Let’s go back in time for a minute. Do you remember your favorite childhood summertime memories? Close your eyes and think about it for a minute. I’ll wait.
I loved being outside all day, playing football, and drinking water straight out of the garden hose. We picked and ate from honeysuckle bushes and a Mulberry tree, and when the street lights turned on, it was time to go back indoors. Each night I collapsed in my bed from being so worn out.
I want so badly to recreate memories like that for my kids. I’d love for them to play in the sun all day, throw themselves in bed, and fall asleep before I finish reading our bedtime story. I want them to experience the peaceful exhaustion I remember feeling after a good day of play.
Let’s keep things real for a minute here. Providence isn’t exactly the ideal place to let my kids go play unattended – at least not in my neighborhood. So I feel like I have to create these experiences myself, rather than rely on my kids to have them in an organic way. Off to Pinterest I go: land of complicated cupcakes and unattainable dreams.
Thirty minutes later, and I am in a pinning frenzy, with the self-inflicted pressure growing with each “pin.” You’ve seen the boards: Backyard Fun, Summer Fun, 607 Easy and Fun Activities for Littles. There are so many wonderful ideas, so many ways to keep my kids in a constant state of exhilaration. I don’t think this summer is actually enough time to do everything I want with them!
An hour rolls by and here I am, still pinning. The pressure to make this summer the “best summer ever” for my kids is as intense as the July sun.
I take a break and let my mind wander. Last year, just a few short months after giving birth to my 4th child, I put myself under a similar amount of pressure. I felt guilty because this change in family dynamics took away our ability to participate in T-ball.
Looking back, I can see that I was much more upset about this than the kids were.
Of course now I clearly see that a new baby is infinitely better and provides many more positive memories than a few months of T-ball. You couldn’t have told me that then, though. I felt horrible for not being able or willing to haul 4 kids under the age of 7 to the ball field 3 times a week. I had convinced myself that because I was unwilling to sit on a dirt hill, in the heat, with a newborn, while cheering and corralling children simultaneously, I was selfishly causing my kids to have a terrible summer.
They still had a great summer, despite my certainty that I ruined everything. Right now, as I sit here pinning my heart away, I realize I need to lift the pressure I put on my own shoulders.
The truth is, what the kids want more from me, more than the experiences I create for them is just that–me. They want me. They want me to laugh, be silly, to scream, and to lay in the grass with them. The sweet summer-time memories will come, even if I don’t plan them. Even though it won’t look picture perfect, it will look like us, which is infinitely more important.
As you plan the best summer ever,I encourage you to remember that it’s not about unprecedented experiences, new toys, or elaborate vacations. Resist the temptation to put pressure on yourself. The best, most lasting memories come from the relationships you are building in your family. They just want you. Give them you.