Slowing Down The Summer in Newburyport

Screen shot 2015-07-20 at 6.30.16 PMSummer is always a highly anticipated time of year for us New Englanders.

After such harsh winters, we passionately look forward to three months of sun and fun.  At times, we put so much energy into making every summer the best summer ever — packing the calendar with places to go and things to do — that sometimes we forget to make time to relax.

Not just a beach day, but time at home to read a book or play a game together as a family. Everyone is so busy that plans and play dates can rarely be made on the fly anymore. Before we know it, September will be here and our precious summer will end.

How did we get so busy? Why do we feel the need to fill every box of our calendar? Why do we schedule every minute of our free time? And, most importantly, how does this affect our children?  As a society, we are so busy and, in my opinion, highly over-scheduled.

It seems to create more stress than coping skills for our children.

Kids can sense when we’re stressed, and it makes them stress out too. Taking time to recharge and relax makes you more productive and makes the kiddos calmer. Not only does it give kids time to use their imagination, but it gives us as parents time to cross off a few things on our never ending To-Do lists so that we can be calmer and happier…and RELAX too.

I’m a firm believer in a slow down kind of summer. A summer where kids get bored, and then create things to do. A summer where families and friends spend time together. A flexible summer where we feel like we did things we want to do. A few months with lots of open calendar boxes to fill as you go. To me, that means freedom and it helps me enjoy the time more.

But how do we make summer slow down?

I’ll admit that the first few weeks of our summer vacation were rocky. At times, my girls fought like they were in a ring. I questioned myself and the lack of plans and camps on our summer calendar. And even though I felt drawn to it, we really avoided television and electronics.

And then something magical happened. All of the tension started to fade away as I saw more frequent hugs, pretend play, side by side reading with intertwined legs, and little hands helping me in the kitchen. What changed from the beginning of the summer to now? Time.

All it took was time. Time to unwind and just be.

Sometimes it takes us longer to relax, and that’s okay. I’m not saying just sit in the house all day every day. Keep a list of friends to invite over for play dates, as well as museums and places to go for day trips. When you have a free day, take a look at the list together and choose something to do — or choose to stay home and build forts in your pajamas!

So far this summer, the girls have taken one 3-hour yoga class at Buddhaful Souls Yoga Studio in Rowley. That’s it. No camps this year. Not only have we saved some money but we’ve also bonded during days at the beach, walks to the Newburyport Public Library, time at the playground, or testing flavor choices at New England Ice Lollies.

We’re really looking forward to Yankee Homecoming’s sidewalk sales, bed races, and fireworks. Not to mention the waterfront movies and summer concert series. I know I’m really fortunate to be able to stay home with my girls and be flexible with our time. I truly believe that really spending some quality time together helps you become closer as a family.

This is what works for us. I’m not an expert, but these little girls I’m raising…I want to be with them. They aren’t doing annoying things to get my attention, because they have it. My girls are funny and sweet and almost all of the time (nobody’s perfect!), a total joy to be around.

It may not be for everyone, but this family is happy to slow down, take time to relax, and enjoy every minute of our Newburyport summer with each other.

About Christine Westermann

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Christine grew up on the South Shore in Easton. Now a North Shore girl, she loves living the Newburyport life and walks to town most days. Living near the ocean and the mountains is a must for her great outdoors loving family, who frequently skis and hikes together. Her two sweet girls love to swing on the playground monkey bars and ride bikes on the Clipper City Rail Trail.

Christine is an active member of the Newbury Elementary School PTA and the Greater Newburyport Mothers and Families Club. Her health and lifestyle blog, Under the Monkey Bars, features healthy recipes, adventures with her two little monkeys, and suburban style at www.underthemonkeybars.com

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