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I kept reading it in the months leading up to summer: You only have 18. Eighteen summers to make memories. Eighteen opportunities to capture the joy and freedom of being a kid. Eighteen chances for sunkissed snuggles while eating popsicles after a long day in the sun.

What pressure we put on ourselves and each other at times? I am a professional at it. Do all of the things. All of the time. And do them well. I rarely allow myself the opportunity to just be and take it all in. But lately, I’ve noticed a shift.

RELATED: You Don’t Have to Cram Everything Into 18 Summers

Maybe it’s in the light of our Covid haze where barbecues and packed beaches seemed a distant memory. Maybe it’s in the space to breathe after finally welcoming a second child we so longed for. Maybe it’s in gratitude for a job that allows me to work from home with flexible hours. Maybe it’s in me as I approach turning 40 and challenge myself at every turn, despite my inclination to speed up, to slow down a little more.

Whatever it is, whatever the combinationthis summer, it clicked. I took it in.

We went to the beach. We went to Disneyland and the zoo but the real joy for me was in being with friends who sought out those same meaningful connections in us.

In the winding down weeks of summer, as I weighed all of the reasons not to, I purchased Taylor Swift concert tickets with a childhood friend and we danced and sang our hearts out in the heat of an LA summer night.

As an extroverted introvert, I struggle to find the balance between being social and recharging. So while I often hesitate to commit to invitations, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone was so worth it. 

We also had quiet, family time too. We had lazy mornings in our pajamas that turned into a full day. We did arts and crafts. We swam with family and friends. We pushed through tears at swim lessons for yet another summer because we see how much our son loves the water, and we know it will be worth it when he gets on the other side of his fear. In all of these moments, I did it. I found time to appreciate the little things. 

RELATED: Give Us a Sandlot Summer

I memorized the freckles on my son’s face and realized how many more he had by summer’s end.

I marveled at our six-month-old daughter’s adaptability and her sheer determination to walk before she crawls. I wrapped my finger around the three perfect ringlets she developed in the humid air of summer. 

I allowed my heart and eyes to fill as I watched the two of them play and laugh in the tub together. Him, realizing she has more to add than simply eating and sleeping. Her, completely captivated by having her brother’s attention. 

I stayed up a little later to chat with my husband. And other nights we crawled into bed early together and cuddled without saying a word. This week, he praised me for giving our kids such a wonderful summer. It gave me pause. I realized that in the balance of the crazy and the quiet, instead of feeling the pressure to deliver my kids one of our only 18 summers together, unexpectedly, they gave me the best summer of my life.

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So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Amanda Nelson

Amanda Nelson has a professional background in communications but has only recently started to write about her own experiences. Her journey as a mother of two has opened her heart in ways she never knew possible, and writing has helped her express the highs and lows of being a working mom.

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