In about two weeks, my mornings are going to become a lot easier. Not just for the summer, but for the rest of my kids-at-home parenting days. For the last two years I have repeated my morning routine twice every single day. This is a luxury, I know, but my work schedule is flexible and they love their sleep. So every day, my middle schooler gets up, dressed, fed, and out the door. After a twenty minute reprieve to check email or blow dry my hair, I do the whole thing over again when I drag my fifth grader out of bed.

I have too often felt frustrated and bogged down by the slow pace of these mornings. If I am not showered and dressed by 6 am, that has to wait until after 8, pushing back the start of my work day and leaving me feeling frazzled when I do finally arrive at my desk. But, always on the distant horizon has been the knowledge that one day, the schedules will align again. That miracle day, when I can be seated at my computer by 7:05 am, is almost here. The possibility this new schedule enables is ridiculously inspiring. I sometimes fantasize about how much I will check off my to-do list by 9 am.

Somehow, now that the much anticipated day is almost here, all I can think is, I wish this wasn’t over yet. I have never been one to wish for time to slow down, or to magically return to the baby-toddler days (way too hard for me), yet I find myself struggling to let go of these extended mornings I often thought I did not love.

Our mornings have not been perfect, but they have been uniquely ours. My middle schooler is a man of routine: same breakfast, same packed lunch. He wants to start his day with some consistency, and I have cherished being able to provide that for him. Sometimes we discuss the news or sports scores, or rehash his favorite episodes of The Office or The West Wing, but lately we’ve just been quiet—together. And that has been so nice. We do not compete for one another’s attention, we just have it. The morning presents an option for shared stillness that those after school hours simply cannot.

Crazy Hair Day-a busy morning for sure

My daughter is more of a whirlwind: unpredictable mood, too many shoe options, hair that refuses to be tamed. Her breakfast whims vary from smoothies, to egg burritos, to cereal and back again. This hour is often more trying for me— I have been up for ages and I am eager to get on with my day— but I know the time is fleeting. In two short weeks, it is gone forever. Elementary school is ending for our family. No more recess. We will not have another larger-than-life teacher who spends more of her day with our kids than we do. No more bike rides to school. She will not have time to carefully select her Spotify breakfast playlist next year. My elaborate French braids will morph into top knots she casually twists into place as she runs out the door.

And just like that, another piece of childhood, and of motherhood, will disappear. Buried deep into my archives, with the Spiderman tee shirts, talking Buzz Lightyear, and everything else in the dilapidated dress-up bin. I am excited for what comes next. I truly am. It is the genuine anticipation of the next phase of family life that keeps me from feeling just plain sad this week. Still, this is an ending, and one that feels important to savor, yet hard to celebrate.

I cannot help but wonder, will my kids even notice this change? After a summer of lounging around, when September routines reemerge, will they remember what was lost? Maybe not. Perhaps that is best.

I want them to remain hopeful, embracing today and looking toward tomorrow, not longing to return to the past.

At the same time, I want my children to know that our quiet mornings together were intentional. Some days felt too hard, exhausting, or just plain boring, but starting our days alone together was a choice. Embracing this time did not come naturally to me, but I learned to love it well…before I lost it. I guess this is what I want my kids to understand.

Yes, you have to get out of bed to face each new day. How you choose to do that, and what purpose and meaning you derive from it, is always up to you.

So, in this season of graduation and life transition, I am going to savor what we have had. And when it is gone, I am going to jump right in to what lies ahead.

 

Periods of transition affect everyone differently.

If you or your teen are feeling anxious or unsettled about the big changes and decisions that lie on your own horizon— high school, college, career, life— I can help. Contact me if you would like to connect and learn how I support families through the college planning process. Or, schedule an appointment here.

As winter finally starts to fade, and the dingy snow piles shrink down to reveal crocuses and other green wonders, I am always struck by how quickly the season passes. March snow storms have a way of making us feel like like summer may just not happen this year. Yet, at the same time, it feels like we were just trick-or-treating last month, and cleaning up Christmas gift wrap only yesterday.

This may have something to do with the fact that only yesterday, in fact, did I actually put the last of my Christmas and winter decorations back into their storage bins. As I tucked away the stockings, garlands, and pines cones, swapping them for birds’ nests, tulips, and sea shells, I stopped to consider all that will transpire in our hectic lives before my next decor adjustment. (This happens only 2-3 times a year in my house. I can’t handle decorating for specific holidays.)

April means spring should be well underway, and summer is merely two or three months out, depending when your kids get out of school.

I cannot wait for summer, yet I fear how quickly it will arrive.

There is so much to do before school ends. Over the years, I have tried several approaches to summer vacation. I love to create a good list and a detailed schedule, so some years we’ve had bucket lists and morning routines posted prominently by day one. But these tools never quite fit for my kids, so other years I have skipped them, deciding instead to “see what happens” and then fill in the gaps as needed. My kids love this approach at the start of the summer…but not so much by the end.

How do we best strike the delicate balance required to truly enjoy the summer? This year it looks like my kids will have an even ten weeks from the last day of school until the first. That’s 70 days to fill with enough downtime to reenergize and enjoy the slower pace, but also enough structure to keep those hearts, minds, and hands actively engaged.

My own children are fast approaching what I call the “black hole” of summer years…too old for day camp and too young for traditional summer jobs. What on earth will they do? How will I keep them off their phones? If I limit the phones, will I spend my whole summer just driving them around, or waiting for a text about where I need to drive them next? I can’t even.

 Since I spend a good amount of my summer teaching teenagers how to apply to college, I have a keen awareness of how many of them spend their ten weeks off. It breaks down something like this:
  • Weeks 1-4: Yay! Summer is eternal. Work or sleep in; text; work or see friends; hang around and stay up late; repeat.
  • Weeks 5-6: Family bonding through staycation, vacation, or simply mom or dad’s insistence they not be out 24/7 any longer.
  • Week 7: How did this happen? Beach or pool every day as sports/music/school start soon.
  • Weeks 8-9: Extended practice or prep for school activities, including sports camps or double sessions; freshman mentor activities; music and drama auditions.
  • Week 10: Panic about the summer reading and school assignments to start and finish; shopping.
Is there anything wrong with this?

Not really…it is pretty much what summer looks like for teenagers, regardless of how they fill the specific hours of their days.

So what can we, as parents, do to prepare for this, and possibly help our kids look back on summer with nostalgia and no regrets? It is not entirely possible, of course, but we can try.

There is only one mistake I consistently see families make when it comes to Summer: the Teen Years, and it is a simple one.

So, what is this mistake you want to avoid?

When your child meets a new teacher or an old friend on the first day of school, and they ask, “so, what did you do this summer?”

YOUR TEENAGER NEEDS TO HAVE AN ANSWER. A real answer.

This means she needs to DO something with her summer. Anything, really.

The further your child is through the teen years, the longer his “how I spent my summer” answer should be. Progressive summers may look something like this:

  • Age 13 – Little League baseball, family trip to Maine, watered the neighbors’ plants while they traveled
  • Age 14 – Little League baseball, family trip to Maine, mowed lawns and cared for pets for 3 families
  • Age 15 – Travel baseball, family trip to Maine, grounds crew at golf course for 10 hrs/week
  • Age 16 – Grounds crew at golf course for 25 hrs/week; started golf lessons; driver’s ed
  • Age 17 – Grounds crew at golf course for 35 hrs/week; coached Little League baseball; SAT prep course

The thing is, she really doesn’t have to be preparing for a career or a PhD. She just needs to do something. She also doesn’t have to do the same thing every year. If she hated scooping ice cream, let her be a camp counselor. (She just may appreciate that old ice cream job pretty quickly!)

Here’s what I suggest for surviving your teenager’s summer, and how I’ll be coaching my almost-eighth grader this year:
  1. Encourage your teen to find a consistent activity.
  2. Encourage your teen to read.
  3. Encourage your teen to write.
  4. Encourage your teen not to forget the math they learned last year.
  5. Remind yourself your teen will not possibly do all of the above, or even most of it.
  6. Limit your motherly reminders about summer reading/coursework and athletic workouts to twice per week, and tell your child in advance you are going to do so, to save you both from the torture of nagging.
  7. When there is too much on your schedule, give yourself permission to eliminate something in the name of summer freedom.
  8. Go outside, and encourage your teen to join you.
  9. Cut yourself some slack when the last week arrives and your teen has not done everything. That wasn’t even the goal. Surely they did something.
As eager as I always am for summer to begin, I tend to be downright giddy by the time it ends, and life returns to the stability of a school routine, and someone with more authority than me can finally make my children do some math again.

College Edge is planning a fun mini-expansion this spring and summer. We are going into the candy business! Not really…but the Murphy kids are planning a pop-up candy shop in the front of our office this summer. Our little Padanaram Village is becoming a busy seaside hub once again, and the kids are hoping to offer another fun option for kids visiting or living in the village.

No set hours for this shop…they are calling it Sometimes Sweet because “sometimes we will be there to sell candy. A lot of times we won’t.” They have set up an Instagram account @sometimes.sweet.candy to post when they are there and what they have to offer, so check it out!

April showers seem like they are here to stay! But that also means summer can’t be too far away. People may already be starting to ask you, “So…what are you doing this summer?”

For high school students, summer presents a unique opportunity to do something meaningful.

Doing something meaningful should NOT, however, be yet another source of stress. Don’t waste your time trying to craft the perfect experience you imagine will “wow” college admissions officers someday. Many of the expensive international travel, service, and leadership programs you may hear about do nothing to boost your college application profile. They can, however, be very meaningful experiences…if you are genuinely interested in attending and learning about yourself.

So what should you do? Simple: Find something you love, and do it,  or…speaking more practically…find something you would like to learn more about, then find a way to learn more during the summer.  If possible, get a job! Working for the summer is a fantastic way to learn more about your genuine interests while you learn the value of a hard-earned dollar.

Whatever you decide to do this summer…be sure you do something!  Even if your family has vacation plans, and you need to train for sports, visit colleges, and study calculus, you can still commit to some other meaningful activities.

If job prospects are weak, set up a consistent volunteering schedule at an organization whose mission you support. Seek out an internship, job shadowing, or an informational interview with someone in a professional field you may want to pursue. You may decide to take a class at a local university or community college.

Spending the entire summer at the beach (unless you are a lifeguard or swim instructor) is not a wise choice, but there is a proper balance. After all, the summer is short and all kids deserve some time to relax!