Anyone who has known me for more than, oh, five minutes knows that I really do not like summer. Never have, never will. No, not even when I was a kid. School vacation was fine and dandy - it was just the hazy, hot and humid part that made me droop.
Becoming a mother gave summer a whole new twist, as kids who were accustomed to having their days filled by school were suddenly draped all over the house with not enough to do and nowhere to do it except directly beneath my feet. Not that they dared complain: it didn't take any of them very long to learn that saying, "I'm bored" would be the equivalent of volunteering for hard labor. But just because they're smart enough to keep quiet doesn't mean they're immune to the summertime blues. And after five kids, trust me, I know the signs.
So years ago, when my oldest was about ten or twelve, I decided that summers would be a time for making sure my kids knew how to take care of themselves. With schedules being lighter and the days more relaxed, we embarked on Operation Real Life. Each child was given the task of making dinner one night/week. They had to plan what to make, prepare a shopping list, accompany me to the grocery store to get their items, and then make the meal.
I was prepared for complaints, but honestly, this is one of the few things I did right with my crew. Does it mean extra work for me? Yes, for the first few years. Do they enjoy it? Not always. But they get past that and learn to enjoy paging through cookbooks or browsing Allrecipes.com to find something new and interesting to prepare. Best of all, after the first few years of this, they have the confidence and training in the kitchen to be able to cook independently.
The cooking experiment worked so well that we expanded it into other areas of self-care. Once they learn how to do laundry in grade 6 FACS class, they become responsible for their own clothing. When they hit high school, Mom stops making school lunches. When a button falls off a shirt - okay, yeah, we usually end up tossing it. There are limits, people :-)
Best of all is that between these steps, regular household chores, and our infamous Ten Minute Tidies (everyone working together for ten minutes straight to pick up and tidy), by the time they leave for college they are fairly self-sufficient. Do they know how to handle every situation? Heck no. But they have a great foundation to build upon. And oh, I can't describe the joy I felt after my eldest's first year of university when he looked at me and said, "Remember all those times I whined because you made me cook and clean and look after myself? THANK YOU."
So summers, much as I dislike them, have paid off big-time for my kids and me. And now that I have deadlines to juggle, I am more than happy to hand over cooking duties a few nights each week! But I still have two children with a substantial number of summers at home ahead of them, so tell me - how do you help get your kids through the summer? How did or are you preparing them for Life After High School? Or what was the best thing anyone ever did to prepare you for real life? One lucky commenter will receive a gorgeous silver bookmark, so speak up!
Zippy Summer Shrimp from Allrecipes.com - the meal my twelve-year-old made for us tonight!