butler_cherylOn June 22, I witnessed it all over again.  I gripped the banister as tightly as I could, though my cold and clammy hands made it difficult to hang on.  Sounds of excited children screeching and yelping engulfed my quivering eardrums as I swallowed hard and glanced one last time at one of my guardian angels—our school bus driver, honking and waving "Have a great summer—see you in September!"  The ten weeks of summer vacation had arrived yet again—"bring it on" I bravely shuddered!

Spoil sport you say?  Heavens no—a realist is more like it.  I mean, how many years have families been doing this summer vacation thing?  Seems like since dinosaurs roamed the earth for some, but I suppose it only feels that way because so many of us have this inbred gene that tells us our children simply must be entertained the moment they step foot off that bus until Labor Day graces our calendars.

Now, I certainly don’t want to speak for the rest of you because believe me, I have plenty of friends who start counting down the last days of school somewhere around Christmas.  "Can’t wait until my babies are home with me every day.  We always have so much fun together," chime my friends with nannies! Please don’t misunderstand me, I have oodles of fun with my eight kids too, but let me be honest, sometimes it takes a little work.

So, in order to stave off any unnecessary moments of angst when one of my darlings realizes they are not part of a three-ring circus for the summer I did the only logical thing—joined the wine of the month club and then headed to my favorite place to think and get creative—the bookstore.  Don’t worry, I didn’t bring a bottle of merlot along with me, the smell of crisp new pages just waiting to be discovered is always enough to relax me in an instant.  No sooner did I find a quiet little nook to sit and think, there it was in glorious yellow and black—the answer to this year’s vacation entertainment—Summer for Dummies, written by One Smart Parent.

In case you’ve never laid eyes on the Dummy series, you’ll be happy to know that the publisher does not ever intend to make the reader feel like a stupid head!  For Dummies is an extensive series of instructional books which are intended to present non-intimidating guides for readers new to the various topics covered.  Everything from cooking to learning a foreign language are covered--literally dozens of books on virtually everything are in their series, so why not one on navigating the waters of a family-filled summer?

After briefly skimming the table of contents, I knew I had a winner.  This author had done her homework and was now passing along her words of wisdom to the rest of us.  Here are a few brief passages:

Chapter One:   Summer Forecast—Bright and Sunny—Lighten Up! Where is it written in seashells that we have to schedule our kids’ entire summer vacation?  Only in our minds, that’s where.  Summer days were meant to be easy, breezy and lazy, not loaded from dawn to dusk with lessons, play dates and other kid-centered entertainment.  Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t plan some special events while they’re out of school, but there is nothing wrong with allowing children to create their own adventures as well. (See what I mean, great stuff!)

Chapter Two:  Vacations are like sandcastleswhen your plans come crumbling down, grab your pail and shovel and build something better! Easier said than done perhaps, but let’s face it, not all our summer days are going to be peachy keen, beach days.  Rainy and non-eventful days present awesome opportunities for baking yummy cookies, building forts out of boxes, hanging out in PJs and watching funny movies, or dare it be suggested—organizing their bedrooms after a full year of school clutter creeps in.  These can be some of our kid’s favorite summer memories, so never be disappointed when a given day suggests you start digging a new hole. (Love it!)

Chapter Three:  If something has to melt, let it be your popsicle! Ah, yes—those sticky moments during vacation—usually the second week of August when we’ve all had enough of summer’s carefree days and we really don’t care to spend another moment together.  This is the perfect time to grab a frozen delight (or that wine of the month) and remember that these times are completely normal and only temporary. Believe it or not, there will come a time (when we are retired and aching to have them driving us crazy again) that it will seem like no big deal little Freddy used sidewalk chalk to draw on the dining room walls instead of the driveway.  Stay cool! (I couldn’t agree more!)

OK, so there really is no such thing as Summer for Dummies but just because the school bus would not be back in our neighborhood for two more months was no reason to panic.  Families have the power to set their own expectations for the flavor they wish their summer to have.  This year, I’m hoping to taste a vacation that is a lot less loaded and a lot more laid back—to me, there’s nothing dumb about that!

Copyright 2010 Cheryl L. Butler