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Challenge: Summer Fun

The argument against summer bucket lists

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All over social media it’s happening right now. Photos of toes in the sand, kids in the waves, strawberry picking, and sparkling drinks … “Click to download a free bucket list!” many accounts scream at me. Summer is upon us. We are marching, barefoot, in to a new season. And I suddenly feel overwhelmed and behind. Summer, which in the past has felt like a release and some relief from the busy, grinding schedule, is now feeling like yet another thing I must plan, conquer, and manage.

In the past, I have had fun creating our family’s Summer Bucket List. We printed it out, posted it in our hallway, marked things off. When the boys were bitties, it gave us a shared goal and forced us out of the house. That approach saved me one summer.

But this summer, I feel vastly different. With a newly-minted teenager and one entering his last year of elementary school, the pace feels chaotic all the time. Never a day goes by without an event, practice, appointment or something to accomplish.

So I find myself wanting a new kind of summer bucket list. I look at those social media photos encouraging me to make a list and check it off and part of me feels exhausted just watching.

Thus, it is knowing where we are and understanding our stage of life that makes me decide something radically different. I want a bucket list with just one single item: ENJOY.

I want to check just that one item off every day.

And I want to do it without having to plan, organize, drive an hour, purchase a Groupon, map out the week, slather sunscreen every 10 minutes, and peel the backs of my legs off my fiery-hot leathery car seat four times a day.

I want to look at this summer differently, and treat it differently.

This summer, I want to our family to be anti-list.

I want my family to be free to pursue whims. I want us to wake up in the morning and do what our hearts need. I want us to sit down at breakfast, eat our cereal, and determine as a family what will fill us that day.

I want my children to feel free to suggest ideas and outings that occur to them as they discover them.

Because the thing about my kids is that they don’t think three months from now. They don’t think three weeks from now. Heck, they can’t remember what they had for lunch thirteen minutes ago. So asking them to help me craft a list of things to get us through three months ends up being an experiment in mom-over-achievement only. By the end of the first week, their interests and desires have already changed.

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Also, my children are not nearly as ramped up about “new experiences” as I am. I want to continually broaden their world and challenge their comfort zone, but they are content running through the sprinkler every hot day and watching a movie every rainy one. So why am I killing myself every summer trying to make sure we horseback ride, go to the aquarium and march through the sweaty zoo? They think the most fantastic summer day is when I drive them five minutes to the local frozen yogurt shop.

What if, this summer, every day was a blank page, without expectations or a list in our hallway?

What if each day we could look online, discover what was happening, and pursue it?

What if we could wake up in the morning and decide that we would surprise our new friends with cupcakes?

What would our summer look like if we didn’t make Bucket List promises that are, at their core, crafted and influenced by me?

This is not to say that we won’t be at baseball games or roasting marshmallows or growing broccoli (actually, no, we won’t be growing broccoli). If we want to, we will. But we shouldn’t feel like we have to because we made a list.

Instead of listing this summer, I am approaching it differently. I want to get deeper and I want to value a summer where my children are still young, where they still want to be around me, and where they are discovering what they love.

I am going to have some plans in my back pocket. I will have some activities and outings I can use when boredom and insanity slowly set in. But I want our entire family to be in the driver’s seat every day, without some Pinterest-concocted three month list that stares at us expectantly.

One word at the end of each day: ENJOY. My summer anti-list.

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