As I was eating lunch along the counter at the nearby Food Cooperative, two moms were sitting in the stools beside me. “What are your plans for the afternoon?” one asked the other.

The woman sighed and began to list all the activities she had to get her kids to. The other woman nodded and rattled off her list, which included driving one kid to a town to the north and another kid to a town to the south.

“Is this what motherhood is about in the summer?” I later asked my German husband, Martin. “Just driving kids from one of their activities to another?”

“It doesn’t have to be, Katie.” he simply stated. And I agreed.

Your kids can have a spectacular summer without you chauffeuring them to activities. And you can have an incredible summer, too. Do it together.

FIMBY family camping tripPhoto by Renee Touglas

1. Choose a family activity instead of enrolling kids in another club.

Renee at FIMBY wrote an inspiring post on picking family sports. She writes, “The typical team sports schedule and philosophy seems to make certain assumptions about family life. You are willing to rush through supper (or “grab something on the way”) and regularly go separate ways as a family. And, if you are the parent, you’re willing to sacrifice a good part of your weekend to sit on the sidelines.”

What did her family do? They started hiking together. Then camping. Then backpacking. Next year, their family of five is hiking the Appalachian Trail together.

mother-daughter-allPhoto by Katie Clemons

2. Keep a journal together.

Bond with your daughter on a new, deeper level by writing letters back and forth. Not only does it keep her inspired to practice her writing over the summer, but it also brings the two of you closer.

I recently made “My Mom and Me”, a mother-daughter journal at Gadanke. It’s a writing prompt book to help you and your daughter confide in one another, snap photographs of yourselves together, work though hard or scary things in her life, and reflect on everyday joy and kindness.

3. Spend time doing something fun with your child one-on-one.

Just type something like “mother-son date” into Google or Pinterest. You’ll find bloggers talking about all kinds of beautiful ideas. (This list for dads and daughters looks especially fun.) The hard part is making these dates a habit, especially, I think, when we call them “dates”. A date implies leaving the house and spending money. But you don’t have to do either.

One of my sister’s favorite mother-daughter activities actually happened when my brother and I were home. She and my mom would curl up on the couch or my sister’s bed and read together. They were both excited about the adventures of Mr. Poppers’s Penguins or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family; they didn’t need to schedule it on the calendar. It just happened.

flyingPhoto by Katie Clemons

4. Invite your child to join you at something you love.

What if we put our interests first, introduced them to our kids, then had a passion we could share for years? And that they could share with their siblings, too? I think we’ve all tried a lot of things because our parents introduced us to their passions. It can be a test of patience. Sure, things won’t be as efficient. Life with kids never is, right?!

Introduce your kids to something as huge as flying! Since we live in an airplane hangar, my husband is already eager to teach our kids how to fly gliders. Just look at how much fun this 9-year-old girl is having with her dad in the sky!

It can also be as simple as baking Saturday morning breakfast together. My sister-in-law recently wrote regarding her two year-old: “I invited E. to help me make muffins this morning. She loves to help! And then I found myself getting annoyed when she ‘messed it up.’ I think that is probably my biggest parenting challenge: being ok when things get messy and inconvenient.”

By the way, she added, “The muffins turned out great.”

How will you make this summer great? Not just for the kids, but for yourself, too?