The One Mistake Parents Make Every Summer And How To Avoid It

In Motherhood, Parenting by Jen45 Comments

It’s the end of the school year and up down the halls of school, parents and kids alike are asking each other the same question, “What are you doing this summer?” There are as many answers given to this question as there are different people, but as often as I have personally participated in such conversations, I have never heard one single person give the following answer; “I am going to make memories”.

Many of us in our over zealousness as parents, try to fill our children’s summer days to bursting with enriching activities that promote learning and avoid boredom, but quite often all of this flurry of activity takes a cost on us as families and individuals.

Because today for many families, the summer months have become something to dread and are increasingly being seen as a time where we are required to “entertain the children” by spending both money and time we don’t have.

I can vividly recall feeling panicked at the end of my oldest daughter’s kindergarten year when I was asked for the first time what plans we had for the summer? At that time our family had limited resources, and now 4 kids later, not much has changed. Resources are still stretched paper thin, but that first summer I truly worried that I would be harming my daughter by not filling her schedule full of wonderful “stuff”. So, I tried my best and sweated through play dates, parties, and as many enriching activities as I could pack into our summer.

One day near the end of that summer, she and I were sitting in the living room reading a book while her baby brother napped. I asked her what her favorite memories of the summer were. I was sure she was going to say that fabulous bounce house we had visited or the swim amusement park we had taken her to. Instead she told me her favorite memory was sitting out late one night and looking at the stars with her Dad.

I knew then I had missed the mark. I had been so busy, trying to keep us busy that I had forgotten what summer was about.

As a child, I remember that a good summer was one that involved swimming, lots of bike rides, copious amounts of popsicles and free ranging it in the desert. There were no scheduled summer camps, or prearranged play dates at bounce facilities. Summer was beautiful because it was nights of star gazing and cold watermelon on hot days.

Now as an adult, I do not remember a single activity that MADE my summers, but I remember the exhilarating freedom of summer and going to bed at night not knowing what adventures lay ahead for me the next day. Those adventures weren’t created at the hands of my parents or by the money in their wallets, but by me, some good friends, a great bike and the magic that is summer.

I know that the world we live in now is very different from the one circa the 1980’s when I was a child, but for the past 14 years I have tried to keep my family’s summers as simple as possible and guess what……it has worked!

There have been tents in the backyard, ice block contests, bike rides, copious amounts of popsicles, watermelon busts and lots of reading and even quiet time to just dream and imagine.

Of course there are also video game sessions mixed in with cooking experiments and watching old nostalgic movies with popcorn and blankets. And all of it is beautiful and lovely.

So this summer, perhaps rather than trying to fill that summer bucket list with lots of “things”, you might instead try to fill the list with that which will help to create memories.

Because in the end, the most important things, really aren’t things at all.

Stay Happy! Stay Informed!



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  1. Awww..summer! I wish we could have the laid back, unstructured one that I hear about. My kids have camps, but that’s because I work. It’s the cheapest/easiest way I can find childcare during the summer. Thankfully, most of the camps are only 1/2 or 3/4 days. AFter camps they’ll be coming to hang out in my office and read books or play on the computers. We do have two weeks with nothing planned, though. I’m actually looking forward to those un-vacation weeks. We can be lazy around the house and just spend time together!
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted…Anatomy of a {Failed} NapMy Profile

  2. This is spot on. It’s the simple things in life that mean so very much. You’re a good mom. I’m just saying.

    Have a terrific day. ☺
    Comedy Plus recently posted…Awww MondaysMy Profile

  3. I DO hope we will make memories this summer. I grew up doing these exact things you mentioned. We never spent much money, and we had lots of great adventures. It’s funny how much of it had nothing to do with our parents. HA!!
    April recently posted…Me Time? Or God Time? Juice, Or Milk?My Profile

    1. Author

      I know! I am not a free range parent, but I am trying harder to let them be more independent and roam on their own. Growing up I used to wander all over the desert alone and no one thought twice about it. Nowadays, the thought of having my children do that same thing kind of gives me hives….
      Jen recently posted…The One Mistake Parents Make Every Summer And How To Avoid ItMy Profile

  4. Aw, man. This makes my post the other day feel so wrong! Well, except for the fact that the point of this summer with my oldest is actually meant to make memories with my daughter before the baby’s born. Going to have to take your advice and make sure there’s plenty of free-time allowed/built-in this summer, too!
    Leslie recently posted…{Tutorials} Self-Watering PlanterMy Profile

  5. It’s so funny how that happens – the things they pick out as the most striking are often not the most planned things! I remember summers as endless and fun and free. I remember day camp (I threw up in my hair) and play dates and road trips, but what stands out the most is what you mentioned – star-gazing. Bike riding. Watermelon eating.
    Tamara recently posted…Feeling Proud To Be the Odd Mom Out.My Profile

  6. Lovely post, and it’s so true! I think having things to look forward too and events to attend are fun (at any age) but it’s also good to just relax and have fun with friends and family. Some of my favorite summer times as an adult is being able to get in the pool and just read. Simple, but lovely.
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Sudden Secrets by C. Lee McKenzieMy Profile

  7. Yes!! When people ask me what we have planned for the summer, my answer is “Not much!” I did make a bucket list, but us is all about things I want us to do together – memories I want us to make. I want our summers to be a break from the usual busyness of life – a time for ALL of us to just relax and enjoy life and each other.
    Lisa @ The Golden Spoons recently posted…When Life Comes Full CircleMy Profile

  8. Jen, Firstly fab name! Second, well said! I love my three children dearly. But one of the best things about being a Mum is watching their imagination at work. For 4 of our 6 week holidays, we’ll be doing picnics, digging out old blankets for dens, making daisy chains, rolling in grass, learning to throw (and catch) and enjoying the summer.

    I don’t know how these parents that pack their kids of to this program, that program have the energy!? I also wonder if they know who their kids are…

    Yes there will be times when I’m not actively involved in what my children are doing; I work full time too (granted from home) but we aim to live, love and learn.

    Take care
    Jenny recently posted…May 21, Siblings – Sharing a BedroomMy Profile

  9. I so love that her favorite memory was looking at stars with daddy! How sweet is that? Amen to every word here, my friend. I’m looking forward to chilling as much as possible this summer. Sleeping in being my number 1 priority. My son switched to middle school last year which meant us getting started an hour earlier. It’s been dreadful :). I hope you and your people make beautiful memories (like star watching) this summer!
    Candace recently posted…When It’s Time to UnplugMy Profile

  10. Yes, yes, yes!!!

    Loved this post. It was spot on true. It really is all about the little things with the kids and getting to ambitious just sets us up to feel like failures.

  11. Wise words. I do try to fill a few of our weeks with camp or vacation because summer seems endless to me without a plan, but I often find myself looking forward to the weeks where nothing fills our calendar even more. That is until I hear my kids arguing…then I long for camp. :)
    normaleverydaylife recently posted…$5 FunMy Profile

    1. Author

      Oy vey the guilt! It is good to work that one on out of our systems as parents, no? Much better to just focus on being happy and spending quality time with our kids :) Thanks Joanna!
      Jen recently posted…Ask Me AnythingMy Profile

  12. I am that mom that fills our summers but only because it is really our only time that is just us, so I like to make it enjoyable for all of us. I have found a frugal way to do this though and we spend a lot of time at home too which is great. Mostly it is busy 1-2x a week for a couple hours those days and then the rest of the time we just hang out, watch movies, eat snacks, play board games and run outside.
    Laura funk recently posted…Summer Fun Theme WeeksMy Profile

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      I saw your summer themed weeks, I love it! It sounds like the perfect amount of busy, mixed in with fun downtime. I like how you fill your summers, but most importantly, I bet your kids do too and that is all that counts!
      Jen recently posted…Ask Me AnythingMy Profile

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      Haha! I think that would be a great activity for whatever blogging conference we end up at together in the future! Winner buys lunch :)
      Jen recently posted…Ask Me AnythingMy Profile

    1. Author

      Thank you Kristen! I am so glad you liked this. That would be fabulous if you could take the summer off! I am still up very early in the morning and late at night trying to meet all of my PR clients needs, but that makes our lounging days feel so much better!

      Good luck making wonderful memories this summer!
      Jen recently posted…Ask Me AnythingMy Profile

  13. Oh this is so touching! I actually got a little teary eyed…don’t know why, but I did! I love how simplified life used to be. I love how you got in touch with reality and have simplified your children’s summers. Everything is so fast forward now days and sometimes we just need to stand still…BREATHE…and take it all in slowly! Thanks for the gentle reminder.
    Lowanda J recently posted…The Crazy Days of MayMy Profile

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