Yes, I know it's almost the end of July already. My son has only a month left until school starts again, and I don't want to waste that time with him. Who knows if I'll have this kind of time next summer? Who knows how he will be different? I want to know that I've done my best to make the quality moments count. Not EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. Because heaven knows we all need time to ourselves, time to renew with friends, and time to follow our careers and dreams. What I mean is that I want to ensure that the time I do spend with my son is time that I savor and appreciate.
I've had this list written down for about two months, and I've kept it to myself, worrying and wondering if I have been doing it right and following my own advice. These words have been clamoring to come out and be shared, and I'm listening to them.
These are my no-hassle, no-regrets guidelines for my summer this year. My summer manifesto:
1) Eat ice cream and sno-cones and watermelon.
My personal favorites on our road trip so far are the Twisted Cow and Simonton Lake Drive-In in Elkhart, IN; Sander's in Rochester, MI (trust me: you want to try the bumpy cake ice cream); and Graeter's in Dayton, OH. I got to know Graeter's when I was in college in Cincinnati and fell in love with their French small batch method and their homemade marshmallow creme and sprinkles.
2) Enjoy nature. Love and appreciate the small creatures.
My mom, my sister, and I drive the two hours to Chicago every summer to visit the Shedd Aquarium with our kids. It's a special holiday that we all look forward to each year; we spend the entire day at the aquarium and then drive back that evening in time for dinner at my parents' house. It's a great way to teach my son about marine life, in an environment that is very humane and caring for the animals.
My favorite part, by far, is the Stingray Touch experience. The rays are so soft, and they swim gently underneath the visitors' hands, some of them actively pushing their smooth bodies up for a caress.
3) Swim. Jump in. Fly.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of leaping through the air to jump in a refreshing pool, no matter where you are. I have some friends who do the polar swim on January 1 in Austin, but I say NO THANK YOU to that. Count me in for a summer splash, though.
4) Take a road trip with the family - somewhere, anywhere - and see something new.
This summer, we're traveling from Texas to Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. The Midwest is incredibly beautiful this time of year, and while we keep up with some perennial favorites, like the Elkhart County 4H fair (which is a fantastic spectacle of animals and fried foods), we like to explore new places too. This year, we visited the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI for the first time, and it was just as magical for me as it was for my son. Maybe more so, especially when we got to ride in a real 1925 Ford Model T (car fanatic alert!).
5) Relax. Spend quality time with your kids. Slow down and savor summer.
Today, I spend the morning teaching my son how to do magic tricks with a deck of cards, and we had a blast. I'll have to make up for it by working late tonight after he goes to bed, and I'm grateful I can structure my day that way.
6) Say yes to catching fireflies, getting sandy from head to toe, and lying in the grass, looking up at the clouds.
I love getting sandy and I encourage my son to get muddy, sandy, and dirty all he can. I tell him it's good for his skin.
7) Recognize the wonder in your child's eyes and remember the summers when you were a kid, too.
This is my sister and I when we were 4 and 1 in our new front yard, fresh from moving from New Jersey; I can still remember the smells, tastes, and feel of summer and everything that goes with it from my childhood. My parents still live in this house, and it is a gift to have these years to revisit it as an adult. And build new memories with my son.
8) Eat more ice cream.
Kristin Shaw is a writer and author based in Austin, TX. She is featured regularly by the Today Show Parenting Team and The Washington Post, and her first children's book, Ricky and the Broken Box, was released this year in partnership with the stars of the show American Restoration. Find her at kristinvshaw.com or @kristinvshaw on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.