What I Didn't Do This Summer

 Oh. My. Lans. In less than a week it will be May. How did this happen? When?! I swear every year, somehow the summer takes me completely by surprise. Maybe because I am in Chicago and last week we literally had snow (yeah snow, why am I here?). Usually by May I am in a panic about what our summer line-up is because I spent the previous few months in denial about how time actually works. Vacations, summer camp, day camp, all of it, a logistical and economical nightmare. Us working moms have the sudden fortune of figuring out where exactly our hatchlings are going to go during the day and the guilt of not being with them, and stay-at-home moms are wonderfully bestowed the gift of playing either Uber driver and/or entertainer to a gaggle of the toughest critics with highest standards and their thankless friends. AND THE COST. Vacations are ridiculous. Camps are insane. Last year we did music camp and I was a little miffed when my guy didn’t come back playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons flawlessly. Like how much did I spend and where are my results? All I got was a car full of foul, sweaty 12-year-old boy laundry. WHAT?

So, this year I am taking a different approach. Last year was chaotic, stressful, and constant. What I did last summer, I will not repeat again. This summer I refuse to overschedule, overthink, overstress. My guy is quickly leaving his childhood behind and I almost feel like this is my last summer to savor some of that magic for him. I plan to do that by gathering some inspiration from my own childhood. My summers as a kid were pretty magical themselves and looked completely different than the current generation. Now, I hate to be one of those “well, when I was a kid…” people, (no thanks) but, let’s call it what it is. Times have changed and so have a parent’s approach to summer. As a kid, with exception to vacations, my entertainment was my own responsibility. I am sure this applies to pretty much all of us growing up in the 80’s and 90’s.  I mean how else can you explain the plausibility of The Goonies and Stranger Things minus the giant octopus and creepy alien monster being creature? Kids just went out and did their own thing within reason, and hey, if they met a girl with killer telekinetic powers or fugitives looking for pirate treasure, all the more adventure. With that being said, there are some things I hope that I can take from my own childhood and pass along.

Boredom was beautiful. Oh, the classic “But mooooooom, I’m so bored.” What is it? Like by the fourth day of being out of school we get to hear this classic? Never mind you’ve complained all school year that you have too much to do. I had a teacher in grade school that would say only unintelligent people get bored. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen but it was enough for us kids not to let those words be heard coming from us and it has stuck with me, so it did its job. Here’s the thing though, boredom is pretty great in that gets us to think outside of the box. When we were kids it was pretty much, “sorry kid, figure it out”. Which, true story, were some of the best times we had, and we always figured it out.  

Moderation, what’s that? I am of the school of thought that screen time/video games, given the type and type of child, are perfectly fine… in moderation. Even though I was born in 1862 according to my son, I did play video games as a kid, and often. Mario Brothers and Sonic didn’t have anything on me. And the summer of ’91 I watched The Princess Bride about 43 ½ times. I could have watched it 83 times and I doubt anyone would have said much about it. Though mine will sit for hours playing computer games. NOT GOOD. This year, we are going for a stricter limit, so I am certain that the above will apply often. But honestly, it’s the summer and I’ll probably at some point give in. Like June 1st.

Reading was magic. THIS IS SUCH A BATTLE. In my house, no one but myself likes to read and I cannot understand how that is even a thing. Like how can you not want to disappear into Narnia or Hogwarts for a rainy summer afternoon? This shaped so many of my summers as a kid. I remember staying up way past midnight with my flashlight and Care Bears lined up reading Dracula and Frankenstein, just completely creeped out of my mind. It was phenomenal.

Work was rewarding. At some point in the week my Grandpa would have us pick green beans or Dad would round us up and have us pull weeds, usually the hottest day in July he could find. He would promise it would take only like ten minutes but in actuality more like two hours and was pretty awful. But the beauty of it, it got us off our rears, outside, and reminded us exactly why down time was so luxurious in the first place. In our house of only one child, he often gets away with very little work. Well my dear Prince, no more. I may not have a green bean garden, but so help me, I will start one if I have to.

Breaking the rules was a given. We all did, right? My crimes were as minimal as a staying up until the wee hours to playing Ghosts in the Graveyard in a graveyard… at night. YIKES. But that was all part of the fun, the beauty of summer. Things relaxed and the world just kind of slowed down enough to make you comfortable and think it would last forever. And when it didn’t, it was all that much more magical. Ice cream for dinner, a messy bedroom for a few days, or sleeping in until noon, it’s the kind of stuff that breaks the monotony of life and sometimes just what the doctor ordered.  


Exploration and discovery was everywhere. Growing up we didn’t always go on grand excursions and Disney vacations every year. Some of the best memories were at Grandma and Grandpa’s in the Ozarks or a quick drive to Michigan. Those little road trips, my sister singing New Kids on the Block off key with her headphones on, and me with two thirds of my bedrooms contents spread across the floorboard, are stuff of family legend now. We think as parents that every spring break or summer has to be filled with a grand vacation. I know, I feel that pressure too. But looking back, when it isn’t, it is just a memorable. Kids are amazing that way, learning and wonder happens everywhere. Everything is new to them and we get to see it all from their eyes all over again. This year, stargazing is on our list. My guy loves it, it’s cheap, all you need is a telescope and you can do it just about anywhere. By the end of the summer, we hope to be well versed astronomers.

What’s on your list? Wherever your summer may take you, below are some pretty important things we always have on hand for adventure.