I’m an elder millennial—meaning I grew up with non-extravagant summers filled with Slip ‘N Slides hooked up to water hoses, Popsicles dripping all over our dirt-filled hands, and trips to the local library or Blockbuster to keep us entertained. And if we were lucky, it included an obligatory trip to Six Flags or the laser show at Stone Mountain or perhaps the local mall once or twice.
Today, being a mom of that age means the pressure to create magical summers for our kids has never been more overwhelming.
Social media has allowed us a glimpse (an ever so carefully, curated glimpse) into the lives of other moms with kids who’ve had these magical summers. Trips around the country seeing all the historical landmarks. Trips to Disney filled with 12-hour days at the most magical place on earth. Backpacking in Europe or island getaways. Penthouses with great views, cruises to Greece, and summers on Mackinac Island (a bucket list item for sure) are filling up my feed.
Here’s the thing: I wanted this summer to be special. I really did. I wanted to take trips to see a few bucket list places and savor the summer before heading back into the classroom. My son is entering his senior year and I am trying so hard to create memories.
But here’s the other thing: I simply couldn’t make it happen.
Not even a trip to Tybee, the closest beach to us and one of our favorite places. I have valid reasons, I suppose. My daughter and I spent last year being chronically ill. She ended up having surgery in late April, and I spent the last month of school scrambling in every aspect of our life. My teaching job doesn’t pay during the summer and we have some serious expenses coming up this year, so even a thousand-dollar trip (because we all know by the time we cover lodging, food, and gas, that’s what we will spend to drive three hours away for three days) wasn’t in the budget.
I shouldn’t feel guilty, right? My excuses are valid, right? But I do. I feel guilty for giving my kids yet another mediocre summer.
But when I sit down and reflect on the past two months, I realize mediocre can be okay. And I remember how sometimes the best part of being a kid was doing what we thought were mundane, mediocre things.
I think about this summer and I smile.
I think about the days we spent swimming at the lake, watching my 6-year-old daughter build sand castles and my teenage son swim for hours.
I think about July 4th, when I sat with my husband and our kids and watched the fireworks light up the sky over the lake, my little girl wearing her glow bracelets, eyes lighting up with every explosion.
I smile at the nights when we stayed up late to watch a movie, and the rainy mornings we spent snuggled up reading a book and eating homemade blueberry pancakes, something I simply don’t have time for during the school year.
I look at my backyard, where I see remnants of the bonfire my son had with his friends—a group of teens hanging out, singing tunes while one played guitar, roasting marshmallows into the wee hours of the night.
I think about catching fireflies at dusk while my husband and I watch our kids jump on the trampoline while we rock on our porch. Of ice cream sandwiches from the ice cream truck and coolers filled with snacks to give us energy for hikes around local spots. And yes, trips to the library, a movie date with each kiddo, and one trip to the local amusement park that took me two hours to get home from because of traffic.
Then I realized something: my kids are okay. They are relaxed and worn out from lake days and content to sit and watch a show while their mama fixes dinner. And every time I hear a “Thank you, Mama” from one of them, I think about how we expect our kids to be thankful for the simple things—but we rarely offer them the simple things we want that gratitude for.
I have decided I’m okay with giving my kids an uncomplicated summer in a very complicated world.
So go ahead mama—savor those mediocre summers. Your babies have their entire lives to take magical, extravagant trips. But these mediocre yet somehow just as magical memories will only get to be made with you.