The Expectation-Free Summer

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Note: This post was in response to a question posed by the TODAY Parenting Team, in which they asked members to share their summer stories, advice and survival secrets. This post can be seen on the TODAY Parenting site here.

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In summers past, I have alternated between counting down the days until the end of August when the kids go back to school, lamenting the too-quick passage of time, and chastising myself for my inability to check off everything on our Summer Fun List. Last summer was consumed with book edits and freelance work projects, which required a carefully planned calendar, loads of extra child care, and plenty of Saturday nights in front of my computer. Before that, we were tied to nap schedules and bedtime routines, fearful of throwing whatever tenuous equilibrium we had into an all-hell-breaks-loose free fall.

And while the specifics of these summers past may look different, they all held one thing in common: unrealistic expectations.

Unrealistic expectations which were, of course, followed by plenty of disappointment. Disappointment that we weren’t able to cram in every last ounce of summer fun. Disappointment that I wasn’t able to get all of my work projects done as timely as I would have liked. Disappointment that I wasn’t able to do everything and be everything. Disappointment that, compared to all the photos and posts on Facebook, we weren’t having the Best Summer Ever, even though it was a pretty darn good one.

Of course, there are certain things that I have to do – things like laundry and grocery shopping and work deadlines come to mind. But there are far more things that I simply want to do, things that I feel like I should do. And these are the things that often cause me the most stress.

Which is why this summer, I am in search of the Expectation-Free Summer.

I want to get caught in the rain, go to bed while it’s still light out, and use up several bottles of sunscreen. I want to eat desserts decorated in patriotic colors without worrying about the cellulite on my thighs or the rolls on my belly. I want to see if I remember how to water ski. I want to sing with the car windows down.

Maybe these things will happen. Maybe they won’t.

I want to go to visit a new waterpark and use our pool pass so much that the lamination grows thin. I want to go to the late showing of a movie. I want to forget what day of the week it is. I want to look at the stars and take pictures of the clouds.

Maybe these things will happen. Maybe they won’t.

I want to read outside. I want to forget where I put my phone. I want to write for fun, instead of worrying about trending topics and SEO. I want to make pancakes for dinner and watch movies in the basement and drink a glass of wine in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday.

Maybe these things will happen. Maybe they won’t.

I want to pay attention more and compare less. I want to get rid of the expectations and give myself permission to feel content. I want to let myself off the hook if none of the things on our Summer Fun List happen. I want to stop comparing our family to the one roasting s’mores every night and taking multiple trips to the beach and catching fireflies, the family who is, quite clearly, having the Best Summer Ever. And I want make it to the end of August without wishing it were September.

Maybe these things will happen. Maybe they won’t.

Will it be the Best Summer Ever?

Maybe, maybe not.

Will it be a pretty darn good one?

You bet.

 

What are you hoping for this summer?

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7 Comments

  • I think we all have that perfect summer in our mind. We’re perfectly tanned, 10 lbs. lighter and days are unhurried and sunny. Unfortunately, reality is never quite the same. Because summer goes fast (compared to winter), there’s pressure to enjoy and make the most of every second. Maybe the lesson is to slow down and enjoy what we have, perfect or not.

  • I think this is why I don’t really want to make one of those “Summer Bucket List” that everyone seems to be doing. I really don’t want to disappoint my kids – because you never know what life will bring. Besides a few planned things at least one week ahead, I would rather they learn to entertain themselves when they have free time. And what’s wrong with just “being” anyway? Why does every second have to be filled with something? Our kids need to just, honestly, learn how to chill! Right? 😉
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