Despite not having an official summer vacation in many years, my brain still feels last day of school excitement around the end of May. I dream of playing with friends in a swimming pool floating aimlessly on rafts and eating too many of those flavored ice popsicles we had to squeeze up from plastic bags. My inner nerd thinks of the endless hours I spent happily buried in a stack of library books so engrossed that I often forgot meals. I looked forward to the week of Girl Scout camp and the annual family vacation to the lake, but I most loved the possibility and potential of each day. The day could be anything – a bike ride, roller blading, playing board games, or a slumber party with popcorn and movies.
Now, as an adult and a mom of the five and under crowd, my days lack the carefree feeling of my memories. In fact, the only thing that really changes with the seasons is which environmental challenge I must conquer in order to get us all from one place to another. Cold and snow? We all need coats, but the car seat straps cannot buckle over the coats. So, we either deal with getting coats off and on repeatedly, or we make mad dashes in and out of stores with me drowning in mom guilt wanting to yell at innocent bystanders, “They would have gotten colder standing outside the car waiting for me to help with coats.” Rain? We need raincoats, boots, and maybe even rain pants because let’s face it, my children view puddles as a mandate from God for them to attempt to splash so hard that the water returns to the clouds. Sunshine and heat? We need water bottles that say leakproof though my one year old can conquer any non leakable engineering, and sunblock. Oh, sunblock. We enjoy being outside but have fair enough skin that our son got a mild sunburn in our backyard in March. So, especially in the summer sunblock is a part of our daily routine though, when it comes to our toddler, applying sunblock is more of an event than a routine.
In my wave of summer nostalgia, I realized I wanted to experience summer (and the rest of the seasons for that matter) rather than each season just serving as a signpost for which outdoor gear to haul out of the closet. As a dedicated type A person, I immediately came up with a plan which quickly turned into a project I called “100 Days of Summer with Five and Under”. I would have an epic summer with kids by planning everything. I pictured myself doing some social media post worthy summer activity each day and spending leisurely time blogging about it. My mind started racing. What if my blog posts went viral? What if the posts turned into a book? A movie? I could inspire parents all over the world. Then, two things happened. First, both of my kids caught a virus that resulted in several non photo worthy, sleep deprived nights for all involved. No problem. I thought, I can simply double up on fun summer activities for a few days and still get to one hundred. Second, I looked at my kids who sometimes answer my large life questions by just being themselves. As I was packing bags for an upcoming throwback family trip to the lake, my daughter repeatedly asked to go outside, and my son asked if we could set a day each week to go to the park. We never made it outside that day because I was too busy trying to make sure we had enough board games for rainy days and outdoor lawn games to have a good time on the next week. But, my children do not care about perfect or tomorrow. They are not counting one hundred days of summer or analyzing how many amazing things we do or do not do. They want to go outside, and when they get too hot, they will ask to add water which they will find delightful coming straight from the garden hose.
They do not need me to teach them how to have a carefree summer; they need me to remember what summer feels like to a child. The hot days meander along sometimes leading toward a goal and sometimes leading nowhere at all, but it does not matter because summer is not a countdown timer or a checklist. It is today, outside, a game of freeze tag, and a garden hose…handfuls of little, everyday moments bathed in unrushed sunshine.
So, maybe we will float on pool noodles in a backyard kiddie pool. Maybe we will read so many books that we forget lunch. Maybe one hot July day, when the sidewalk fries eggs, we will eat ice cream for breakfast. Maybe we will barrel roll down hills. Maybe we will run through the sprinkler where the grass gave up and make mud pies out of the pooling puddles. Maybe….possibly….potentially… It is summer after all.