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Based in Birmingham, Alabama, These R my People is a blog written by Sharron M. Swain. In which I get to talk to great people doing amazing things, then share their stories with you. 

7 ways to embrace the Summer with kids: a conversation with Miriam Friedman

7 ways to embrace the Summer with kids: a conversation with Miriam Friedman

Miriam Friedman of Chabad of Alabama. Mom of 10 kids, 3 still at home. Photo by Sharron Swain

Miriam Friedman of Chabad of Alabama. Mom of 10 kids, 3 still at home. Photo by Sharron Swain

Last Friday, I stopped by Chabad of Alabama (on Overton Road in Mountain Brook, right next to Overton Park) to work on a story about their challah. Afterwards, Miriam Friedman told me about some other story ideas.

When she mentioned “embracing the Summer with your kids,” I said “let’s go sit and do an interview right now—I need this story!”

I was in that mental state so many parents are in that last Friday before Memorial Day—filled with dread at the thought of my kids being out of school for the next 11 weeks.

After 15 minutes with Miriam, I came away with an entirely new frame to put around my family’s Summer. It helps to know that Miriam’s the mom of 10 kids ranging in age from 26 to seven—three of them are still at home. So, as she says “I have the gift of perspective.”

Here’s some of what Miriam had to say:

This is what I’ve heard this past week:

“I can’t believe Summer’s here. I’m with my kids for the next 12 weeks. It’s gonna be miserable.”

For me, I’m telling myself:

“this is what I can do to make my Summer successful. Whether or not it’ll work, I don’t know. I’m sure there are gonna be times I’ll be ready to pull out my hair.”


Here’s what drove me to think about embracing the Summer: our kids go to school all day, and we read all this stuff about ‘it’s so academic, our kids don’t have a chance to explore the world, to become who they are, to follow their passion, to play, to just be kids. That’s our biggest complaint: they don’t have a chance to be kids. And then our kids have a chance to be kids for 2.5 months and we’re like ‘oh, no, this is gonna be the worst 2.5 months for me.’”

I feel like there has to be a way to make a better balance. So here’s what I’m thinking for my family, and I’m open to ideas from others, too:

1. Kids need structure


Everybody needs structure. I want them to be active participants in figuring out how to structure their day. You get up, get dressed, make your bed, pray, and this is what we can do (fill in the blank here).  

2. Pick things we don’t normally do

The famous old scoreboard at Rickwood Field in Birmingham. Photo by Sharron Swain

The famous old scoreboard at Rickwood Field in Birmingham. Photo by Sharron Swain

Since it’s Summer, you can choose to make pancakes, or pick some things you can do that we don’t normally do, like breakfast specials.

Make it something they anticipate and are excited about. If you have more time, it could be twice a week you do something different.

When you shop, one of the kids can be in charge of that breakfast menu or dinner menu. And, whoever’s in charge of that menu is in charge of the cleanup.

If you have kids who enjoy food, the cooking can be different because you’re not rushed. Why not give them that opportunity.

3. Stock up on supplies to encourage creative exploration

Sometimes you just find a place full of things to explore. Photo by Sharron Swain

Sometimes you just find a place full of things to explore. Photo by Sharron Swain

If we’re stocked at home, the kids have a chance to do things. I have a daughter and a son who love art. My goal is to go to Michael’s with them and think about open ended things so they have the chance to explore creatively.

For one of my kids, I found Tinker Crate, which is good for my kid who’s into chemistry.

For a kid who likes to build, you could go to home Depot and get some pieces of wood.

Summer’s an opportunity for our kids to do stuff that they don’t have time to do all year long. The challenge is how to combine life with that opportunity and everybody coming out sane in the end.

4. Plan special activities

Knife and axe throwing at the Alabama Medieval Fantasy Festival. Photo by Sharron Swain

Knife and axe throwing at the Alabama Medieval Fantasy Festival. Photo by Sharron Swain

I want us have an activity day, whether it’s swimming or bowling or something else we enjoy. There have to be other things around that we can do on a daily basis that keep us from going out of our minds.

5. Build memories with family day trips

Hiking in the Smoky Mountains. Photo by Sharron Swain

Hiking in the Smoky Mountains. Photo by Sharron Swain

If I’m proactive about what happens for the next five weeks that my kids are out of school and before camp starts, we could do day trips, once a week. Whether it’s an animal sanctuary or a trip to Atlanta.

My goal is to build the week as functionally as possible.

6. Provide resources for imaginative play

The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls have lists of stuff that kids could do with anything and everything you can imagine. It has science experiments and other things you can do around your house that’s coo. This is great especially if you have a reader.

7. Long board games

Since it’s Summer and there’s no homework, we can play Monopoly or Settlers of Catan—long games that require skill thinking. We can set it up in the living room and play over several days.

What do I want? I want my kids to remember life as a child and think I remember sitting around that living room with my parents and playing Monopoly each night or one night, or whatever it is.

* * *

If Summer could be a chance to create memories for my kids, it would be so phenomenal. Because it goes away. The truth is, the Summer will go and then school’s gonna start and that craziness of back in school and you’ve gotta finish this and that hecticness.

Life is a journey. Your children are only gonna be this age once.

I have kids in a lot of stages in life, I find with my younger three, I just want to enjoy this stage ‘cause I know it’s gonna pass. They won’t have that time to play Monopoloy. They’re gonna go off. They’re gonna be with their friends, whatever it is. I want to seize the opportunity. I want to enjoy the journey with them as opposed to wishing it away, which so what happens so much. I have the gift of perspective now.
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I, Sharron, am so grateful to Miriam for sharing her time and her wisdom with me. I must say, since we chatted, my experience of Summer has been completely different, and my family is having a lot more fun. Our hope in sharing this piece is that it will help you and your family have a better Summer, too!

Climber + route-setter extraordinaire: Amanda Maze

Climber + route-setter extraordinaire: Amanda Maze