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Peace Out, Summer

Maybe, rather than not doing enough, I actually did too much?

Today was the day that I have both eagerly awaited and dreaded since the beginning of June. With my three littles meandering behind me, I zipped into the kids’ schools to meet their teachers. Yes, there was a little pep in my step, a twinkle in my eyes, hope in my heart: The crazies—er, children, are going back to school! Meeting their teachers and seeing their classrooms verified that this momentous occasion is actually happening in three (3!!) days.

While I am smiling (beaming, grinning, happy-dancing…) at the thought of having some time to myself again, I’m also a bit saddened—and no, it’s not because I no longer get to sleep-in until 6:30 a.m. every day. It’s because another summer is over. Another stretch of days with my children is gone, and my kiddos will never again be the same as they were this summer. The freedom that comes with summer break to create new adventures and revisit past favorites, to have “Yes” days, and to just be together has scampered away for a long rest, only to be replaced by the scurry and worry of routines and schedules, must-dos, and must-bes.

The end of summer is also a nod to all of my goals and idealistic plans that never materialized. I had high expectations for these 70 days. I intended to give my kids so much more of me, of fun, and oddly enough of structure, than I provided. I aspired to jam-pack the days and the weeks with activities and lessons and memories. I feel like I’ve let them down and haven’t done enough to make their summer break special. What will they remember about this time? What will they answer when they are asked, “What did you do this summer?”

Will they delight in the hours they spent in the pool for both swim team and play? Will they remember the oodles of playdates, sleepovers, and outings with friends? Or will the fun be overshadowed by the workbooks and reading time, the chores, and responsibilities I forced upon them? Did the camps that each cost a small fortune leave any impression? What about the trips to the bowling alley, waterpark, beach, parks, movies, and other activities—was that enough? Were their extra hours of screen time during the sweltering afternoons a misstep in parenting or just the ticket for them and for me?

Thinking back to the best memories from my summers, perhaps the key to making their break special isn’t about doing more, or planning fun, fun, fun. While I have these high expectations and “ideas” of what the kids want and need, when I really think about it, my desire to entertain them robs them of the very best of my childhood. I wasn’t carted to a different event or activity every day. We made our own fun in the neighborhood; we played and had nowhere to be, except home by dark. That’s what made it exceptional. Maybe, rather than not doing enough, I actually did too much?

I could go on and on with the questions and doubts. No matter what I did, planned, or provided there will always be a part of me that wonders and wants to ensure that their childhood summers reflect happiness. More than anything, I want them to look back and remember these days as quality time with me and with each other. To reminisce over the laughter, adventures, experiences, and moments we shared.

At this point, I can’t change what we have and have not done. I can’t add activities, vacations, downtime, or even cuddles on the couch. Nor can I erase the battles over the workbooks, sibling squabbles, or selective hearing. As with any point in life, I can choose to focus on the silly, sweet, and spectacular moments that brought us all closer, cracked us up, and had us in awe. The things I did right. And, I can help the kids recall them, too. Maybe an ice cream/memory jar party will help us remember the season’s highlights and offer the perfect send-off to summer.

Next year, I can try to give more of me and opportunities for remember-forever feelings. Almost certainly, I will again feel the tug to go, do, plan, and amuse. Hopefully though, I can find a suitable balance between engagement and freedom; between wanting to give and giving too much. I will recall that less can be more and that slowing down after the months of going and doing may be what’s really on my kids’ summer bucket lists. I’ll offer them lots of love; my attention; and the time and space to laugh, play with their friends, and just be. Oh, and popsicles, lots and lots of popsicles.

Peace out, summer; until next year when we’ll try this all over again. XO


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