My Summer Mom Manifesto (kind of like a bucket list, but with more holes)

This post is by Sarah Powers, Happiest Home contributor and Managing Editor, and blogger at Powers of Mine.

little boy looking at turtle in PetSmart, summer activities for kids

Last week I took all three kids – ages 5, 3, and 4 months – to buy dog food. It was the kind of errand I try to avoid these days – one where I had to go to one specific store to buy one specific product and schlep all of us in and out of 110° heat just for a bag of kibbles. I wasn’t thrilled about it.

The upside (and here’s a pro tip for all you newish moms out there) was that the pet store is just as exciting as the zoo for the toddler and preschool crowd. My kids love looking at the hamsters and frogs in their cages and watching the dogs in the “doggie daycare” run around in circles. They got extra lucky this time, though, when the sweetest college kid of a store clerk named Mike offered to take out a few creatures and let my kids hold and pet them.

They were in heaven (especially when my dragon-obsessed 3-year-old learned that one of the lizards was a REAL DRAGON). Mike spent a good 10 minutes interacting with the kids and letting them experience the animals. By the time we left the store we had huge smiles on our faces, stories to tell, and a great summer memory to tuck away – all from a Friday afternoon trip to the pet store.

I’ve written here before about how I’m uncomfortable with the notion that we have to try really hard to “make memories” for our kids, how my own childhood memories aren’t of spectacular events but rather a collection of quieter moments, inside jokes, and subtle patterns that evolve and repeat with each season. So while I love the idea of “summer bucket lists” and the intention behind them, my personal style is a little more laissez faire (or maybe it’s lazy mom!).

Going into this summer, I’m trying to leave space for the pet store trips that turn into a science lesson. I’m seeking a balance between the structure that will keep me sane and the freedom that will allow us to have fun at our own pace. With an infant who screams in the car (if you missed our Facebook discussion on this, it’s pretty funny…and I can say that because it’s my screaming baby in the photo), I’m planning our outings very judiciously. I think we’ll be home a lot. I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of couch forts and movie marathons.

On the flip side, I do love the idea of starting a new season with intention. I don’t want to wake up mid-August and realize I have a kindergartener (WHAT.) who asked all summer to go to the Children’s Museum and never got to go. I don’t want to be so laid-back and schedule-free that we miss opportunities for fun and learning. And I know that without some planning, we’ll start to get more than a little tired of couch forts and movie marathons.

So instead of a bucket list, this year I made something a little looser – more of a “summer mom manifesto.” These are things I want to do this summer – but not in a cross-‘em-off-a-list kind of way. It’s a reminder to myself that this season will pass so quickly – as do they all – and that I have an opportunity to make it special in my own way.

Here’s my summer mom manifesto:

summer mom manifesto:  This summer I want to…  …give my children space to play. Preferably with dirt. And bubbles. …relax my standards without giving them up entirely. TV serves a wonderful purpose at times, and, at times, it's downright essential. …find unexplored corners of our community. Even if it just means going to a different Target. …remember that "enrichment" comes naturally to curious children. I don't have to seek it out, sign us up for it, or pay a premium to get it. …make things as a family. Like salsa from the garden. Like pancakes for dinner. Like memories of a road trip gone wrong. …sing to my babies while they'll still let me. …escape the pressure to be Nice Camp Counselor Mommy all the time. Summertime will have its grumpy moments, too. …travel through books to places familiar to me yet foreign to them. Plum Creek. Zuckerman's Farm. Maybe Hogwarts. …forgive myself in advance for forgetting the sunscreen once in a while.  …let the natural rhythm of the season guide our days. Baths in the afternoon, naps on the couch, early morning walks around the block. …take the long view. We don't have to Do All The Fun Things this year. Or ever.  This summer I want to tell stories, hold hands, make jokes, kiss owies, and wish on stars. The memories will take care of themselves.

What do you think of my list? What would you add to yours? Are you a bucket list person or not? I’d love to hear your summer plans and how you plan to spend your time with your family!

PS: If you liked this post, Meagan has a ton of great summer-themed posts in the archives, many centered around the idea of a low-key and fun-filled break. One of my favorites is this: My recipe for an un-busy summer evening.

PPS: Thank you, Mike at PetSmart. You were extraordinary with my children. You are going to make a great dad/uncle/professional lizard wrangler one day.

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