Back in the day, I used to be an awesome camp counsellor. I had boundless energy and a cabin full of 8- and 9-year-olds didn't scare me. I dreamed up awesome games to keep them entertained, brushed their knotted hair after swim, held their hands if they were unsure about a new activity, and rubbed their backs and told them bedtime stories. I took on the role of 'mommy for the summer' and I loved it. Back then I was just 18.
*Camp B'nai Brith of Ottawa, summer 1999
Now that I'm 33 and the job of mommy extends beyond just the summer months, I'm channeling my inner counsellor and gearing up for a month of 'mommy camp'! I've got one energetic 4.5-year-old coming off a month of day camp (where she swam twice a day, did pottery, arts & crafts, sports, dance, the list goes on), and a 16-month-old who has just learned to walk (and run!) and has no interest in sitting still, like ever.
While the thought of 5 weeks with my kids should make me feel really grateful and excited (which it does!), it also terrifies me, just a little bit. Perhaps it's the fact that I'm trying to work at the same time, or the fact that I'm not 16 anymore, but finding the energy to keep up with these two is going to be a bit of a challenge, I fear.
To help me survive (and thrive!) this is what I'm thinking:
1. Take LOTS of day trips.
First stop...anywhere that's not our house. We're going to play tourist in our own city with visits to the zoo, the ROM, and Centre Island. We'll check out some parks we don't usually go to, find the coolest splash pads in town, and maybe even head downtown on the subway for a little adventure. We've also got some great weekend getaways planned with daddy (stay tuned for those posts), which are sure to break things up a bit and allow us to enjoy life outside of the city, too! What's your favourite thing to do in your city? Please share so I can add to my list of ideas!
2. Get organized.
What I've learned by watching my preschooler over the past four weeks, is that she does really well with routine (as do most kids her age). I tend to suck at routine—planning things last-minute and expecting her to join in happily. This summer, I'm going to try really hard to get organized and plan days in advance so she knows what to expect. I've already printed out a calendar and started filling in the days. A little bit of routine, or at least knowing what to expect, will be good for all of us.
3. Ditch the iPhone.
Saying this is easy, doing it is another story. I might seriously start shaking just thinking about it. But the truth is, if I'm going to be really present with my kids this month, I've got to turn off technology. As soon as my mind goes elsewhere, my kids sense it and start looking for attention (usually in negative ways). I think we'll all be happier, and less frustrated, if I keep my focus and attention on them. I'll turn to social media and email at the end of the day and schedule in times to work when they're not relying on me for entertainment. When all is said and done, I think taking a bit of a breather from technology will do me a world of good. (Let's hope I can stick to this one!)
4. Call in backup.
Thankfully, my mom is my most awesome support when it comes to hanging with my kids, and she seems to have as much energy, if not more, than I do. She's volunteered to join us on many of our day trips this month (yay!) and I also plan to use this time to see friends and relatives who are off during the summer. The more people we can hang out with, the better! It means I get other adults to talk with (which is hugely important for my sanity) and the kids get other kids to play with. Plus, I'm sure we'll make some new friends along the way, too.
5. Embrace nothingness.
All this planning is fine, but what's summer without a few days of lazing around, playing in the grass, feeling the sand between your toes, and doing not much of anything? I'm a doer. A go, go, go kind of mom, who is always eager to fill every moment with an activity. But, I think I owe it to myself and my kids to practice just being in the moment this summer—staring up at the blue sky, listening to the birds, smelling the flowers, and just chilling out. After all, before we know it will be September and we'll all be rushing about.
If you've run your own 'mommy camp' please share tips for success! All suggestions welcome.
Check out these 10 Teacher-Approved Summer Activities.
Sending your kids to camp? Find out How To Choose The Right Camp For Your Child.
Last week as I stood waiting for the bus to bring my 4-year-old daughter home from camp, a terrible accident was taking place in my neighbourhood. I heard the sirens wail and felt in my gut that something was wrong. Reports indicate that a 6-year-old girl was walking across the street as an oncoming van was making a right turn. No charges have been laid, but the investigation is on going.
No matter what happened, the pain must be enormous: for the sweet girl's family and the 50-year-old driver of the van, I just can't imagine the horror they're living through.
The accident took place at an intersection we cross almost daily to visit our local library and park. Today, the intersection is filled with flowers, messages, and a beautiful photo of the little girl, Georgia Walsh. Pink ribbons have been tied to trees, streetlights, and stop signs throughout our neighbourhood. The entire community is in mourning.
After something like this happens so close to home, how do you not feel afraid every time you walk down the street with your kids?
I found this very poignant message in the comments section of a Toronto Star story that ran today about a fund set up in Georgia’s memory. It read:
“Note to motorists - many of us want our children to be strong and independent and that means teaching and allowing them to cross the street safely. Be extra vigilant in residential neighbourhoods, because children can make mistakes just like the rest of us.”
How true! I so badly want to let go of some of my “helicopter parenting” tendencies and allow my children the freedom to explore and navigate their surroundings independently as they grow up. But when something like this happens so close to home, it almost stops you in your tracks and makes the idea of Free-Range parenting seem terrifying.
I know if I spend my whole life telling my kids to “be careful” I’ll drive them and myself crazy…so what’s the middle ground? How do we protect our kids while also letting them, as the commenter above said, be strong and independent?
Since I'm lucky enough to work with a wise and insightful group of women here at the Yummy Mummy Club, I turned to my fellow bloggers for their thoughts on this. They eagerly weighed in:
Jeni Cargill Marinucci of the Panic Button Years said:
“I routinely let my children walk to the store or school on their own (ages 7 and up) and they haven’t held my hand doing so in many years. I think Free-Range is the way to go and yes, it is hard to develop this mindset, but it is something I do despite the discomfort because in my opinion, it is more damaging to our children to NOT allow them freedoms.”
Then Melissa Gaston of Find The Light made an interesting point:
"There's an old interview around with Al Gore I think where he talks about how he was holding his kid's hand, and the kid bolted and in a second was hit by a car and very seriously injured. So maybe even hand-holding gives us a false sense of security.”
So true! These little people aren’t as likely as adults to over-think things…they’re guided by their hearts rather than their heads. And, while this is so wonderful in so many ways, it’s also very scary for us parents.
Kat Armstrong of Celebritease is Free-Range all the way. She says:
"Our kids walk alone. We live on a main street (Roncesvalles, like right on it). Up until this year, it was always hands held to cross. My son knows to stop at each corner and wait, then we practice looking both ways! We feel good about it."
Finally, Andrea Nair our resident parenting expert says:
"I'm a free-ranger. There are a minute number of serious or fatal incidents that occur, however if one of those is near you, it can feel like an absolute thing. Kids need to gain the sixth sense to be aware of their environment (it's a thing called "physical literacy") keeping an eye on what is out of place or rushing toward them. This is only learned by moving around in space alone. I say more about that in this post."
There are so many things to worry about as we raise our kids in this crazy world, and so the most important thing we can do—I think—is to cherish every moment we have with them, enjoy them, laugh with them, and stay as present as possible as we help them navigate each stage.
Today I’m holding my daughters a bit closer as I send love and prayers to the family of Georgia Walsh, for whom life will never be the same.
What do you think? How do you raise strong and independent kids when the world seems so scary? Do you hover like a helicopter or take a more Free-Range approach? How do you come to terms with your decision?
Find out more about how Free-Range parenting can influence your kids as they become teenagers and How being too over-protective might be harming our kids.
Are you ready to Rock N' Stroll?!
There are many fundraising walks across the city, but Rock N' Stroll in support of Mount Sinai Hospital is quite special—and near and dear to my heart. This unique event will bring families from across the GTA together to walk, stroll, dance, sing, and shop in support of this incredible hospital and its unparalleled treatment for high-risk pregnancies. I'm excited to take part in such an awesome event!
Even Kiss members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, David Bowie, Elton John and Slash are supporting this event by allowing the organization to use their likeness in their campaign! How cool is that?
In association with their tour promoters, LUG, Indigo, and Spin Master, you can expect:
A 3 km family-friendly walk
LUG Family Marketplace—featuring products and services geared toward parents and families.
Live entertainment from my daughter's absolute favourite children's entertainers, Sonshine & Broccoli.
Activities for the whole family
Approximately two-thirds of the 7,000 pregnancies Mount Sinai oversees each year are considered high-risk. That means that the mother or baby has increased risk of health problems. High-risk pregnancies can, and often do, end very well—but do require greater vigilance and monitoring throughout. Often special interventions and treatments are needed.
When I got pregnant with my first daughter, I didn’t know anything about prenatal healthcare. I didn’t know which hospital I’d want to deliver at or if I wanted an OB/GYN or a midwife.
I could have been a midwife person. I could have been a home birth person. But, my thinking was this: I’m lucky enough to live in Toronto and have access to the hospital with Canada’s largest obstetrical and gynecological program; I have no idea how this pregnancy is going to go, no idea if I will need extra care, no idea what my labour will be like, and no idea what I’m doing when it comes to childbirth. And, with all of that in mind, I decided that if anything were to God-forbid go wrong, and even if everything went perfectly smoothly, I wanted the peace of mind that I was being cared for in a world-class hospital with exceptional doctors and nurses.
I was extremely fortunate to have a normal and relatively easy pregnancy. I looked forward to my OB appointments, and was always filled with questions about the strange and surreal changes my body was undergoing. I found it extremely reassuring that I was checked-up on and monitored regularly during my pregnancy. Being a bit of a hypochondriac, I felt confident that nothing would go unnoticed under the care of my OB and the amazing nurse who worked in her clinic.
Two weeks before my due date my contractions began. From the moment I arrived at triage with painful cramps at 7 a.m., to the moment my baby girl was born, just over eight hours later—I received nothing but amazing care and support from the nurses and doctors assigned to me. And my baby girl was lovingly and skillfully delivered into the world.
I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
I know that I was extremely lucky.
So many women are supported and cared for by Mount Sinai Hospital through what might otherwise be a really scary experience. It is for all these moms and all these babies that my girls and I are going to join in on Sunday, September 28 to Rock N' Stroll at Earl Bales Park in support of Mount Sinai Hospital.
Join us! It will be a blast! With a Rock n' Roll theme, how can it not be fun for the whole family?
To find out more about this awesome event and to register your family/team visit www.rocknstroll.ca.
To learn more about the amazing work Mount Sinai is doing every day to support high risk pregnancies visit www.mountsinai.on.ca.
I'm making plans for September 28th and I hope you'll join me.