Over at Modern Mrs. Darcy last week, Anne wrote about trying to say yes more often this summer. With a brood of young kids, it’s always easier not to do things. It’s also tempting to be fundamentalist about naps and bedtime — forcing all activities to comply with that schedule — perhaps because some kids really do need the routine, but also because predictable sleep gives parents a break. Sometimes we don’t try to find out that kids can be flexible, too, staying up late, or napping in the car at a slightly different time, or in a baby carrier or stroller or on someone’s lap, or just not.
Anne had resolved to risk more meltdowns and push herself out of her comfort zone, because summer is a great time for memories. It’s hard to make memories if you always stay close to the house. Plus, there are other ways to get a break as a primary caregiver, too: asking friends and family for help, trading off with a partner, hiring a sitter occasionally to help.
I think she’s on to something. We’ve never been particularly rigid about schedules on weekends or vacation. When we went to Disney World this spring, my kids (at the time 4, 2, and 6 months) opened the Magic Kingdom up one morning and practically shut it down at night (we left 15 minutes before closing). Were there cranky moments? Of course. Was the trip back to the hotel at night rough? Naturally. But they also had an amazing time, and got to go on all the rides they liked multiple times, which wouldn’t have happened if we’d gone back to the hotel for naps.
In that spirit, I’m trying to say yes this summer too. This past weekend, we decided to go to the new installation by British artist and light designer Bruce Munro at Longwood Gardens. This installation, Light, is a massive fiber optic style display, but it’s obviously best seen when it’s dark out. It doesn’t get dark here in the northeast until around 8:30/9pm these days. In other words, at bedtime. But we decided to go for it, and hauled the kids down there, arriving at the gardens at 8:20. The lights were amazing. Munro had created towers of lit up water bottles in the middle of a field, like a modern and multi-colored Stonehenge. His installation of thousands of bulbs in the woods were like a throng of pulsing fairies. And then there were the more usual joys of being outside at night, like listening to the bullfrogs in the water, and seeing fireflies flicker in the clearings.
We didn’t get back in the car until 10 p.m. The baby was remarkably chill in the Baby Bjorn, cooing at all the lights, but my husband wound up carrying our 2-year-old through much of the gardens, since he fell asleep about halfway through. The 5-year-old was wavering on the edge of being upset by the time he’d walked well over a mile, but he thought the lights were pretty cool too. And the frogs. He mentioned the frogs Sunday morning as a highlight. Everyone slept in the car. We hauled them in to the house around 11.
I was tired in the morning when the baby woke up around 6. But I’m always tired when the baby wakes up around 6. This fatigue was tempered with the memory of experiencing one of the area’s most exciting art exhibits with my family. Definitely worth blowing through bedtime for.
What are you saying yes to this summer?
In other news:
- What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast goes on sale Tuesday. If you’re a regular blog reader, this is a low budget way to show your support — much cheaper ($2.99) than ordering one of my full-length books 🙂 If you’d like to read a review, check out Kathy of Catching Happiness’s post called “The Hopeful Hours.”
9 thoughts on “A summer of saying “yes””
Yard work! Bedtime routine normally starts at 8 here, but with light till 9 PM, we are outside doing stuff (and go to bed later)
@Twin Mom – I always like being outside at dusk. There’s something about the beginning and end of day that feels a bit magical.
Letting my kids stay up a little later to enjoy the longer evenings and some extra time with us. During the school year they are in bed at 8:30pm sharp. My son still naps at daycare, so lately it has been hard for him to fall asleep that early after napping during the day. My daughter is getting older and I think is ready for a little later bedtime. They are usually the first kids in the neighborhood who have to go in and get to bed. This summer I think I’ll let them stay up an extra half hour.
@Emily- I’m sure they’ll enjoy it! And they’ll probably cope with less sleep. It’s hard to be the first one to go in!
Thanks for the mention, Laura!
This isn’t on the Disney World scale, but this weekend I said Yes to Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine. We did this before several years ago, and I remembered it being hot, crowded and exhausting. And again, it was. But my kids all had a wonderful time, made some great memories, and thought it was extra-fun that they got to stay up 2 hours past bedtime.
Then we all took it easy the next day to recover. I’m saying yes this summer, but I’m also determined to stay sane!
@Anne- this is why it’s important not only to consider the experiencing self (that knows something is hot and crowded and exhausting) but also the remembering self. The memory will be good. Eventually you won’t feel hot and crowded anymore.
We struggle with this – in Seattle it’s light out past 9pm so it would be great to do stuff later, but T’s behavior drops off dramatically past 6:30 or so (which is when bedtime routine starts). So yeah, we could say yes, but then we have to put up with more awfulness, and likely broken sleep as well (for all of us). So we still stick to the routine as much as it sucks on nice days.
But we’ll definitely be a little more flexible during the day with naptimes and whatnot, and trying to get to the beach, etc even though everyone and their dogs are out when it’s nice in Seattle.
I’m not ready to mess with bedtimes yet, mainly because the 8 months old does get cranky and uninterested in ANYTHING around 6:45-7; but with the 2.5-year-old’s inconsistent napping these days, we’ve decided to skip weekend naps some days for other experiences. Last weekend we got a huge car, piled both kids & dog in, and drove out to my husband’s colleague’s house in the burbs for a pool party from 2-5 PM. Normally I would’ve said “no” because of naptime and, ugh, the hassle (& expense of the car) but all little creatures had a blast!
@Ana – that sounds like fun! I try to tell myself that everything is a hassle. So you may as well make memories for your troubles…