Being Okay with a Less Than Perfect Summer

I’m a teacher, so when summer rolls around I always have a grand idea in my head of what my time at home with my kids will be like.  I plan on trips to the splash park, summer library programs, and the pool. Something fun every week I tell myself. No technology on Tuesdays. At least one awesome family vacation. We’ll eat fruit and veggies with every meal, we’ll dine on the patio every night, and my kids will proclaim it the best summer ever. 

Then the inevitable happens. I get about a week in and everyone is arguing. The baby’s sleep schedule is messed up. The big kids are staying up later, and everyone is cranky. I’m so stressed out trying to pack four kids for the pool, that I’m in no frame of mind to enjoy the trip. We hit up way too many drive-thru windows for dinner because our whole schedule is off, and meal prep has gone by the wayside. 

Three weeks in and it’s too hot to take those morning walks/bike rides I envisioned because the whining  just wouldn’t be worth it. The kids retreat to the video game room for hours at a time, and the guilt of too much screen time nags at me. I see our “perfect summer” slipping through my fingers as I count the days until school starts back up. 

This year to make things just a little more chaotic, we moved. Twice. A short stay at my mother-in-laws until our new house was ready, then we moved 13 years of stuff for the second time in three weeks. Week five of summer found me at my wits end.

Now as I’m in the final week of our summer break, I realize that we didn’t accomplish much on my summer to-do list. I’m pretty sure my oldest only read about five chapters of a book all summer. My second grader only read a handful of books, and I never sat down once to help my four-year-old learn how to write his name for preschool. I worry that my kids will think their summer was zero fun, and I totally failed at being the entertaining, super fun summer Mom I wanted to be. 

At least I did until my eleven-year-old said this was the best summer ever. I actually laughed out loud thinking he was joking. As I asked a few more questions I realized he was quite serious. He talked about how the new backyard is so big, how we met some new friends at the neighborhood pool, and how pumped he was that this was the summer he was old enough to help his Dad mow the lawn. He went on about how he couldn’t believe I finally agreed to let him go to overnight camp for two weeks, and how it was amazing. My seven-year-old chimed in that he loved his week at day camp too. 

They both talked about how fun it was to live with grandma for a few weeks. I asked my four-year-old what his favorite part of summer was, and he said snuggling on the new couch. 

You guys. I was floored. Here I was beating myself up about putting on my worst summer Mom performance to date, and my kids hadn’t even noticed the difference between summers past and this one. To them, what we did was enough. Not just enough either. They actually feel like our summer was a really great one. 

What have I learned from all this? To give myself some grace. Every summer isn’t going to play out like one of those awesome summer movies of our childhood. Some summers will be better than others, but kids don’t need lavish trips and a schedule packed with events to make it memorable. So if you’re like me and find yourself wishing for a do-over, let it go. Whatever you did with your kids this summer was good enough. Ask your kids what they liked about their summer break, and I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised like me. 

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