Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
I‘ve read a lot – and even written a lot – on the internet over the last few weeks about summer activities, summer reading lists, summer bucket lists, and so on.
I’m all for summer activities. I signed up for Kids Bowl Free a month ago. I’ve got a copy of the cheap summer movie line-up on my phone. My kids are away at church camp even as I type this and there is plenty on their to-do list for when they get back home.
I can’t help think, though, that we need to be sure to take time to slow down and savor the summer. We, as a society, are busy. All. The. Time.
I think it’s important for families to slow down, be lazy, and put “make memories” at the top of those summer bucket lists – and not the go-go-go sort of memories either, but the kind that are often born of an empty schedule and time together.
One important factor for memory-making is the ability to be spontaneous. That’s a difficult one for me. My family knows that I like a couple of days’ advance notice to psych myself up for activities – even fun ones. Someone tell me I’m not alone.
However, one of my favorite summer memories involves a day of complete spontaneity. One summer Saturday, when the kids were young, they were invited to a birthday party at a downtown children’s museum. After the party, we decided to walk down to one of my favorite restaurants that was new to the downtown area.
While we were eating, we decided that since we were in the area, we might as well take advantage of our aquarium membership. After wandering around the aquarium for awhile, I earned Cool Mom points by letting the kids splash around in the wading pools outside, soaking their clothes since we hadn’t planned ahead to bring swimsuits.
After the kids tired of splashing, we walked back to our van. On the way, we realized that the local minor league baseball team was in town and would be playing in a matter of minutes. We’d never been to a game. The kids’ admission was free, so it was cheap seats for us and hot dogs for dinner.
We have never forgotten that day and it never would have happened if we hadn’t had a wide open Saturday schedule and a willingness to go with the flow.
Photo by HebiPics
Don’t force it
Oftentimes, as parents, I think we try too hard to make every moment a Hallmark one. We expect too much of ourselves and our kids, and we end up creating stress instead of memories.
Even though they’re teens, our kids still enjoy campfires. (It should be noted that we live in a subdivision and “campfires” involve a portable fire pit in our driveway. The neighbors probably think we’re crazy, but we’re okay with that.)
Sometimes the kids just aren’t into it, for one reason or another. That’s when my husband and I – along with whichever kid or two decides to join us – carry on, chatting and enjoying the quiet. Usually, everyone else will wander outside before the fire is out and we enjoy the remaining bit of time together. You can’t force a good time on someone.
It was on a night similar to that when my son finally wandered out with his acoustic guitar and played for us as we sat around chatting and making s’mores – because you can’t have a campfire without s’mores!
The time you spend with your family during the summer doesn’t have to be elaborate to be a memory-maker. Leave the electronic devices inside and go outside to catch lightening bugs together. Go swimming. Take a nature walk. Stay up late star-gazing. Pull out the family board games.
Sometimes the simplest, most mundane moments are the most memorable.
Photo by Dani Vazquez
Memories often come from routine and predictability. I remember Saturday breakfasts at my dad’s house every other weekend when I was a kid. That’s why my kids have come to expect a Saturday breakfast every week at our house. It’s rare that it doesn’t happen. Even their friends who spend the night know there’s going to be a family (and friends!) breakfast on Saturday morning.
Maybe you go to the same campground each summer or plan an annual visit to your favorite amusement park. Maybe you sit in the same shade spot, engrossed in this week’s family read aloud.
Whatever your family’s common routines, they don’t have to equal boredom. They may just be the familiarity that gives way to memories as your kids get older.
So, go out and do lots of the fun things this summer if that’s what you and your family enjoy, but make sure that you leave time to just be. You may be amazed at what happens!
What are your family memory-makers?