We got home from vacation the other day and as I tucked my children into bed, they got upset. They were sad the fun was over.
We’d spent a week with our extended family at a beach house. They’d spent their days playing in the sand by the lake and swimming in the pool. At night we'd sit around the fire pit roasting marshmallows in the camp fire.
It was one of those trips that embodies childhood, lots of good, clean, electronic-free fun. Games and running and playing. Not many rules or restrictions. Dinner was served outside on picnic tables and breakfast on the porch swing whenever your eyes would pop open.
No one kept track of how many times we walked to town to eat ice cream in giant waffle cones, and the cousins stayed up until the late hours of the night telling ghost stories in their bunk beds.
It was perfect. And when we got home, I could feel the sorrow radiating off of them.
“We miss our cousins. We miss the house. We want to go back,” they cried with genuine distress in their voices.
I understood perfectly how they felt.
My sister in law, mother and I had shared the burden of cooking meals and snacks. We watched each other’s kids at the pool and then the dads would take the kids for games so the moms could relax.
I spent time with my parents which I appreciate as we don’t live close and the time is growing less and less frequent as the kids get older and we all get busier.
It had been wonderful for me too. I wanted to cry too.
So I gave them the reminder that I give myself in these situations. Whenever I say it to them, I take it to heart.
"Don’t cry because it’s over, smile that it happened." (Dr. Seuss)
Collect those special moments, of fireflies and sparklers, and tuck them deep into your memory banks. Pull them out when you need to or want to.
Wrap those beautiful parts of childhood around you. Bask in them. One day your childhood will be over and this is a moment you’ll keep forever.
Embrace the warmth you felt. The love you gave. The joy you radiated.
Take only the good pieces with you.
Claim them deep in your heart. Those happy times. When things were simple.
When you burned all the marshmallows and Grandma ate them. When Grandpa kept everyone up late with flashlights. When the cousins built sandcastles. When your brother made you laugh until you cried.
Remember exactly what filled your cup- it wasn’t material things or screen time- it was laughter, and fresh air and shared experiences. It was love. Family. That feeling of being confident that these are your people, through thick and thin.
I think that they both felt a little sad, but mourning something so perfect is not the right answer.
In life you can only go forward albeit willingly or grudgingly. I choose joyfully. And I hope my children do too.
Sorrow for what was has no place here. We look on to a beautiful tomorrow with the past tucked neatly into our hearts.