As I watched my son belly flop over the edge of our inflatable backyard pool, the essence of summer washed over me. I love the carefree days of summer. The sound of kids yelling and laughing outdoors until twilight steals the day; afternoons spent lounging by the pool; spontaneous trips to get ice cream and slushes.
But I also know that those carefree days can quickly turn into listless chaos. “I’m bored” can all too quickly become a mantra. And, before I know it, I’ve allowed too much screen time and the “fun” of all of that free time isn’t so fun anymore.
Balance is needed between work and play, between engaging the mind and resting it–and we need to realize where true rest and rejuvenation lies. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed coming up with plans and projects to give our summers purpose and direction. Here is a list of five that our family has either done in the past or hope to do in the future.
1. Choose a corporal or spiritual work of mercy to carry out each week as a family.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” –Mt 25:35-36
One summer, our family chose a local charity that corresponded with each corporal work of mercy. I contacted a different charity each week to find out what their needs were, and we had fun collecting items for a homeless shelter and safe house, visiting a nursing home, and acquiring some new Bibles for a prison ministry. It opened our eyes to the many needs within our own community!
2. Establish a new family prayer habit.
“Reading scripture with the whole family welcomes Jesus into our homes.” –Grace Mazza Urbanski
Consider adding a daily Mass to your family’s week, read the daily Gospel together, or pray a decade (or more) of the Rosary together at least once a week. Our family has been enjoying reading the daily reflection in the Pope Francis Family Devotional at the dinner table–after the food has been passed around and mouths are full and quiet! I’m also looking forward to diving into Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book, Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality. For more ideas on how to pray together as a family, see Grace Mazza Urbanski’s excellent book, Pray With Me: Seven Simple Ways To Pray With Your Children.
3. Create a chore system.
“Work is good for us. Through work we not only transform nature, adapting it to our needs, but we also achieve fulfillment as human beings and indeed in a sense become more human.”–St. John Paul II, Homily in Monterey, California, September 1987
Make charts, write lists, or establish routines. Find a chore system that works for your family and stick to it. Include things like household chores, summer reading, and musical instrument practice. Discuss the importance of obedience, diligence, and attention to detail with your children, and use chores to work together as a family.
4. Cultivate a garden together.
“Ponder the fact that God has made you a gardener, to root out vice and plant virtue.” –St. Catherine of Siena
Whether it’s a vegetable garden or a flower garden, the natural growth of plants teaches our children the beauty of God’s nurturing hand. Consider planting a Mary Garden, and allow our Blessed Mother to guide you as you lead your children into virtue.
5. Have fun!
“‘And tell me, do you play with your children? Do you waste time with your children?’ The free gift of a parent’s time is so important.” –Pope Francis
Take day trips together, sit on the porch swing and eat popsicles together, catch fireflies at twilight together. Quality and quantity of time matter with our children. The more time we spend together, the more likely we are to trust one another, to open up to one another, and to create a foundation of love that will stand the test of time and resist the divisiveness of the world.
Be purposeful in creating a summer schedule that allows your family to work together, pray together, and play together.
How will your family create a fruitful and faith-filled summer?
Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney