What we DIDN’T do this summer: in defense of simple pleasures

simple pleasures

It’s July 16, and for those of us whose break starts around June 1 and ends around September 1, that means that summer vacation is just about half-way over.

And for many of us, that realization brings with it a sense of anxiety or a feeling of failure, because despite all our grandest plans for this brief interlude of time between spring and fall, so much has still gone undone.

Take our family, for example. We haven’t been to a single zoo or county fair. Haven’t gone camping. Haven’t even gone to the beach, except to view the fireworks – and we live right next to one of the most beautiful beaches on Lake Michigan!

Sure, this year I have the “excuse” that I had surgery six weeks ago, but the truth is that most summers go like this. June passes by in a heartbeat, and suddenly July is half over and I’m left wondering where the time went and how many experiences I can possibly cram into the remaining six weeks before school starts.

And I know I’m not alone.

But when you think about it, summer break is really pretty short. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to fill so little time with so much activity?

A few weeks ago a friend and fellow blogger asked me to name my favorite summer memory. As I do with most “what’s your favorite _____” questions, I struggled to come up with an answer.

But then I realized: when I think of my childhood summers, no single experience, day, or event stands out. 

Sure, those occasional vacations and big outings were great, but when I try to conjure up an image of the summers of my youth, it’s a hazy, lazy montage of Popsicles and trips to the park. It’s the simple pleasures I remember most.

Clara sharing Dairy Queen with her buddy Luke

Clara sharing Dairy Queen with her buddy Luke


And if my mom failed to check any items off of our summer “bucket list”, I never noticed.

So instead of beating myself up over what we haven’t done so far this summer, I’m taking a moment to reflect on what we have done.

It’s true that we haven’t camped yet, but we have had plenty of sleepovers with cousins and friends, complete with kids “camping out” on the living-room floor and erecting forts in the sunroom.


Owen snuggling with his cousin, Quin

Maybe we haven’t gone swimming at the beach, but we have taken the kids to the pool, which, let’s face it, is way more manageable with little kids anyway.

The kids have shared ice cream with friends, eaten bowl after bowl of watermelon, sipped lemonade and shucked sweet corn.

There’s still six weeks of summer break left, and it’s ours to fill however we like. Still plenty of time for that camping trip, outing to the fair, a day at the water park…or all three.

But I hope, while we make our plans, that we can all keep in mind all the things our kids have done so far this summer, instead of just worrying about the things they haven’t. That we prioritize out of a sense of what would enrich our family lives most, instead of guilt or anxiety over not having done “enough” so far.

Because the truth is that my kids’ lives are rich with small pleasures. They have so much: friends to play with, loving family, a cozy home, good food to eat, crayons and paper, water to splash.

Trips to the beach or zoo are very nice icing on the cake, but not the essentials of a happy childhood. Or a happy summer.

And a neatly checked-off “summer bucket list” isn’t a requirement of being a good mom.

As we move into the second half of a summer still full of possibility, let’s try to keep that – and how lucky our kids really are, from simply being in a loving home with parents who care – in mind.

Is your summer bucket list leaking? Sarah’s “Summer Mom Manifesto” may provide some more manageable inspiration.

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