Let me tell you where to put your 18 summers
If one more person reminds we only have 18 summers with our kids I think I’ll scream. As if we don’t have enough pressure to get this parenting thing right, now somebody’s set the timer.
I don’t have 18 summers left. I have 5 with my oldest. If he gets a job when he’s in high school (which I sincerely hope that he does) I have less than that. I already know how little time is left, I really don’t need someone to remind me.
The impression I get from all these well-meaning folks with their “18-summers” mantra is that we should use every spare second to soak up our children’s preciousness. Let me the first to say it out loud, once kids reach a certain age the preciousness disappears. I do not really want my nearly 100 lb teenager sitting in my lap while I read him a bedtime story under the stars. He smells funny and he squishes me.
Yes, we take vacations and we plan fun summer activities but you know what else my kids do? Chores. That’s right. While everyone else is whisking their kids off to the water park, my kids are folding clothes, washing dishes and scrubbing toilets.
You know why?
I only have 18 summers to teach them valuable life skills like how not to live in a nasty house. Instead of trying to plan out every beautiful, meaningful moment possible in these incredibly fast years, how about if we figure out what life skills they need to know and focus on removing the shroud of mystery around folding that fitted sheet?
Sure I want my kids to remember spontaneous trips to Sonic for happy hour milkshakes in our pajamas, but I’d rather them know how to wash and dry their clothes without turning their underwear (or my bath mats) pink.
One more thing, don’t you think we’re setting our kids up for a huge disappointment by building up how incredible summer vacation is? I mean, unless you are a teacher or a stay-at-home mom, real-life summers are spent trying to keep your perfectly coiffed hair from wilting in the Mississippi heat on the way to work. Real life isn’t filled with those curated snaps on Instagram. And in real life, the world doesn’t revolve our kids.
As I tell you all of this, also know, I really enjoy summer. I take off on Friday afternoons so the kids and I can do something fun. After five years of this, they look forward to it and spend half the month of April and all of May thinking about what we'll do on "Fun Friday". Yes, they may tell stories about individual things we did but overall what they'll tell their kids and their spouses one day will be "my mom used to spend Friday afternoons with us and we did really fun stuff." And that's enough for me.
If you’ve made it this far in my soap-box rant, let me give you the real nugget of truth. An expert on a podcast I listened to a year or so ago said kids remember how their childhood made them feel more than any specific event. Feel the freedom in that, mamas! Don’t do “things” because someone else on social media did it, do it because you want to or don’t do it. Figure out how you want your kids to feel about their childhood and focus on that.
These years are so fleeting. In the early moments, you’re just trying to survive and in the later moments, you’re praying you taught them all they need to know to spread their wings. I’m lucky to be in the middle moments where we still have time to teach the important lessons but we’re also well-rested. My sister calls them the golden years.
Wherever you are in your parenting journey, don’t let someone else’s time clock pressure you to create a childhood for your kids that makes you miserable. It’s really too short for that.