Updated: Sep 23, 2022
“Now, more than ever, we need nature as a balancing agent.” - Richard Louv
The slow and carefree days of summer have come to an end. Each time the summer arrives we are certain those six weeks will stretch on forever, but somehow, they manage to pass just a little quicker each year. Our entire family embraces and adores the summer. The warm sun on our skin, the adventures that unfold and the lack of formal schedules, allows us to embrace spontaneity. We move at a snail’s pace in summer and we lean into that slowness with gusto.
Now that we are back in school, the alarms are set, school and work demands pull us all in different directions. We are up as the sun has barely made its debut, sleepy eyes and weary bodies eat breakfast in silence before our children rush out the door. Whether we like it or not, our children must fall into the rhythm of a day that takes them far from the mellow days of summer.
Once home from school, they will eat a meal before afterschool beckons, or an activity awaits. Most days feel like a haze of school, homework, friends, activities, all before we convene at the dinner table to discuss our days and the week ahead.
Over the years, we realized a few key elements help us stay balanced during the stress that often ensues once we return to school, hectic schedules, activities and work demands. Our top four are listed below.
As parents we have come to realize that an overly scheduled child doesn’t translate to a happy child. While we can fill our children’s lives with activities we believe are rich and meaningful, we have come to the conclusion that two (at the most three) activities, plus school are plenty. Our children, much like us, still require “downtime.” That unscheduled time may be in the form of tinkering in their rooms, drawing, building, creating, meeting friends, or simply sitting on the couch while I read them a book. Whatever it may be, children crave time that is free of activities.
Retreat to Nature
When the weekend arrives, we realize this is our time to come together as a family. Time to break the mold of the weekly routine. The first thing we typically do to help us reset and restore balance after a long week is to retreat to nature. We have always made nature a priority and for us, that has made all the difference. Whether in the form of a hike, a visit to a botanical garden, or going on an adventure, we try to reserve one day of the weekend for the natural world. A time free of distraction and deadlines. A time to allow the rhythm of the natural world to dictate our movements. Whenever we are in nature we remember to appreciate the small beauties of life and observe all that is around us. Nature, for us, is restorative and my goodness, after the end of a long week, we all need a little refreshing!
During the weekends, we turn off the alarms and allow our children the opportunity to rise on their own. While we do appreciate the phrase, “The early bird gets the worm,” our children need sleep, as do we. Waking early five days of the week can sometimes prove exhausting. Allowing our children to rise at their own pace just two mornings per week feels indulgent and necessary, especially as the early morning light of summer fades into the darker days of autumn.
Sundays feel as though they should be a day of leisure reserved for slow breakfasts, nature and relaxation. We love that Switzerland still covets this special time. The idea of preserving just a single day of the week free of work, where relaxation is a top priority is truly exceptional in our fast paced world. If we have a deadline or if homework calls, we try to squeeze those work deadlines in on Saturday, honoring Sunday as the day of leisure it should be. A day to restore ourselves before we dive into the demands of the week ahead.
Now that summer feels like a distant dream of pools and lakes, mountains and adventures, we try our best to embed that sense of relaxation into our daily lives. Though it is not always easy, nor are we always successful in our attempt, we have a formula that works well for us. The key, however, is remembering to implement those simple strategies as the year unfolds.