By Guest Blogger Dara Kurtz, author of the blog Crazy Perfect Life

It’s that time of year. School’s out, summer’s in, and if you’re wondering what you’re going to do with your kids for the next three months, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re like me, you feel excited about having a change in routine, you’re looking forward to lazy summer days, and are bit worried about how to keep everyone happy.

While I’m always ready for summer to get here, once it’s here, it can sometimes be hard to get into a good rhythm. One that’s both relaxing and enjoyable for everyone.

feetWhen we were kids, summer vacation didn’t feel so long. In fact, it always seemed like I was just getting into the groove of summer when out of nowhere, August came around, and back to school I went. Back then, our summer days were spent running through the sprinkler or going to the pool, riding bikes, and eating popsicles. If we were really lucky, getting ice cream from the ice cream truck.

It was simple. And easy.

But it’s different, now,  being on the Mom side of things.

Summer can feel long, and there’s a fine line between having too much structure and not enough. Between being laid back or bored. Between feeling relaxed and feeling like summer is dull. I don’t want to plan too much, but I don’t want my kids to sit around the house and fight all day. There’s a balance to be found, and sometimes, it can be a challenge.

Too much fun isn’t fun, and not having enough plans can be a recipe for disaster.

But time does go by quickly. Really quickly.

My kids are older now, ages 12 and 15, and keeping them happy in the summer is starting to get a little easier.

I can’t say I miss the bags filled with pool toys, swim diapers, and enough sunscreen to protect an army. In those days it felt like it would take hours and a huge amount of energy to get from our house into the actual water at the pool. And by then, it was almost time for the kids to take a nap. And me. It was exhausting.

Instead of a family outing to the pool, now, my kids just want to just be dropped off. Instead of pool toys, they have cell phones. Instead of me lathering the sunscreen on, I have to trust that they will take care of it themselves. It is a little strange, I have to admit, but I’m not complaining.

If you have mixed feelings about school ending, and if the thought of having the whole long summer ahead of you makes you a little uncomfortable, don’t feel guilty.

pool chairsHere are some tips to help you maximize your summer joy:

~ It doesn’t matter where you are in your life, embrace it. Recognize that the time you have with your children really does pass quickly, and enjoy every moment with them. It doesn’t matter if you’re dropping your kids off at the pool, or lugging around a ridiculously large bag of swim diapers. Remember, attitude is everything. Looking at the summer with an outlook of gratitude and thankfulness will get you far. I’ll keep reminding myself that, as I drive my kids around ALL summer long!

~ Look for fun ways that you can connect with your kids. Be into whatever they’re into. If they like art, do a craft together. If cooking turns them on, make a weekly meal together. If they’re trying to stay in shape for school sports, join their morning exercise routine. They’ll want to spend time with you, if you’re doing something they enjoy.

~ Make sure you don’t plan too many activities. You don’t want to be running around all the time, going from one place to another, and feel unnecessary stress. Don’t overschedule yourself. Camps are fun, but not when you have to get your kids there everyday. It’s fun to be at home, with nothing to do. Don’t be afraid to have an empty calendar.

~ Hang-loose. Or try. Let your kids sleep a little later, mess up the house a little more, and get into the groove of relaxing summer days. Try to laugh more, and yell less. If they’re young, don’t think twice about getting a sitter here and there, and planning some time for yourself. Let someone else drag the pool bag to the pool one day! A little space is always a good thing. For everyone.

~ Talk to them. Really talk. Have a meaningful conversation about things other than what they can eat, cleaning their room, or when they need to be dropped off somewhere. Ask them questions. Our kids are changing all the time. Take the time to get to know them, now. This is your opportunity to really connect. Don’t miss it.

You want school to start, and to reminisce about this summer with nostalgia. You want to say, “This was the best summer we ever had.”

Realize in August, they’ll be back at school, and this time with them will be over.

So make the most of it and recognize it for what it is, the chance to spend time with your kids without having to worry about homework, basketball practice, and the normal school routine.

One day you’ll be the Mom dropping off your kids at the pool, and wondering where the time went.