This post originally appeared on Alice's web page, Dining with Alice.
Be confident in your own family’s summer activities and make memories that matter. You don’t need a summer bucket list to enjoy summer with your kids.
Spread out belly first on the shaggy carpet floor, I was armed with a notepad and my computer. It was the night before my first summer day home with my kids. I was researching what we would do on our days home together. It was exciting at first, a rush of possibilities and then I started feeling overwhelmed at the abundance of web pages filled with endless activities. Before I knew it I had been on the computer for hours, I closed my computer without a summer bucket list.
I don’t need to overthink summer.
I don’t need a checklist of how to have fun.
I just need to live summer.
Yes, summer is totally precious. Maximize it to its fullest, right? I’m a Minnesota girl, of course I know this weather won’t last forever. I am fully aware that the days of frozen car locks and wind chills are mere months away. But I don’t need a summer bucket list to enjoy summer with my kids.
There is this pressure in summer. Do you know what I’m talking about? This weird feeling like we need a list of activities and go through it all summer diligently saying, “Check! Got that one off the summer bucket list!”
Maybe you feel the pressure about entertaining your kids this summer. Maybe you feel overwhelmed at the abundance of places and costs for fun? I want you to stop and backtrack for a minute.
I want you to close your eyes.
Well, read this first and then close your eyes.
I want you to picture yourself on Labor Day weekend. Maybe the school year has just started or it is about to start. Picture summer being over.
I want you to think about the memories you created with your kids.
What did you do?
What did your hands, their hands and feet look like?
What did you taste?
What did you smell?
What made you laugh?
What made you cry?
What made you thankful to be a mom?
Here’s a thought: your best memories of summer may not be on a summer bucket list. They likely are not purchased with an admission ticket. They likely cost little or no money. The best summer moments are likely, simple and moments when you are connecting with your child. What are these summer moments you want to hold in your heart?
Last summer I didn’t have a summer bucket list. We spent time going on activities that felt right for us that summer. Picnics, a pizza farm, a huge candy store, biking, walks in state parks, and I even went camping. Once. But sometimes, we just stayed home. On those days of just staying home, we read all of our library books, did cooking projects, watched movies and sometimes we cleaned the house together. Yes, one of our summer activities was teaching the kids how to clean the toilet.
That experience last summer set the stage for my expectations for this summer. I didn’t put a sheet of paper on the fridge or keep a spreadsheet in my computer. I let summer happen.
Let summer happen.
And this year, during summer, our family is moving, so life has been especially chaotic. I’m challenged to feel like we are making the most of the summer and balancing our need to get packed, clean the house and prepare for our move. I was down on myself, feeling like I maybe was doing a bad job at summer.
A bad job at summer. I was feeling like I wasn't doing my best to make sure we were doing an endless string of outings and activities. And that's crazy when I really think about it because my kids are loving summer, we aren’t checking off hundreds of activities but we are together, we are a family and we are having fun in our own way. We aren't necessarily doing the same things we did last summer or the summer before, and yet it still feels like summer and we are still making memories.
Just living summer.
I’m not making a summer bucket list, but here’s what I see when I close my eyes and think about our summer memories.
Tart lemonade from my kid’s lemonade stand.
Running out of beach towels each week.
Dirty toes. Dirty whole bodies.
Running after my kids, not for exercise but for fun.
Bike rides and stops in our neighborhood.
The sandy residue in my bathtub that reminds me of muddy feet, trips to the beach or time in the sand box.
Running in the sprinkler and spraying each other with the hose. And the squealing laughs when they run.
A bag overflowing with library books and sandwiched on the couch together reading.
Spotting the newly ripe tomatoes from the garden.
Exploring without inhibition.
Keeping my eyes open to the quiet gifts my kids share.
Mud pies that totally break the rules.
Going down the slip and slide and wearing my damn swimsuit.
Chasing down the ice cream truck.
Underdogs and spins on tire swings.
Picnics in the grass, even just ones in the backyard.
Holding hands for love not just protection.
These are the memories that I hope fill my head and heart at the end of the summer. Not a piece of paper with check marks that leave me feeling overwhelmed or worse, disappointed.
We don’t need to shell out tons of money to have fun with our kids and make summer memories. Running out of bath towels is probably not on any summer bucket list you’ll find on Pinterest. And that’s because it is a memory and summer hope I hold in my heart, it has a special meaning just for me. Be confident in your own family’s summer activities and know that you are making memories that matter.