If you’re anything like me, you have spent a bit of time on Facebook and Instagram this summer. As you’ve scrolled down your friend’s Facebook pages you see pictures of families doing all sorts of fun things with big smiles on their faces having the time of their lives.
There’s pictures of beach trips, amusement park adventures, and bonfires by the lake. Families are going out of town- flying or driving all over the U.S. or even braving the Friendly Skies to explore new countries. I have friends who have been on multiple cruises and it’s only June. There’s pictures of kids at camp- a different one each week- and they love it. Honestly, I’m exhausted scrolling through everyone else’s fun while I’m sitting on my couch.
And while I’m thrilled for my friends (really, I am), I’m also a little intimidated. I’ve questioned myself again and again. Am I doing enough with my kids this summer? Are opportunities passing us by that I’m going to regret? Are they having fun?
The questions in my head are enough to drive me crazy.
I finally had to stop and reevaluate what’s important to me and my family. As I was reflecting, I had a few reminders.
Reminder #1: Facebook is everyone’s highlight reel.
I know this (I hope you do too). Sure we all have a pic or two of our kids doing obnoxious things or acting like buttheads, but 99% of the things we post on social media are the positive, fun things that we do. Basically we’re all bragging just a little bit about our lives.
It’s the trip to Disneyland or the Grand Canyon. It’s our kids winning awards. Sometimes it’s a picture of all the kids napping at the same time, just to document that it can be done. LOL (Seriously, isn’t that THE best feeling?!?)
And why shouldn’t we post those things? It’s a way to share with family and friends. As a bonus of posting it, you also save that memory to your timeline and Facebook will kindly remind you of your past activities via TimeHop three years from now. I love that part.
But here’s the key…those posts don’t show any of the headaches associated with those trips. There’s not a comment about the kids fighting over who was going to sit where or your daughter having an epic meltdown because she can’t find her favorite bathing suit.
No one mentions that they didn’t get to bed until 3 a.m last night because their two year old wouldn’t lay down in the hotel room and kept everyone awake. (Not that I’ve EVER had that experience).
The reality is that behind everyone’s amazing pictures they have a real family…just like mine. Their kids act up, occasionally talk back, or they don’t really feel like going to Disney for the 100th time and dealing with the crowds. Their lives aren’t picture perfect fairy tales any more than my life is.
So while everyone is having fun, they are also experiencing own their ups and downs…we just don’t always share each one of them.
Reminder #2- I don’t want to do all those things.
Remember when I said that I was excited for my friends and all the summer fun they are having? I think it’s awesome, but honestly, I’m not ready to do all that with my kids. To me it sounds exhausting, and frankly, I don’t think my kids are ready for traveling long distances, cruising, or visiting amusement parks and attractions every weekend. (And yes, we’ve been to several, but our trips are short and few and far between.)
They’ll get there…but they aren’t there yet and neither am I.
During the school year it seems like we are always on the go. I teach Pre-K in a part-time program, but there’s a lot of outside the classroom prep time. My kids are in gymnastics and take swim lessons. We go to church, try to find time to hang out with friends or have date nights, and have a family game or movie night. Then there’s the upkeep of the house, shopping, cooking, and general ‘life stuff’.
But during the summer, all that slows down. School is out. Gymnastics and swim are in the mornings so we don’t have to rush to get there or rush home to make dinner.
There’s just more time… and I love it. Secretly, I think my kids do too. It’s a nice break from the day to day grind during the school year.
I love the lazy mornings where I get to turn on the news and see what’s happening outside my little bubble. My kids get to linger over breakfast and watch a little T.V. (which they don’t really do in the mornings during the school year).
Each day I try to plan something…but generally they’re simple things. A trip to the library. A couple hours at the zoo checking out animals or going to the splash area. Maybe a trip to the pet store or the bookstore to see what books look interesting. We might make a plan to eat lunch somewhere or go to a playground. Since I live next door to the “Best Neighbor Ever” we crash their house and go swimming. (and they don’t even have little kids?!? How awesome is that?)
Some weeks I plan thematic units that consist of a book and one or two small, easily prepped activities. Check out my week of Color Exploration and Camping at Home themes- Those are also simple, but my kids seem to enjoy them.
My kids love to bake, so we’ll make homemade, from scratch, brownies or chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes we’ll read directions on a muffin mix and make those. I’m starting to work with them on helping to make lunches and dinner.
It’s nothing fancy, but we have fun.
My kids enjoy the things we are doing. For them it’s nice to slow down and spend time together and I’m enjoying it too!
Reminder #3: Every family does what works for them.
As I was reflecting on my first two realizations, I came to the third one. Every family is different. I know that seems painfully obvious, but I think it’s something easily forgotten when you look at social media.
Some of my best friends absolutely love traveling with their two year old and infant. For me that just sounds daunting.
I have friends who find it relaxing to go camping, but if you read my Camping at Home thematic unit you will see that camping just isn’t my thing.
Other friends enjoy spending money and time at a local resort, by the pool. My family is fortunate enough to have a pool next door that we can visit that requires no packing or extra finances.
Each family is different. Do what works for your family and forget about the rest. (or live vicariously through them!)
So if you need me and my family this summer, you won’t find us keeping up with the Joneses. You’ll most likely find us hanging around the house or community. We’ll get there when we get there and leave when the kids get cranky. We won’t be traveling long distances or spending tons of money.
We’re gonna chill, right here at home. And we’re gonna enjoy it!
Happy Summer Everyone!