the season where you’re stuck inside because the weather is so awful. Trips to the park happen in December, not August.
Anyway, unlike my super-organized, creative mom friends who pack their kids’ summers with trips and cool art projects and nifty baking activities, I practice a much lazier form of parenting. Not exactly free-range parenting (which implies a philosophy and lifestyle choice and, well, thought); more like de-ranged parenting. I don’t have Themed Activity Days. I have Errands. (Can “Tooling Around in a Minivan that Never Quite Has the Chance to Cool Off” be considered an activity? Yes, I believe it can.)
And so, some lessons I have learned (and am learning) as summer crawls, slathered in sunscreen and asking what we are doing today, Mommy, toward its inexorable conclusion: School.
1. Days off do not equal Spend Lots of Money. If the kids had their druthers (and really, with the price of druthers these days, we’re trying to cut down), they would spend every day of vacation going to an amusement park, followed by ice cream and topped off with dinner in a restaurant. I am trying to teach them, through Lazy Parenting (patent pending), that we do not need to spend money every day on food or an activity. (We have to save our money for Errands). So yes, pizza at Big Apple Pizza is delicious, but pita pizzas at home are okay, too. And getting together with a friend is perhaps not as thrilling as a water park, but is also fun and involves way fewer lines.
2. Killing-brain-cells-through-TV is maybe not a bad thing. I’ve been saying for a while they’re getting too smart for their own good. Maybe all the TV watching will dull their unusually sharp Arguing and Begging skills? Here’s hoping!
3. Errand + ice cream = Fun! If you combine a boring errand with a stop for ice cream, it becomes an activity! “Let’s go to the library and the car wash!” Boo! “And while we’re waiting for the car to finish, you can get a treat in the gas station store!” Yay!
4. Learn to be “zorem.” This is one of my favorite Hebrew phrases. “Zorem” means, literally, to flow; to be “zorem” means to go with the flow. Every moment of our day, as my kids are learning, albeit painfully, does not have to be filled with “doing something.” We start our day, and see where it takes us. There may be some time spent just sitting around. In a related lesson: Boredom will not, contrary to my children’s forceful opinions, kill you. (Though I wonder what Judaism thinks about boredom. If you have nothing to do, should you learn some Torah? Or is okay to sit on the couch and stare off into space? We live in a time where we have the luxury to be bored—what would our ancestors say about it?)
5. But not too zorem. And this is finally where the “Jewish” part of this “Jewish Values” blog comes in. (‘Cuz I knew you were wondering). If there’s one thing Judaism rocks at, it’s structure. Prayer, for example, divides our day neatly into morning, afternoon and evening. Blessings structure our eating. And myriad other halachot structure how we play, what we watch and how we interact with others. You can’t get away with just TV watching and eating junk food. Judaism dictates that do small things during the day to elevate ourselves from total Slothville, to give our day meaning. So on every vacation day, my children know they need to do three things: Get dressed, brush teeth and daven (pray; I only require they complete the morning service). Yes, my standards are low, but at least we’re remembering that our day off is not completely “off;” it never completely belongs to us. Plus, we’re maintaining decent oral hygiene.
So we’re getting through, even enjoying, our just-lazy-enough summer. How is summer treating you?