Years ago, back when my brood was half of our current size, my husband and I chose to take a family trip to St. Johns VI as a way for us to celebrate his MBA graduation. It was our first big trip as a family and I was excited about using it to reconnect after two years of seeing very little of him (he was doing a lot of travel for work in addition to his studies).
A friend remarked that maybe we should go without the kids. After all, they may not even remember it because of their ages. Looking back, I’m so glad we didn’t leave them behind because there are memories from that week that are very close to my heart.
Over the years we’ve had the privilege of taking many more family vacations, making many more memories. In addition, I hold so much fondness in my heart for the summers when I had littles. We would go to baseball games and the park, the zoo and fireworks displays. We’d go to Door County for a week with friends and get ice cream as often as possible. In addition, we had plenty of lazy days of going to the pool, coming home for some summer reading, followed by more pool time.
They were pretty great summers. Ones that I didn’t want to end.
Not that they always appreciated every summer activity I planned:
But then life began to change (as it does). My oldest kids grew into teenagers with summer jobs, and they all wanted to spend time with their friends, not with me. Eventually, we brought home kid number five, and then another one. And with each summer came more changes and less interest in the fun summer traditions that I had come to cherish.
As summer comes to a close this year, I have come to the realization that we never made it to that one park to go hiking (again). We missed that evening of seeing the meteor shower and we never made it to any fireworks display. We made S’mores only once in May and, did we get around to catching fireflies? To be honest, looking at this list of what we didn’t do bums me out.
And yet, maybe, from their perspectives, they had a great summer. Maybe the oldest two had a good summer of seeing their friends and working. Maybe my 12 year old thinks he had the best summer ever riding his bike to Culver’s and the pool and playing basketball in the park with friends. I know my 9 year old loved summer school and camp, and my 6 year old, well, she’s happy with a cardboard box and an occasional fruit snack.
Which brings me to this question: Who are we doing this for and how do we quantify a good/successful/fun summer (or vacation)? Do we measure it by the number of fun activities and traditions we uphold and memories for us as parents, or are we doing it for the kids? And, how long do we hold fast to certain traditions when we might be better off making room for new traditions, new activities, and new interests?
As a SAHM I feel pressure to be the director of fun (along with many other responsibilities), but, maybe I need to let this go. With one kid living on the other side of the country, and another moving into his own apartment, we aren’t all together during the summer anyway. Having such a wide range of ages in my home right now makes it challenging to continue the things that we once did. And maybe, no one notices or misses them besides me.
And maybe, some fun memory making should not involve my kids because eventually they’re going to be moving on. Maybe, if I change my perspective and what I expect from vacations, I won’t be disappointed or beat myself up over not making the memories that I have come to expect from past years. And, back to what I said before, am I doing this for them or am I doing it for me?
Finally, I need to remind myself much more often that summer isn’t the only time of the year for making memories or having fun (despite what social media tells me). If I’m not careful, I can do the same thing when it comes to making Christmas memories as well. And, if I take my own expectations aside, I can fully appreciate the ordinary moments of which I have plenty of fond memories. Life is, after all, made up of plenty of ordinary days. Why not appreciate some of those too?