Dear Emuna,

At the risk of seeming to be a Grinch (I know, wrong season), I really don’t like summer. While my friends go on and on about how relaxing it is with no homework and no carpools and long, carefree nights, I feel like I am going out of my mind. I miss the routine, I miss knowing when bedtime is, I miss having a little time to myself – argghh!! Any thoughts to help me cope with this season?

Any Crumb Will Do

Dear Searching for a Crumb,

I totally identify with you. There are personality types that love routine and personality types that chafe against it. And, at the risk of making light of King Solomon’s words, to everything there is a season…During the year, your friends who so love the summer are forced to conform to a lot of rules and routine that probably make them crazy. Now the shoe is on the other foot. It must be that for each of us, there is an opportunity for growth in the season that is the most challenging.

It begins with what we tell ourselves. The more we say “we can’t stand it,” the more we won’t be able to. And the more we try to reframe and examine what the opportunity of the summer is, the better it will be. As I’ve mentioned many times in all sorts of parenting contexts, it begins with expectations. I guarantee that once you accept that the summer nights are not available to you (or at least not until much later) you will automatically feel freer.

Part of the frustration comes from the constant expectation that they should be. Letting go of this will allow you to actually enjoy a more relaxed time with your children. If you want time to yourself, try getting a babysitter for that much needed refresher. Along the same lines, don’t save up projects for the summer, imagining that all of the sudden, especially without the demands of homework, you will have hours of free time. You will just be setting yourself up for much frustration.

I’m not diminishing the idea that summer can be challenging, especially if your children don’t go to camp (and even if they do!). Children also like routine and structure. But there is something nice (once you refocus) about the unencumbered time, about the chance to just sit on the lawn as the kids run around. Remind yourself that, as hard as this may seem, this time, this age will pass by quickly. Soon they’ll be teenagers and they won’t want you hanging out with them!

Summer really allows us to spend a lot more time with our children in a relaxed and unhurried manner – and without the pressure of something we need to get done (math homework, science fair project, book report). They can play in the water (and the mud), they can experiment with arts and crafts, they can read books for fun. You can have barbecues and picnics and days at the beach. Okay, I’m getting exhausted thinking about it all but I’m also reflecting back on good times had by all (!) and perhaps some opportunities missed.

Don’t wish your summer away; if you want a little more routine, make a schedule of activities for the day. It will help you and your children not descend into chaos. But allow yourself and them the chance to be flexible, the chance to be spontaneous, the chance to explore something new and experience something different. Good luck!

Confusing Work Relationships with Friends

Dear Emuna,

I work as a travel agent in the community where I live. I get to know my customers pretty well. We end up spending hours on the phone working on details and they end up revealing a lot of personal information as we plan the trip. Frequently I feel like I’m as much a therapist (without the degree) as I am a travel agent. Although sometimes problems arise, in general we have very good, warm relationships. My challenge comes when I seem them at synagogue or other social events outside the work context. All of the sudden they act like they hardly know me, sometimes giving me a brief nod or smile but never engaging me in conversation even though the day before they were baring their souls to me. It’s confusing and a little sad and I don’t know what to do. Any thoughts?

Just a Service Provider

Dear Confused Service Provider,

You are not the first one to present me with this issue. In recent days I’ve spoken with an accountant (yes, an accountant), a lawyer and a hairdresser who all complained about the same issue. It’s very easy, especially today in our very casual and open society, to confuse work relationships and personal ones. And it’s always a mistake.

If you are providing a service for a fee, it is a business relationship. It may be a cordial, even friendly one, but it is a business one. If the customer can get the same service for a lower fee they will. And while you may initially be insulted, you shouldn’t be. It’s only a result of this same confusion.

Work-related relationships are exactly that – work-related. We need to be polite, even friendly, certainly ethical – but we also need to recognize the limitations inherent therein. Although the lines may sometimes blur, in general our friends are separate relationships (in fact, many people prefer not to do business with friends – in order to keep those relationships completely separate and in order not to risk them if there is a problem on the business side). As difficult as it is, it is important to remember this.

Like the parent in letter one, it’s all based on our expectations. If we expect that we are creating a real friendship, we will constantly be setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we recognize that what we are creating is an effective and friendly working relationship, then we will be satisfied. We need to look for our friends outside the office, outside our field of work and nurture those relationships completely separately and in the appropriate context for friendships. There are business dinners and there are social dinners. There are business meetings and the get-togethers of people who are building a truly caring relationship. We may have many business acquaintances/relationships and that may help us build a successful career. In all likelihood, we will have only a few good friends – and they are the ones who help us build a successful life.

Once you let go of the confusion and learn to erect the appropriate boundaries, you will actually be much happier. I think you will probably be a better travel agent because you will invest your energy where it belongs – in finding them good deals and not in the supposed friendship and you will probably be a better friend because you will know have more energy to invest in this relationship as well.