Summer by Design

family rules for blog

Posters for our family rules/values

Summer: it’s a long stretch of unstructured family time that I look upon with exuberant idealism. And then I promptly fritter most of it away. And let’s be clear! I’m all for the frittering, so long as it’s relaxing and fun. But falling down the Facebook rabbit-hole doesn’t count. More often than not, escaping to my I-Phone inspires shame rather than pleasure. (Note: this is, sadly, a year-round problem.)

This summer, I wanted things to go differently. But how to break my lackluster patterns of behavior? I’ve been thinking a lot about that guilt-inspiring yet wholly true Pinterest quote: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”

And then I read this inspiring blog post about designing a summer. And then I toyed with it a bit and implemented a few things for my family. And then I thought, “But I can’t post about this on my blog. Summer design is just about my most deeply held values, parenting choices, and life plans. That has nothing to do with religion.”

Sigh. (Hey, foot. Hold still so I can shoot you.)

And after I got over that particular misconception, I wondered if a post like this had any value at the tail-end of July. And I concluded that yes, yes it does. After all, I’ve got some experience to back up my story here… and one more month of summer to enjoy.

So here’s what I did! It’s pretty basic. First, I articulated our family values on three little posters. Then, the kids and I had a family meeting to elaborate on each value. We talked about what each one meant and brainstormed ways to live that value. I wrote down and illustrated our ideas (I’m no artist, but the drawings help our preliterate wee ones connect text and meaning). Then, we hung the posters at kid level in a high-traffic area.

Now, this last step is the most important and, unfortunately, the one I’ve had the least success following consistently. It involves coming back to our posted values and, as a family, incorporating them intentionally into our plans for the week. I was better about this in June, and it’s no coincidence that this was a fabulous month for us.

Worth noting: some of June’s success definitely comes from the fact that I spent a long time trying to distill our family’s values before sharing them with the kids. I wanted three statements that would be easy for all of us to remember and understand. At the same time, I wanted the statements to be flexible enough to stick around for a long time; the interpretation of each should be able to grow more sophisticated as the kids mature.

Here are the values governing our summer (and hopefully beyond) :

  • Take Care… of ourselves, our world, and each other.
  • Be Kind.
  • Savor Life. Play! Learn! Explore! Relax!

Great idea, right? And like I said, June was awesome. But in July, I got a little lazier about weekly family meetings. I didn’t intentionally revisit our values, either alone or with the kids. I also felt more harassed by the abundance of obligations I’d loaded into the calendar.

So, lesson learned for August: set clear boundaries and quit over-crowding our schedule. Also, stick faithfully to the weekly Monday family meeting. At that meeting, review our values. And yes, frame our chores and obligations in terms of our values. But even more importantly, invite each of us to choose an activity from the “Savor Life” poster. Prioritize those choices in the week’s plan. (Without a plan, I tend to be allergic to fun. It’s sad, but true.)

What are you currently doing to live your values? How could you kick it up a notch? And what are you plans for making the most of the rest of your summer?



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