Summer is winding down – some of you have already sent your kids back to school. My big kids go back after Labor Day, so we have a week left of summer fun. But guess what… end of summer panic is creeping in and has me wondering if we did enough this summer. We made two lists at the beginning of the summer of rainy day and sunny day activities. Did we do the things on our lists? Did we go to the park enough? Did they read enough and practice enough math to avoid the “summer slide”?
At the same time I’m trying to savor summer with my kids and pack every last fun thing into our remaining days, I’M SO DONE WITH SUMMER. The fighting over who gets to use the red blanket to build their fort in the basement, or whose turn it is with the only working train for our train track, or who is supposed to brush their teeth first, or whose turn it is to open the car door, or the constant pushing and shoving and crying when they don’t get their way – it’s all SUPER OLD. They clearly need to go back to school and be among civilization so they can have the mirror held up to their crazy behavior and have someone else tell them IT’S NOT OK. (BTW, all you teachers out there, THANK YOU for being that “someone else” – you have a way of making our children listen and believe what you say that we parents simply do not!)
And then with those thoughts I’m thrown into the abyss of mom guilt. How on earth could I be so negative about these people I love to the moon and back and smother with kisses at bed time? Don’t I stay home, forsaking a paycheck and, let’s face it, life among adults, to be with them? The mini-humans I would LITERALLY die for – these people who CAME FROM MY BODY?!
Oh, Mom Guilt, you need to GO AWAY. Everyone needs a break. Everyone needs some quiet. Everyone needs some peace. And right now I’m part of that everyone. But how can I kick you to the curb, Mom Guilt? How can I convince you that I’ve done enough, I am enough, and you have no place here?
I know… I will make a list!
Wait… Didn’t a list set off my end of summer panic? Whatever. I’m going with it.
Below is a list of what we did this summer. I’ve typed this all out for the same reason I make an “all done” list instead of a “to do” list. Because somehow our memories are short and we tend to focus on the things that remain undone rather than the things we accomplished. Here goes…
- On the last day of preschool (which was about 2 weeks before the end of school for my big kids), we attended the Preschool Celebration followed by the Preschool Picnic. Tiny (the youngest) and I went out for a celebratory lunch of pancakes.
- Tiny and I rode the train and had lunch with Daddy while he was at work (and the big kids were STILL at school). There was also a trip to the Disney store, which resulted in Star Wars pjs for the boy and Elsa and Anna shoes for the girls. (Thank you Twice-Upon-A-Year-Sale!)
- Tiny and I rode the train (we like the train) to have lunch (we also like lunch) with my cousin who works outside the Loop. 10 extra minutes on the train and walking 4 blocks proved to be more than Tiny was willing to handle, so that part was suuuuuuuper fun. There was playing at the park for her and coffee for me and time with our cousin and lunch (obviously), so, worth it.
- We all road tripped to a family wedding, got ourselves all dressed up for the occasion, too! We played with “The Cousins”, took turns on Mimi and Papa’s super swing in the back yard and swam in the pool.
- We went to Peanut’s (the middle child) Kindergarten Celebration, then took her out to lunch (also for pancakes – we LOVE pancakes).
- On Bubby’s (the oldest) last day of school, we played at the park, signed up for the library’s summer reading challenge, and celebrated the beginning of summer with a sleepover where everyone slept in the girls room and switched beds.
- Went to the zoo AND nature museum in one day (a word of advice – pace yourselves)! We spent most of our time in the Farm part of the zoo, met up with our cousin Ryan, then made sure we saw everyone’s favorite animals (zebra and giraffe), checked out the nature museum, then made the long rush hour drive home.
- Attended not one, not two, not three, but FOUR birthday parties. What can I say? We like to celebrate!
- Girls attended Drama Camp (FYI: they need no lessons in dramatics – just how to channel the drama for good) and everyone did a couple days at Day Camp before we…
- Road tripped to visit Mimi and Papa over the weekend and week of the 4th of July. While there we:
- Had lots of fun at the family fish fry, complete with swimming and playing with cousins, being teased by Great Grandpa (we call him Grandpa Nix-Nux which I think is translated “Grandpa Troublemaker”), and fireworks.
- Took a trip in Papa’s boat to Kelley’s Island, rode around the Island in a golf cart, saw the Glacial Grooves, and ate dinner on the Island, then boat ride back in time to see more fireworks with the cousins.
- Visited African Safari (you drive on a path and feed animals that come up to your car window) – people, I have only 3 words for this experience – WATER BUFFALO SLIME.
- Swam in Mimi and Papa’s pool almost every day. And some days our beloved cousins were able to join us.
- Saw Finding Dory at the drive-in (first drive-in experience for the kids).
- Mimi took the big kids to the Science Museum. This was the ONLY thing Bubby wanted to do during our visit – he loves him some mad science.
- And if weren’t swimming or running around town, there was fishing in the neighbor’s pond, riding bikes, catching fireflies, swinging, sliding, going on “nature walks” through the pine trees, coloring with sidewalk chalk, digging in the sand box and playing in the tree house.
Now, that right there seems like a full summer, doesn’t it?! But, my friends, that’s only the first half! After we got home we:
- Returned to two full days a week at Day Camp (so mom could grocery shop in silence and clean the house uninterrupted – so glamorous, I know).
- Attended Camp Creativity at our local Michael’s. (BTW, this is a great option for your little crafters, and inexpensive!)
- Attended a week of VBS. The kids LOVED it and I got 3 hours every morning to get some things done. We call that a win-win.
- More days of Day Camp – they ran around, played with their friends, made crafts, and ran some more. Bubby said he was getting good at basketball, which isn’t something he can practice at our house, so that’s awesome.
- Took a trip downtown to play in the Millennium Park Crown Fountain, see The Bean, then have dinner with Daddy.
- Dad and Bubby went to Starved Rock State Park with the Cub Scouts (tent camping, hiking, swimming, games, etc.) while the girls and I spent the weekend at my cousin’s and visited the Chicago Riverwalk, the McCormick Bridgehouse Museum (you can see the gears that raise and lower the bridges!), ate gelato, went to the Disney Store, ate pizza (because, Chicago) – the next day had brunch, Doodle’s Donuts (they have donuts that come with a frosting packet so kids can decorate their own donut – so cute! I had a maple bacon one – because DUH.) then rode the train home. FYI – this was all done on the HOTTEST weekend of the summer.
- Went to the beach no less than 5 times. My kids can dig in the sand for hours on end. It’s pretty much the best thing ever.
- Dad took the kids to the pool one day without mom – much fun was had by all.
- Got in all our annual physicals, saw the optometrist (turns out Peanut needs glasses to read), dentist and hair cut appointments.
- Went to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. Spent most of the time at the Tinker Lab. As you can see, SAFETY FIRST!
- Attended an authentic Chicago Block Party. And no block party is complete without a visit from the fire truck, a bounce house, bike riding and dancing in the street.
- Celebrated a friend’s birthday at Six Flags Great America. If you talk to my kids, you’d think this is the only thing they did this summer because it’s the only thing they talk about. I mean, what’s better than going upside down on a roller coaster for the first time?!
- Saw The Secret Life of Pets – cute, silly, and a nice break from the heat and humidity.
- Took a little trip to Maggie Daley Park.
- And in between all of that there were play dates, park visits, bike riding, fort building, movies almost every night, reading (my big kids read over 3000 minutes each this summer – thank you Chicago Public Library for making my kids want to win a Kindle Fire enough to have something to report EVERY WEEK), jumping on our trampoline, “swimming” in our inflatable pool, coloring, crafts, trips to Target complete with a Monster Cookie, visits from friends, popsicles, building with Legos, folding paper airplanes, scavenger hunts around the neighborhood, countless games of checkers, Candy Land, and the Matching Game (why is it that my 4 year old SLAYS me at that game?!), light saber fights, and MANY viewings of Zootopia (among other movies).
So, Mom Guilt, you clearly have no place here. I have given (more like orchestrated) a fun and eventful summer full of new experiences and memories, and now that it is in black and white and SO MUCH LONGER than I thought it would be, there is no disputing what took place from the end of school until now.
Dearest readers, please know, I didn’t create this list for comparative reasons or as any kind of standard to measure yourself against (or for you to judge – positively or negatively) my efforts. I wrote it out for myself in an effort to combat my own Mom Guilt, and to see truly how much we’ve done. But I also put it out on the Internet for you to see that you can do something similar to encourage yourself and recount the fun things you and your kids have done this summer. It’s truly not the number of activities done that matter – it’s the memories made, skills gained and fun had that matters.
Your list may be longer than mine. Or maybe it’s more exciting with international vacations or simulated skydiving. Good for you and your kids – I hope you had a blast!
Maybe your list simply reads “Day Camp” – the one you meticulously chose for your children so they would be well cared for while you worked to provide for your family. Good for you, mama! You’re making the best choices for your kiddos.
Or maybe you created fun at home day in and day out because that’s what you were able to do this summer. I’m proud of you, mama. You made memories for you and your little tribe.
I hope you realize that my point is that it doesn’t matter what is on your list – how long the list or how exciting the activities or how similar every day seemed. Your intent is what matters – to give your children what you can with what you have. Maybe that was one weekend vacation. Maybe it was digging holes in the back yard to create mud puddles because that’s your child’s favorite thing ever. Maybe it was summer school or tutoring or many different therapies because you know your child needs that. Maybe it was lots of cuddles because right now, that’s all you have to give.
And, mama, I know you gave what you had, but YOU need to know you did.
So, go on and make that list. Write down the events from this summer along with the memories and feelings that go with them. Use my list as a guide if you need to. Read them over with your kids, look through the pictures you took, and talk about the fun you had this summer. Watch your kids smile and listen to them laugh as they recount the memories of their childhood while you pat yourself on the back for ending the end of summer bickering for a good 20 minutes.
Then be sure tell your Mom Guilt to move along, because she doesn’t belong among your best efforts and the love you have for your kids.
*This blog post includes links to information and attractions we visited – none are affiliate links. They are for informational purposes only. Photos were not perfectly edited because ain’t nobody got time for that during a summer like this.
**We are so thankful for the friends and family that included us in their summer plans and for their hospitality!