Am I Flunking Summer Vacation?

Am I Flunking Summer Vacation?

Until 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon, I felt like I was managing this summer vacation thing pretty darn well.

We Weisbergs spent July in Baltimore and in Ontario at my husband’s family’s cottage. My kids enjoyed time with grandparents and cousins and swimming at the neighborhood pool/lake and going on fun outings here and there.

And then, on August 1st, we returned to Israel. Which meant I had a month to fill somehow. My big kids would be very busy with friends, and getting ready and then going on the big annual youth-group camping trip, and preparing for next year. But I also have an 11, 9, 6, 3, and 1-year-old to keep busy and happy.

And then I had a great idea– I would hire my 11-year-old, Moriah, to make a camp 3 hours a day for my 3 youngest kids, with her 9-year-old brother as her junior counselor.

Well, 3+ weeks in, Moriah’s camp has been a huge success. They have cooking days, backyard pool days, coloring days, movie days, and every Friday is challah day. 6-year-old Tsofia begged Moriah to have camp on Shabbat as well, but I reminded her that camp directors work very hard during the week and need a day off just like the rest of us.

And my kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy the camp. I use those three hours to run errands, get some exercise, and post something for you JewishMOMs.

And then in the afternoons, I take the little kids out to a neighborhood playground and buy them a special it’s-summer-vacation popsicle on the way home.

And I was feeling very satisfied with this arrangement, and I think my children were too, until yesterday at 4:30 PM, while running out to the playground, when my 16-year-old, Hallel, asked, “Eema, why don’t we go with all the kids to the beach one day?”

The truth is, travelling with 8 kids (including a somewhat naughty 3-year-old and a very active 1-year-old) to the beach is not my idea of fun. In fact, for me, it would be the JewishMOM definition of nervewracking.

So I said, “No, we are not all going to the beach.”

“Why not?”

“Going to the beach with all the children is not fun for me. But if you big kids want to go together with abba, that’s great, and I am happy to stay home with Yaakov and Yonatan.”

And then I walked out the door with the little kids, and felt SO AWFUL. Like SUCH a terrible mother. All around me, I see people packing up their cars to go on vacations in the Golan or the Galilee or Netanya or abroad. And all this JewishMOM can muster is a daily outing to the playground with an it’s-summer-vacation popsicle at the end.

And it took me until this morning to recover from my feeling of guilt and lameness.

And I want to tell you how I did.

I reminded myself how I personally define a successful summer day. Rabbi Nivin calls this “my criteria.”

My criteria for a successful summer day, I remembered, is that I spend some time doing stuff I enjoy and then doing stuff with my little kids that they enjoy. And on some evenings, I also go out on my own with my big kids to do stuff they enjoy. So I’m feeling good and relaxed and happy, and they all are too.

And if that includes big trips to the beach and the zoo and the science museum, that’s fine. And if that doesn’t include any big trips, that’s fine too. Shlepping with 8 kids to America and Canada this past July was a big enough trip for the whole year.

It was striking to me, though, how quickly and completely Hallel’s suggestion threw me off balance. And made me feel like a terrible mother.

Until I remembered it doesn’t matter what every other mother in the world is doing right now. Cause in my book, in my own personal situation, low-stress and easy can be a successful summer day too.

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25 comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Chana Jenny! Going through similar, was just discussing it last night with my family, and I announced that each family does their own thing, what’s best for them. Sure, I’d love to take many family trips, but with kah 8 kids, the youngest 14 months, not so simple to pick up and go. I do as many outings as possible, because I do want to give them s great time and create wonderful memories, but if it’s too stressful, I dont burn myself out. By
    the way, I find that relaxing at home
    Is important too, kids don’t always want to be rushed around like that, though at the same time, getting out is important of course! When I say that each family does things differently, in my case, we are iyh attending a sibling’s wedding out of state, once the school year begins, for a few days, so we all do what we need, that’s a huge trip, on an airplane! Can’t please everyone, we can only do our best, I believe that if it’s all with love, they will look back to happy memories:). Chana Jenny, your honest sharing is so helpful to me and I’m sure many others, thank you so much! I love your blog, it definitely helps me in my mothering. Continued success!

    • JewishMom

      wow, thank you. Good to know it’s not just me struggling with these issues

  2. Reading your post, I was thinking of safety being an issue as well, as far as the beach is concerned. With my six children – and living near the beach, I would often go. It did not cost a penny. Safety was a great concern for me though. I counted to six a million times over and over in that glaring sunlight, trying to be sure all of them were safe and accountd for.

  3. Yup, safety is a top of the list reason why I don’t run around on field trips as much as I would like. My older ones ( oldest 15 kah) can help, but the responsibility for their safety is ultimately on me, so we choose to be safe. Also, my 3 year old is taking a long time toilet training, hard to leave the house, trust me, I tried going out yesterday with her, I paid the price!😂.My mother says: “you can’t please all the people all of the time, you can only please some of the people some of the time”. Having said that, I still do my best to make everyone happy, in or out, and leave the results up to Hashem.

  4. well said, chana jenny!
    i am also having a very down-graded summer with my kids, and i am satisfied with the level of stress that entails. it took a long long time to get this point. one day i will do all the things on my To Do list of life. right now i have to think of the kids first….
    the main thing is to be calm and happy, even if that means missing out on the beach, the zoo, and disney world..

  5. YES!!!!
    Today we didn’t go out and the kids had a really good time. I was internally beating myself up that we hadn’t gone out on an outing, but they genuinely had fun doing playdo and digging up all the mud under our trampoline. During the school year it is always so pressured running here and there, sometimes they actually just need some time not running around.

    • JewishMom

      isn’t it weird? how our kids actually really enjoy the low-key stuff but we moms pressure ourselves and stress ourselves out to do big outings which, in my experience, usually the kids don’t enjoy any more than the low-key, playground, backyard pool stuff.

  6. Thank you for reinforcing my goals for the summer. You and the other ladies commenting captured my feelings exactly. I also wanted to focus on transitioning into the new school year really well and on strfengthening relationships, rather than just filling time with activities that sound exciting and might be fun but add too much stress.

  7. and even me a mother of 3 my youngest being a month and a half found this post so refreshing and liberating. we are made with our own strength and capacity. Thank you!

  8. Ayalah Haas

    Another excellent post, Chana Jenny.

    You gave your children everlasting memories from the big trip abroad. And you are giving them cuddly, warm and also-fun memories with the “scaled-down” (i.e. also an effort!) activities closer to home by LIVING IN THE MOMENT with them.

    Bless you! And than you for your honesty — we can relate!

  9. Jenny,

    You got an A+!!!

    much love,

    Elana

  10. You made me smile, Chana Jenny!

    I remember when my children were young and there was a day (or week) off from school, one friend would always call me with, “So what are you doing with them?” She was of course doing Manhattan, museums, very ambitious outings, etc.

    Me? In the morning I sent them to the store to buy arts and crafts supplies. Then I let them make things all afternoon. At the end of the day we would sweep up the whole house, have supper and baths. I would say, “Today I accomplished my goal. My goal was survival. We survived!”

    I needed to learn to tune out that friend. After I did that, all was well. Happy kids, happy mom.

    • JewishMom

      loved your story, thank you rishe!

      • i give total credit to Rishe for teaching me the wonderful view of parenting that she describes here. i {literally} sat at her knee when i had 1.2 kids and learned from her vast wisdom on how to be a happy mom..

        thanks, rishe!

  11. Chana Jenny, I am home in Rhode Island with my five children without a car! My husband leaves in the morning, takes the car and we are home for about 3 weeks so far. We have camp here, we start at ten, and we start with doing chores around the house that the kids love. They love it because they never get to do it – cleaning the bathroom, folding laundry, washing dishes. It is not a great help to me as it hardly gets done, but they love it and I look at it as good training. Then we do an art project. We do some schooling every day, where some of the kids play math games online, some teach others. My son needs extensive speech therapy for a stutter and the girls fight over who gets to do it with him.
    I do have one issue though.. my almost 6 year old son — he just needs to get out!! He is being really hard being home this summer. I see Camp Mommy as 90% waiting time and 10% activities. Especially because I have an almost 2 year old and a 5 month old. He just turns around and bothers people all during that waiting time. I work very hard to give him extra activities, but he is my sore spot this summer. Cute, but challenging!
    Anyway, don’t feel bad. The neighborhood around us goes on trips all week. We are home. Our big trip yesterday was that we caught a ride to a park with my husband on his way to work. We invited lots of neighbors to join us. Then the kids all rode their bikes and rollerblades home (took us about 45 minutes). It was really nice to watch. We love “home” camp Mommy!

  12. your criteria is extremely high-scale, Jenny…yishar koach for doing so much and being with every age. It’s definitely WOW.
    love
    Yikrat

    • JewishMom

      I’m sure you are spending a lot of time at the amazing tekoa pool you told me about

  13. ouch this post hits me right between the eyes! I could do anything and go anywhere with agreeable children but when the kids are arguing before the car has even started, who wants to go anywhere? I’m wondering why no one else has mentioned this issue…. That’s what stops me from going on outings more than anything!

  14. Also I should add that I’m a full time working mum so ironically during any holiday that I might take, I want to be a stay at home mum 🙂
    Any other working mums feel the same?

  15. I’m glad it’s not just me. Last summer I was pregnant with my 8th baby and schlepping all the kids to the park, the river to go fishing, shopping trips. I was exhausted and all i wanted to do was sit. I kept feeling guilty that I wouldn’t be able to do as much with them for awhile after the baby was born. Also we wouldn’t be able to fit in one vehicle anymore and this would be our last opportunity to all travel together. A year later and I don’t feel guilty anymore. They go on putting a with Dad and I will take them on shopping trips a half carload at a time. We find fun stuff to do together at home and it works out just fine.

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