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Challenge: Summer Fun

Why My Family Is Getting Back to the Basics

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This family of city slickers is packing its bug spray and heading to the country! Get ready Vermont, here we come!

We live in our nation’s 3rd largest city; in fact, our home is smack dab in the middle of Chicago! My children were born here, learned to walk on the bumpy sidewalks downtown, and to ride their bicycles in the alley behind our house. Every day they navigate streets crowded with urban professionals, college students, and young families. They spend their weekends jetting between play dates on opposite ends of the city, and they love it! They are truly city kids.

But for all the Windy City has to offer, my children also know that they aren’t allowed to go outside alone, not with all the cute, chubby-cheeked pouting in the world. Why? Because this big city just isn’t a safe place for little ones to be on their own. And while we love raising our boys around all the action, we desperately want to give our kids the kinds of experiences my husband and I had growing up in the rural Midwest.

Growing up 1970s small-town America, we played freely outside without a worried parent watching over us; we bounced between friends houses all day long; and we biked around town ‘til after dark. The summer mantra was, "Go outside and don't come home until dinner!"

So, we've decided to ditch our 2.7 million friends for idyllic, countryside Vermont. Population 4,000. What the what?! That's right, people. We are pumping the brakes on our hectic, fast-paced city lives and slowing it down…waaaay, waaaay down. We will hike The Pinnacle, we will bike the endless trails, we will skip rocks in creeks, and we will breathe the crisp clean air. Oh, and I hear we’ll be able to see stars there! We’ve really gotten our family system down to a science over these last 12 years, but I’m looking forward to helping our boys take their positive habits into a new environment. Life doesn’t happen in a bubble, so we need to make sure they don’t live in one. And even though they will still eat breakfast at 7am and go to bed at 7pm like they do at home, my hope is that they will feel comfortable enough, with the confidence we’ve given them, to explore on their own during the hours in between. I strongly believe children need structure and activity, but they don't need to be signed up for 10 different kids’ classes to be inspired. Mine will be attending a local adventure camp, and when they’re not there, well, the entire great outdoors awaits.

We know that our summer in the country won't come without adjustments. You can take this family out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of us. This type-A mompreneur is going to miss her TiVo and the babysitter. And I’m sure our three boys will take turns missing their friends and lives in Chicago. To complicate things, my husband and I will be alternating childcare so that we can jump on planes and travel for work. Life will be different, and each of us will need a little extra love and encouragement now and then.

But we want our kids to know the joy of speeding down a hill on their bikes, of whole days without itineraries, of eating lunch on a giant log with new friends, of grass stains on t-shirts. We want them to feel safety and freedom. Childhood is short, and summer is even shorter. Take this time - when your kids are fearless and full of energy – to merge the predicable routines they thrive on with the slow drip of a back-to-basics summer.

Should we make a bet how quickly I will hear the words, "I'm bored!"? When I respond with, "Go outside!" I can rejoice because I won't have to go with them. Now pass me my wine and the remote.

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