This year I am again participating in a wonderful annual tradition I call “Pawning my kids off on relatives for the summer.”
These relatives allegedly really want my kids around. And as much as I adore said children, I don’t exactly hate every second they’re gone. Especially when the last Oreo cookie manages to remain the last Oreo until I get around to eating it.
Some years it’s just for a week or two. Others, we’ve cobbled together elaborate schedules in which Relative A has the kids for a few days, then hands them off to Relative B for a week, who in turn meets Relative C for a back-alley cousin exchange.
One year I managed to arrange for them to be gone eight whole weeks, during which time they kayaked in the Sierras, rode horses in Nevada’s high desert and collected sea glass on the shore. We should all have a summer like that.
And not only did they have a great time, I was able to redecorate their rooms AND remodel their bathroom complete with a new countertop and sinks while they were away.
So unless you live in a compound with every second- or third-degree relative you have, chances are you have relatives who might want to host the kidlets for a visit.
Here are some tips on how to make that work:
Who gets them?
First, you shouldn’t assume anyone wants your kids around at all. Sure, you love your kids and think they’re terrific, but if you bring up the idea with a trusted relative and the response is anything short of “YES! YES! Send me your kids!” it’s really a hard pass. Maybe it’s not too late to get them into summer camp instead.
Know your kids
Second, you know your kids best. Are they independent enough to enjoy time away from home? Are they mature enough to travel as unaccompanied minors? Will they be resilient enough to handle weird food and unaccustomed rules? If the answer is no, keep them home or wake up to a desperate 2 a.m. phone call demanding you come get them RIGHT NOW!
Can YOU handle your kids being away? I’m big on encouraging independence, but your mileage, as they say, may vary. Don’t sign on for anything you don’t feel comfortable with.
What are the airline rules?
If you’ll be flying the kids to their destination make sure you understand and follow the rules for unaccompanied minors. If your child is under a certain age, be prepared to pay extra fees. And make sure whoever is picking them up brings photo ID and knows the rules, too.
Don’t assume everything is free
Make sure you send the kids with money to handle whatever entertainment the host is planning. Be prepared to cover meals out, admission to amusement parks, movies, whatever else the host has in mind, and a little something extra for souvenirs. And even if the host assures you they’ve got everything covered, maybe include some money for the kids to take their host out to dinner. It’s what good guests do.
Make sure they pack smart
You shouldn’t expect your host to entertain your kids every minute of the day, so make sure they bring whatever they need to entertain themselves. It’s also what good guests do.
Threaten the kids good
And by “threaten,” of course, I mean firmly explain to them that excellent behavior is expected and will be monitored from afar.
That’s a good start.
So if you send your kids to visit relatives this summer but somehow find yourself at loose ends while they’re gone, I have another bathroom that needs remodeling. Just saying.