There’s a lot of rosy nostalgia about summertime and childhood. Honestly, though, forget that. Let’s get real: Summertime for parents means dealing with the pressure of keeping our kids off their devices and engaged in an activity while also not going broke and maintaining our normal work/life balance. And it is hard.
Let’s take one of the iconic summertime activities: a trip to the beach. We hype ourselves up that a beach day will make everyone happy when really we know it’s going to end in tears for all of us. Because after packing, schlepping, and setting up all the things, the kids complain that the beach is too full of sand and the waves are too noisy and the seagulls won’t go away.
So you surprise them with a new set of sand toys, but then they fight over who gets to use the starfish piece so you threaten that no one will get to use it if they can’t take turns. They’re over the toys in two minutes and that’s when you break out the frozen treats but turns out they only like strawberry yogurt now and all you have is berry. Once you feel like you’ve tortured yourself enough, you pack it all up to head home to clean sand off of everyone and everything. It’s enough to make any parent have a major meltdown.
Really, the word “summer” makes parents sweat not only because it’s hot AF, but also because what are we going to do with these kids for the next 65 days?
I imagine a lot of parents must feel the way I do — that the amount of effort we put in never feels like it matches the outcome. I have to coordinate schedules, spend all this money on camps, activities, and vacations for my kids to say, “Now what?” With each dollar spent our expectations rise but we tell ourselves it will be worth it to give our kids a summer they’ll never forget. I’m not a fan of that phrase: We only get so many summers with our kids. It does give me pause though and then I worry that we’ll never get this time back.
I don’t know where I got the idea that I needed to entertain my kids every second of their lives. Is it the mom guilt? I bet it’s the mom guilt. Maybe it’s because time goes faster when we’re out of the house. And if we do something that gets them closer to bedtime and me closer to late-night snacking on the couch then I’ll do whatever it takes.
When my girls were younger I planned outings almost every day whether it was to the park, to the zoo, or meeting up with their playgroup to get Mickey D’s. Every parent of young children knows that getting out of the house is the key to maintaining some level of sanity. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was setting my kids up to think that we did fun things every day. So now when summer rolls around they’re asking, “ What’s next?” even before the “fun” thing we’re doing is over.
I didn’t sign my kids up for as many camps. I couldn’t justify spending a small fortune on activities they would somewhat enjoy just to get them out of my hair for the day. I never went to camps and I turned out mostly fine. My summers as a kid consisted of riding bikes with neighborhood friends until dark and playing on a slip-n-slide in the backyard. I didn’t have Jr. Chef Camp and Pottery Camp or a summer pool pass. It was up to me to entertain myself.
I now know how important it is for kids to learn how to entertain themselves without always relying on their electronic devices. I’m trying to teach my kids this valuable lesson by randomly turning off the wi-fi and hiding all the TV remotes. Just call me, The Wicked Witch of the Wi-fi! Aaaah-hah-hah-hah!
As parents, we’re always trying to create memories that our kids will treasure as they get older. I have to remind myself that to make a lasting memory, it doesn’t have to be an expensive or an elaborate vacation.
It can be playing cards in the front yard on a picnic blanket. Eating popsicles and laughing at the corny jokes together. They might leave their wrappers and sticks strewn about the grass and be ready to jump on a chat with their friends after a few minutes but chances are they’ll ask to do the same thing the next day and it’ll feel like a small victory.
I know that even though they’re asking “Now what?” one day they’ll appreciate the unplanned moments and the simple joy of slowing down. The summer struggle is real. As soon as we finally learn to embrace the freedom that summer brings school starts again and we’re thrown back into the rushed routines and hectic schedules. I’m actually happy to have a break from all of that and I know they are too. I guess summer’s not so bad after all.
Jewel Nunez is the humorist behind One Funny Mummy where she writes about the good, the bad, and the insanity of momlife. She lives on The Central Coast in California with her husband and two young daughters. Jewel released her first book, What It Means To Be a Mom, in 2021 and is currently working on a collection of essays about the lessons learned in the first year of motherhood. Find her at onefunnymummy.com and on social media @onefunnymummy