Moms Discuss Survival Tips for Summer

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Each year, children look forward to the thrills of summer vacation — no school and fun in the sun. But finding ways to make use of their kid's free time can pose some tough challenges for parents. Mocha Moms Jolene Ivey, Cheli English-Figaro and Davina McFarland are joined by guest mom Kristen Page-Kirby, editor of Chesapeake Family Magazine, to discuss summer activities.

CHERYL CORLEY, host:

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe kids just need a few Mocha Moms, and we visit with members of this mother support group each weeks for their common sense and their savvy parenting tips and this week the moms talk about surviving the summer. Summer, of course, is a time tom relax and enjoy the sun, but it can also become a nightmare if your kids are lounging around the house, and we'll talk about how to make it fun for both you and your children. With us are our regular Mocha Moms Jolene Ivey, Cheli English-Figaro and Davina McFarland, and we're also pleased to have with us, Kristen Page-Kirby, editor of Chesapeake Family Magazine. Welcome, everybody to the show.

Ms. JOLENE IVEY (Mocha Mom): Hey, Cheryl.

Ms. CHELI ENGLISH-FIGARO (Mocha Mom): Hey, Cheryl.

Ms. DAVINA MCFARLAND (Mocha Mom): Hey, Cheryl.

Ms. KRISTEN PAGE-KIRBY (Editor, "Chesapeake Family Magazine"): Hi.

CORLEY: Well, Cheli what is a parent's worst nightmare as summer approaches?

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Mom, what am I going to do next? I'm bored. I think that's probably the worst nightmare. My kids didn't really have that opportunity to say that though because when I was younger and when they were younger, I used to home school them and so summer came, it was my time to be off, and so we just hit the streets. Everyday friends and I used to get together and have like these massive field trips, but now I don't home school anymore. We do camps now. This is the first year my kids have actually gone to camp.

CORLEY: All right. Well, I want to talk about camps in a little bit, but Jolene, there seems to be two schools of thought as far as summer. First, let your kids figure out their own summer activities and second, then there's the parent that maps out everything for their kids to do during the summer and what do you think of those two approaches?

Ms. IVEY: I lean more towards the first one. I feel like summer is a time - if kids are bored, that's cool. You know, you then have the opportunity to figure out to un-bore yourself. That's now your job. It's not my job. And I think it's important for kids to learn how to entertain themselves and, you know, summer's a great time to do it, so it's OK if your kids are bored. I think that's all right.

CORLEY: So you think it encourages their creativity then?

Ms. IVEY: As long as you provide opportunity for them to do something and give them some guidelines so they're not sitting in front of the computer or the TV all day, you know. That's not how you want them to entertain themselves, but too much activity, too much structured time is not good for them.

CORLEY: OK. Well, Davina, it seems like a lot of adults have memories of summer activities that they really didn't like as children, and if you plan your kids activities, should you keep their interest in mind or is this the time when you really sort of introduce them to something new?

Ms. MCFARLAND: I think you do a little of both. I think you let them pick a few things that they are interested in and it's something that they want to do, but then of course you use this opportunity - you have a lot of free time where you can begin to introduce, you know, other things. My kids started playing tennis because I introduced it to them. They never came up to me and said I want to play tennis. I thought its summer, you can try it, what do you think? And now it's one of their great loves.

CORLEY: OK.

Ms. MCFARLAND: So, you know, you do a little bit of both. Swimming they picked, tennis I picked.

CORLEY: And those are healthy things, so those are the kinds of things you want your kids to be kind of like physically active so sports camp perhaps is a way to have them be active and either find something they like or introduce them to something new that they end up loving?

Ms. MCFARLAND: I think for them, summer, their brain kind of shuts down a little bit so they're like, OK, whatever physical things we can do? That's our interest.

CORLEY: All right. Well, Kristen, "Chesapeake Family" recently published a list of exciting and out-of-the-ordinary things to do with your family. First of all, what's wrong with just plain old summer camp?

Ms. PAGE-KIRBY: Well, there's nothing wrong with plain old summer camp, but there are times when you can really use summer to come together as a family and summer camp, obviously kind of it by its definition, the kids go one place and the parents go another place whether it's work or taking care of younger siblings or anything like that. And we really wanted to focus on things that the families could do together regardless of whatever the age of the siblings are, you know, obviously a 12-year-old and a 2-year-old are going to be interested in very different things.

But we really wanted to give this time - summer can be a really great time for parents and kids to reconnect on different terms that they might not be able to during the school year, and so we really wanted to kind of encourage people also to get out and explore their local communities. We wanted, you know, our focus is get out and see something in your local neighborhood that you normally wouldn't see either because you don't have the time or, you know, who often has a Tuesday morning free, you know, but in summer you might be able to be able to pull that together, and go check out a story time at the library or check out a special exhibit at a museum or something like that.

CORLEY: So a time to be a tourist in your own town or something?

Ms. PAGE-KIRBY: We're big proponents of that and especially this summer with fuel prices and airline prices being what they are, this is a great time, you know, everyone tosses around the term staycation, you know, taking your vacation and sticking close to home, and one thing that kind of concerns me is that I'm worried that parents are going to take their very precious vacation time and are going to use it to stick around the house and re-caulk the tub or, you know, do something like that, and we really want to encourage you, if you're going to stay close to home, take that time and use it as a vacation. You know, let the house get a little messy. The tub will get recaulked eventually, don't worry about it, you know, take the time to really reconnect with your kids whether you do kind of a theme for the week. It can be as simple as going to every elementary school playground in your community, in your county, and ranking them all, to really get to know your kids and to really have fun yourself, you know, let the parenting go a little bit and just pretend that you're on vacation.

CORLEY: All right. Well, if you're just joining us you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. I'm speaking with our Mocha Moms Davina McFarland, Cheli English-Figaro, and Jolene Ivey, and Kristen Page-Kirby from "Chesapeake Family Magazine" about how to survive the family with your kids. Now, Kristen, gas prices are taking a lot of discretionary dollars, and a lot of families trying to tighten their budget, and short of sending your kids off to work, what are some tips for cutting costs on kids' activities during the summer?

Ms. PAGE-KIRBY: Well, the first place you should go is your local library. Libraries are incredibly underutilized, and they are getting so good in terms of embracing technology and at targeting kids of all ages from toddlers all the way up to teenagers. A lot of them have their own Nintendo Wiis, so they can have a Wii game night, they've got story times, they've got book clubs, really check those out because the vast majority of them are free, maybe a dollar, maybe two dollars, and they're close so you're not driving for hours and hours and hours.

The second place is your local parks and recs department because not only do they have ongoing low-cost classes in pretty much everything you can imagine, often they will offer some sort of one time class in candle making or some sort of craft that you can do and take home that's only a onetime thing, it's 12 bucks, you know, and you end up with bath salts at the end of it and so libraries and parks and recs department. Hit them as much as you can because they're usually fantastic places with fantastic people who really want to engage kids, and they're set up for kids so use them.

CORLEY: All right. Well, Jolene, your kids range from very young to teenagers and tell me about your plan, how do you plan what to do with your teenagers particularly in the summer?

Ms. IVEY: Well, my oldest child's 18, and his plan for the summer is go to work 40 a hours a week, you got to bring home some money to help with college costs, so he's got his summer all planned out. And the next one, David, he's 15, and he's going to mow lawns this summer so that's his money-making venture for the summer which is good for him, you know, he'll manage his own money and stuff.

CORLEY: And so teenagers are more concerned about making a little cash over the summer?

Ms. IVEY: I think so.

CORLEY: Kristen, do you have any suggestions at all for parents of teenagers and what they should be doing in the summer?

Ms. PAGE-KIRBY: I think teenagers should be working during the summer.

CORLEY: OK. So you agree with Jolene?

Ms. PAGE-KIRBY: I do agree. I think that that's - either working or volunteering, but teenagers - I really think that's where you need to start following their lead a little bit more. You take a four-year-old to a museum and it's interactive, he's going to think it's cool. The 12-year-old, you know, 12, 13, 14…

CORLEY: It's getting a little dicey.

Ms. PAGE-KIRBY: Right.

CORLEY: Cheli, you look like…

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Yeah. I don't know about that. I mean I don't have a 15 year old, but I have a 14 year old, and he is going to University of Maryland this summer because they have these programs. There are a lot of colleges that have these enrichment programs that are really dirt cheap for teenagers, and so he's going to be doing some college prep programs. And I think the summertime is a nice opportunity to enrich the teenager's life just like you would enrich the child's life.

CORLEY: OK. Well, I want to ask each of you how you factor the dads into the summer as, you know, is this a time for father-daughter bonding or father-son bonding? What do you think?

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Fishing trip. You have this one annual fishing trip that occurs and that's about it, and then just whatever the regular vacation is.

CORLEY: OK.

Ms. IVEY: I think my husband's really good about year-round helping out or playing with the kids, taking them to play soccer or whatever, but he's not an outdoorsman. You cannot get my husband to take the kids camping or something, so that really falls more onto me.

CORLEY: That gets rid of the fishing trip idea.

Ms. IVEY: Yeah. Unfortunately, but everybody's different. Every family's different, so you really have to tailor it to your situation.

CORLEY: Davina?

Ms. MCFARLAND: I think my husband might be the exact opposite because my husband is the outdoorsman, and I'm so not. He is very involved in scouting, and my kids go to day camp every year, and my husband is the camp director so they spend the whole week with dad at camp, and he enjoys that very much and of course the boys do, too. They really enjoy that.

CORLEY: Well, that's cool. Any final survival tips for the summer? Have we covered all the bases here?

Ms. IVEY: Don't forget to have some fun that you want to have. I mean let's not make it all about the kids. That's very unhealthy. You need to make plans to get together with your girlfriends or whatever it is you want to do.

CORLEY: Yes. Very true.

Ms. MCFARLAND: I have a funny story. When I first met Jolene, and I remember she said she had five sons and I thought, oh my gosh you must love it when school starts because we met in June. And she said, are you kidding? I hate school. I love the summer. And I thought, wow, she's nuts. But then when my kids started school I thought aha, I get it. I get it. I don't like this whole getting up and the schedule and all that stuff so, you know, enjoy your summer. Don't fuss about oh I don't know what to do with them. If you don't know what to do, do nothing. That's fun, too.

CORLEY: All right. Mocha Moms Davina McFarland, Jolene Ivey, and Cheli English-Figaro and Kristen Page-Kirby, editor at "Chesapeake Family Magazine," they joined us here in our Washington studio. Thank you so much ladies.

Ms. MCFARLAND: Thank you.

Ms. IVEY: Thanks, Cheryl.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Thanks, Cheryl.

MS. PAGE-KIRBY: Thank you.

CORLEY: We'll have links to their blogs at our website. Check out the Tell Me More section of the npr.org website. And that's our program for today. I'm Cheryl Corley and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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