Summer! The word immediately brings back memories of snow cones, chlorine, backyard grills, and being so bored that I would volunteer to sit with my dad while he got the car inspected. We look forward to summer as soon as the holiday lights come down off the house. And that last week of school feels like an eternity. But then BOOM! There it is, summer. The first few weeks are a glorious fog of staying up late, sleeping in, and eating frozen burritos. Then what? You lay in bed at 10 am on a Wednesday. You stare at the ceiling fan in your messy room thinking “there is nothing to do” but dare not mention “there is nothing to do” to your mother out of fear she will suggest you pick up your messy room.
When my kids were younger, I made the choice to stay home with them during the summer months. Though staying home meant loads of time with my girls, it also meant foregoing a paycheck for three months. I so badly wanted their summers to be memorable, but there was no way we could afford a fancy vacation. Despite this snag, I was still determined to create a fun and memorable summer for them.
The summer when my girls were three and five years old, I made a giant checklist of things we could do. One week in and we were all exhausted and I was broke. My dream of a fun-filled summer was quickly fading because tiny things for tiny people add up to not so tiny amounts of money.
“Summer burnout happens and boredom creeps in, but it can be beautiful.”
Undeterred, I planned something to do nearly every day. At the beginning of June, there were playdates and trips to the museum. By the end of June, we were going to free movies. And by mid-July, we tapped into household errands for added excitement! (Until my kids turned ten and the car wash no longer served as a drive-thru water park.) Summer burnout happens and boredom creeps in, but it can be beautiful.
One of my favorite summertime mom memories was when my girls were five and seven. That was the summer the girls could go downstairs, prepare breakfast, and turn on cartoons without needing to wake me up. One morning shortly after this new phase of our lives began, I rolled out of bed 45 minutes after first hearing the pitter patter of little feet. When I got downstairs, the television had already shut off (automatically after 30 minutes) and the girls were side by side drawing in a sea of post-it notes all over the living room floor. They were drawing tiny food and meticulously cutting them out like paper dolls. There was even a paper fridge … adhered to the floor with packing tape. For hours they worked on a replica of our fridge and all its contents. Boredom had led to this unguided, unplanned creative play. Like so many times before, I learned a lesson from the girls. Boredom can be beautiful … and packing tape is near impossible to remove from laminate flooring.
My girls are older now and paper fridges have given way to more complex arts and crafts. The television still shuts off after 30 minutes, maybe an hour if I’m feeling generous. And of course, we still go to museums and the movies and there’s always someone sleeping over who doesn’t live here. I just don’t feel the need to schedule fun like I used to. I now just take a deep breath and let summer wash over us like a wave, pushing us in the direction we need to be. So infrequently in life do we give ourselves permission to move slowly.
Summer is our slow season.
Part of me used to wish that their childhood was filled with exotic travel and adventure. I so badly wanted their summers to be memorable. I sometimes felt that our lack of fancy vacations was a failure on my part. Maybe a big trip would have been financially possible if I didn’t choose to stay at home in the summer.
A few years ago, I was cleaning the living room for my oldest daughter’s “End of Elementary School Party”. We were preparing for a lot of kids so I moved the couch. As I was sweeping, I noticed tiny bits of tape still stuck to the floor. We may have not made it to Disney World, or Europe, or taken a cruise to a faraway island, but we had a refrigerator on our living room floor. We made movies and turned a shed into a tiny house. We dressed up in formal attire for no reason and went to the grocery store. We had many, many parties. We went on a queso tour. We had lemonade stands. We were together. And that memory will last even longer than packing tape on an old laminate floor.