Spring Break is coming for millions of schoolchildren across the country. For kids, it's a week of playing, relaxing, and giving their brains a little bit of a rest — school is hard work! But you know what else is hard work? Managing your child's spring break as a parent. Child care plans have to be made, time might need to be taken off, or, if you're a work-at-home mom like me, figuring out how you're going to accomplish anything with your kids underfoot. How to survive spring break is a question millions of parents must answer annually... and I have some ideas.
I'll start by saying that while it's a challenge it's, for the most part, an enjoyable one. It's nice to get out of your routine every now and then and enjoy extra time with your kiddos. I also like to think of it as a kind of test-run for the ever-approaching summer break, which lasts a lot longer. At the same time, I won't sugarcoat things: everything in my life is very particularly balanced, and throwing off just one thing (let alone a big huge thing, like my kids going to school every day, which gives me the time I need to actually do my job) can be a lot.
Here's how I'll deal with this change in our routine, and how you can survive yours:
Don't Look At Your Child-Free Friends' IG
This time of year, lots of people are taking trips to far-flung destinations and, of course, they will be sharing their adventures on social media, as well they should. I absolutely do the same when I travel! But if you're having an especially challenging day with your kiddos, for the love of God do not look! You will spiral into a whirlpool of envy as you gaze upon their tanning legs daintily crossed next to an infinity pool. And the more challenging your day was the more envious you will become. It's a dangerous game.
Extra Screen Time
"I will not let my kids be babysat by their devices."
Ummm... I will. I work from home and, sometimes, I need Netflix to take the wheel.
OK, I'm not going to let them vegetate in the living room for seven days or anything, but they'll almost certainly be getting a bit more screen time than usual. And I know for a fact that mine won't be the only ones. Because for every parent smugly declaring how very little TV their kids watch there are 10 who are quietly feeling guilty (for no reason) about the fact that their kids know all the words to a particular episode of Curious George.
Also? If I had a full week off, you'd better believe I'd be watching a show or two and what's wrong with that? Why would I deny the same simple pleasure to my kids?
Go To The Library
I cannot overstate how great libraries are in general but for families in particular. They have special programs, books, toys, movies, and, honestly, sometimes you just need a change of scenery and it's a great place to go. There's also probably a not unreasonable chance your local library is doing something with spring break in mind, so go and check them out.
It's not so much to tune out my kids (though, like, a little bit to tune out my kids, I'm not going to lie). It's more to tune out their music, which they will listen to at full blast all damn day. And as far as music kids could be into it's not terrible, but it gets old after a while. So I'll just put on my big ol' headphones and enjoy my old people music, thank you very much.
Kick Them Outside & Lock The Door Behind Them
OK do not really lock the door behind them (that wouldn't be safe). But you better believe I will definitely be shooing my children outdoors an awful lot. And, not going to lie, I can see myself saying, "We bought you that swing set now use it!" an awful lot... in part due to the fact that I already say it not infrequently.
Obviously you need a yard to enact this option, but if you do have one I highly recommend taking advantage of it as much as possible. Sometimes, weirdly, kids will fight you on this.
Bust Out New Outdoor Toys
They don't have to be terribly expensive, but the novelty of, say, a brand new tub of chalk, jump ropes, hula hoops, bouncy balls, bubbles, or, weather permitting, a kiddie pool can do a lot to get your kid out of the house for a while. If you want to get more than one item, space out when you give them. It'd be a shame for them to lose interest in everything early in the week.
Lower The Cleanliness Bar
Tale as old as time: your kids make a mess, you tidy it up and then, before you know it, there's another mess. This is true pretty much any time when you have kids, but it's the most true when they're spending significant amounts of time in the house... say, on spring break.
Don't drive yourself nuts picking up after every single mess every time one pops up, just give in to the chaos for a bit. (As an admitted neat freak who gets anxious around clutter, this is hard one for me. It's a good time for me to practice yoga breathing.)
"The Snack Bag"
OK, hands down the most annoying thing about having kids home 24/7 is the fact that, every five minutes, someone is asking me for a snack. Like, one gets hungry, asks for a snack, I get it, then they remember they also wanted a drink, so I get that, and then the other kid sees the first kid putting their dish on the counter and then they want a snack... and a drink.
So here's what I do.
I place all the snacks they are allowed to have in a day in a bag in the pantry with their name on it. They can eat those snacks whenever they want but when they're gone they're gone and they don't get any more. You'd be amazed how quickly they learn to self-regulate. And, best part: I'm not constantly serving someone!
Spring Break would be impossible without the snack bag.
My husband and I call this "running the greyhounds."
Greyhounds are magnificent creatures. They're sweet and generally manageable... but they're also one of the fastests creatures on the planet and every now and then they need an outlet for that power. Kids are like that, too, and nothing will allow them to completely expend themselves quite like a playground full of other kids. Whenever they're exclusively home for more than a few days I make sure they get a playground day to burn up some energy.
Let Them Manage Their Own Disagreements
My kids get along great, but even so, they're children, and children bicker. As a mom, my instinct is to swoop in and mediate a) so everyone is happy b) so things don't spiral out of control and c) so I don't have to listen to them bicker because OMG kids are annoying when they're petulant.
I've found that the less I get involved the better they get at dealing with things themselves and the quicker (and more infrequent) their fights become.
Two parts gin to one part lemon juice and a splash of simple syrup. It's a hell of a way to relax at the end of a day.
Forget Getting Anything Done That Doesn't Need To Get Done
It's difficult to accomplish anything but the bare necessities when your kids are in the house. So here's my advice: make your plan, gaze at it in the palm of your hand, admire it, love it, and then release it like a dove. If it comes back to you it was meant to be... but I think we all know that dove/plan is never coming back.
Be Open To Enjoying It
Seriously: our kids are cool. We love them. That's why we had them. Yeah, it can be difficult when everyone is thrown out of their routine and groove, but there's fun to be had in mixing things up.
Happy Spring Break, friends... and godspeed.