As the kids head back to school soon, I've been reflecting on the summer and it had me thinking: How do we measure a summer? How do we decide if we gave our kids a good one this year? And is it just me, or has society has set a very high, unrealistic standard of what a "good" summer is for us as parents? Especially since, as the meme says, we only get 18 of them with our kids. (Groan.)
I say it's time to banish the expectations and bust the myths about what a "good" summer should entail.
Myth #1: A good summer requires tons of day trips. One year my daughter decided she was going to keep all her day-trip wristbands on until she went back to school to show her friends. Turns out she only ended up with two—which is plenty, in my estimation. Day trips can be fun, but there's no need to take the kids to every single day trip spot within a 200 kilometre radius.
Myth #2: A good summer costs lots of money. Back to day trips: The last one I priced out was going to cost our family of four at least $150. If that's NBD for you, awesome, but for me, these types of outings are a once or twice a summer kind of thing. Otherwise we'd have to start looking into which of our kids we'd rather send to college.
Myth #3: You only had a good summer if you posted idyllic vacation pictures on social media. Make sure everyone is smiling, of course, and that it's framed perfectly and finished off with a gorgeous filter. Then, post that sucker for all your friends to see (and worry they have to live up to). Don't worry, when your friend posts a stunning photo of everyone in their Sunday best gathered around a campfire with s'mores and a guitar, you'll realize that you haven't been to a campfire yet this summer and the sting of failure will hit. So you see? What goes around comes around.
Myth #4: A good summer means your kid didn't experience the "summer slide." Teachers, you might want to stop reading now. It's not that I'm OK with my kids forgetting a lot of the stuff they learned in school last year, but the truth is, I blew off worksheets this summer in favour of the school of life. I'm not opposed to doing stuff like having them make proper change to pay for a souvenir or getting them to tell me what time it is at random intervals, but that's pretty much it. Yes, this could backfire, but for right now, I'm feeling good that I let my kids put their brains in complete shutdown summer mode.
Myth #5: A good summer requires lots of organized home activities. A lot of parents feel guilty if a summer day at home wasn't filled with an elaborate planned activity. If this is your forte, then by all means, plan a Pinterest-type day. But if it's not, then let's take away the pressure to always be creating with our kids, or baking with them, or even heck, even playing with them. I'm into just letting my kids be sometimes. Nothing organized. Nothing busy. Just nothing.
Myth #6: A good summer requires a campfire with s'mores. For some reason, I feel like a good summer has to include roasting marshmallows over a fire, and if I haven't done that at least once this summer, then can I really say we've had a good summer? Ugh.
Myth #7: A good summer requires a completed summer bucket list. Yep, this is a thing. Every June, parents are supposed to make a summer bucket list, and if you check each item off, you'll have had the best summer ever. Look, I like a good list as much as the next person, but to me, that's just way too much pressure. If there's a wrench thrown in your plans and you miss out on a check mark, then can you still say it was a good summer?
Parents, let's please cut ourselves some slack in the summer department. Let's look back and measure our summer not by what society says a good summer looks like, not by measuring our summer against our friend's social media photos, not by having tried to do the coolest craft or by checking all of our "must do's" off of some list we made. Let's instead measure it by this: "Does everyone in the family feel rejuvenated, rested and ready to go again now that summer is over?" If so, you gave your family a great summer. Campfire or no campfire.