Ice cream for dinner: A summer rules checklist for parents

  • Jun. 27, 2017 1:50 p.m.

A “summer rules” checklist is bopping around on social media, ostensibly for parents to keep their kids from mainlining electronics for three months straight.

It goes like this:

“Have you: Made your bed? Brushed your teeth? Brushed your hair? Gotten dressed? Had breakfast?

“Plus,” it continues, “20 minutes of reading. 20 minutes of writing/coloring. Clean up one room. Played outside for 20 minutes. Made/built something creative. Helped someone in the family.

“Then,” it concludes, “you can use electronics.”

I plan to use this list for my own kids who finally, three weeks into June, have finished school.

With a few tweaks, though. Most summer days, I don’t care if they brush their hair. I’m not much of a stickler about made beds either. And 20 minutes strikes me as a paltry amount of time to play outside.

So while I search for ways to adjust the list, I find my mind wandering toward how I should spend my summer days.

Summer confounds me each year. Too often, it doesn’t adopt a different-enough pace from the rest of the year. We’re still distracted; we’re just distracted by different things — YouTube instead of homework. We’re still rushing; we’re just rushing to different places — camp instead of school.

Some of that’s necessary. Like a lot of parents, my husband and I don’t have summers off.

But I want to find moments, however small, to separate these next 10 weeks into something distinct and, at the risk of applying too much pressure, sacred.

A checklist feels like a chance to do that. Here’s how mine looks, with the understanding that some of these items might happen only once during the whole summer, not once a day.

Summer rules

A “summer rules” checklist is being passed around on social media for parents to use at home with their kids. (


— Written that thing you’ve been meaning to write? Not for work; that doesn’t count. I’m talking a thank-you card, a journal entry, a letter to my aunt, an attempt at a poem, a short story to read to my kids.

— Played a board game? Sorry! is, to my mind, a perfect way to while away an hour. Suspense, crushing disappointment followed by gleeful revenge, very little math.

— Baked something? From a box is fine.

— Read a new voice? I tend to seek out my favorite writers for summer reading. This year I want to fill my brain with perspectives that I don’t already share, from writers whose lives look nothing like mine. (It feels particularly essential right now.)

— Weeded? This is the item most likely to happen only once during the whole summer.

Plus …

— Stared at the sky. This works equally well during the day (cloud shapes!) or at night (stars!). Even better if I can catch the sun rising or setting.

— Walked down a new block. I like to take in front stoops and imagine the conversations they’ve witnessed. I like to count trees and wonder if any are climbable. And I will resist the urge to feel bad if everyone’s flowers look better than mine.

— Bought a vegetable I’ve never tried. Preferably from a farmers market, one of my very favorite parts of summer. And I will try to let this be my inspiration to also find recipes I’ve never tried.

— Made ice cream from scratch. The rock-salt, take-turns-with-the-hand-crank, utterly-time-consuming, full-fat, real-sugar, unsurpassably delicious kind, obviously.

— Eaten that ice cream for dinner. Especially if I succeeded at buying and eating a new vegetable within the same week.

— Given myself a pass for failing to do any/all of the above. Come on. It’s summer.

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